What do I need to know about baptism in the UMC?

United Methodist pastors from North Georgia join in baptizing 47 people in a river in Angat, Philippines. The North Georgia Conference partners with the Bridges Philippines project. Photo by the Rev. Joey Galinato.
United Methodist pastors from North Georgia join in baptizing 47 people in a river in Angat, Philippines. The North Georgia Conference partners with the Bridges Philippines project. Photo by the Rev. Joey Galinato.

Baptism and Salvation

Do I have to be baptized in order for God to save me?

No. God is free to offer God's salvation if for some reason you have not been baptized by the time you die. 

If I am baptized, does that mean I will be saved no matter what?

No. Baptism begins God's work of saving us by cleansing us of sin and beginning the work of renewing us fully into the image of Christ. The key word here is beginning. Baptism starts the process. It does not complete it. We can choose by our action or inaction to let the work begun go dormant and have no fuller effect. Or, as John Wesley sometimes put it, we may "sin away the grace received at baptism." 

How does baptism relate to salvation?

We say baptism is the "ordinary" or "instituted" means of justifying grace. It is the usual way God has offered the church to enable people of any age to experience the justifying grace of God and the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Salvation normally begins taking root in people's lives here. From here we are invited to keep growing in sanctifying grace until by God's grace and our faithful response we are "made perfect in love in this life."   

Forms of Baptism

Does it matter how I was baptized, whether by immersion, pouring, or sprinkling?

No. What matters is that you were baptized in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by someone authorized to do so. If you were, we believe you have received Christian baptism. We do not re-baptize those who have already received Christian baptism. By Water and the Spirit, our statement on baptism, explains, "The power of the Spirit in baptism does not depend upon the mode by which water is administered, the age or psychological disposition of the baptized person, or the character of the minister. It is God's grace that makes the sacrament whole."

Others at a Baptism

Do I have to choose godparents if I have my child baptized?

You are not required to choose additional sponsors, sometimes called godparents. But having another mature Christian who pledges to support your child toward making a public commitment to Christ and growing in holiness of heart and life can be a great blessing.

Does a sponsor or godparent have to be a member of that local church?

At least one parent, guardian, or sponsor must be a member of a Christian church. All sponsors or godparents should be mature Christians ready to help your child grow in faith and love toward God and neighbor.

Baptism and the Church

If I was baptized in another Christian tradition, may I receive communion in The United Methodist Church?

Yes. We welcome all baptized people of all ages to the Lord's Table.

Do I have to be baptized to receive communion in The United Methodist Church?

You do not. But you do need to be able to say you love Christ, earnestly repent of your sin, and seek to be at peace with one another. If you are not yet baptized, we will also counsel you toward baptism. 

Does baptism make me a member of The United Methodist Church?

Yes, it does. You are considered a baptized member in that local church and in The United Methodist Church from that point forward. 

Can I serve on committees in the church if I have been baptized?

The answer depends on the committee. Our Book of Discipline requires many elected committee members and officers of the church to be not just a baptized, but a professing member in the local church and The United Methodist Church. You become a professing member when you take the vows of baptism and membership for yourself in a public service of the baptismal covenant. 

Read More

Renewing waters: How United Methodists understand baptism

By Water and the Spirit: A United Methodist Understanding of Baptism

The Meaning of Baptism in The United Methodist Church

This is Your Baptismal Liturgy

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This content was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.