Monday, August 20, 2012

Baptism and LGBTQ People

From my blog entry on

There are rituals in faith communities that stand out, because of their power to claim us, mark us, and let the world know who and whose we are. It may be a ritual as simple as standing up and singing a national anthem at a minor-league baseball game, hand over heart, realizing we’re collectively citizens of the United States of America. At graduation or a high school athletic event we sing the theme song of our alma mater, with the school mascot leading us in the singing of the song. Or it is a public official taking an oath of office, swearing to protect and defend whatever state or country that they are representing. In a community of faith, rituals define us, enabling participants to know who the community’s members worship or venerate, and reminding us of the borders and boundaries of our beliefs.
As a Presbyterian minister (Presbyterian Church USA), I believe that one of the rituals that first defines us and what we believe is baptism. It is a rite of initiation, a tangible or physical, visible sign of what some theologians call “grace,” that has already been given to the believer, whether the believer is a child or an adult. Along with the pouring of water upon the brow of a child or adult, or the total immersion of a person in a pool of water, there are words uttered that remind the one being baptized who and whose they are. This is preceded or followed by words of the community of faith, in which a community vows to take care of and accept the one being baptized as a vital member of the beloved community.
The power of this ritual was not lost on me recently during a young infant’s baptism. The young boy had no idea of what was being said to him or his parents and grandparents. The minister made the sign of the cross upon his brow with a wet hand while uttering the words, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” The words the young minister spoke were equally powerful, about this infant being protected by the congregation, about how he would be raised in the faith of the congregation, and always be accepted as a member of the body of Christ through his dying days. The unconditional love being shared with this infant was breathtaking in its all-around inclusiveness. Nothing could separate this child from the love of God as demonstrated by this and other communities of faith. Nothing.

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