Online Baptism

While reflecting on the sacraments for an internet campus several weeks ago, I wrote,

“I am not willing to suggest that sacraments could be administered online or remotely in any way.”

I had thought that this would be a common response for leaders in mainline congregations. I was wrong in at least one case. I read of a baptism by a United Methodist Pastor at Can You Baptize Somone Over the Internet? I commend that post to you for additional perspectives in the comments. I still do not think that I am ready to say that I would be okay with this, but I admit that seeing these videos is stretching me.

What do you think?

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7 thoughts on “Online Baptism

  1. Interesting.

    Seeing as the proper matter and form were involved, on that level it would seem to be a valid baptism. The biggest issue, as far as I can tell, arises from the pastor’s use of ‘I.’ Can one be truly said to administer something by proxy, as happened here?

    I think that the use of the internet was somewhat unnecessary- in the case of necessity, it is valid for a layperson to baptize, as long as the proper matter and form are used.

  2. Where does the “nourishment” from a sacrament originate from, God or Man? If we say man then I question their value above any other ritual that is merely meant to focus our attention on God. If we say it is from God then we would be on dangerous ground limiting God’s power by spacial considerations. It is my opinion we, the UMC, has already overstepped by requiring clergy to administer the sacraments and defining what is proper matter and form above reverence.
    That said I am not sure a soley virtual community is optimal, but this results from human deficiencies.

  3. Hmmm… You can certainly see the love and caring that has been invested in these baptisms (especially the second one). How could we deny that the Holy Spirit was present or that God presided over or certainly that Jesus sacrificed His human life on the cross for both of these baptisms and the others that are perhaps occuring online everyday.

    I am not equipped to make any theological observations about the validity of such baptisms. I only observe as a lay-person that they seemed entirely genuine to me. I, however, having been baptised as an adult can’t imagine that I would have been as profoundly affected had I been baptised online.

    All of that being said, John the Baptist and subsequently Jesus Himself traveled about baptizing out of convenience for those being baptised. While this is something to think about, it is also important to consider that Jesus traveled to the place where he found John the Baptist.

    Certainly this topic is one of many to consider for online campuses and likely to be the subject of some lively debate.

  4. I only watched the second video but….there was no prayer over the water, no invocation of the Holy Spirit to act through the water. I don’t know enough about how a church like this would do a baptism on site, perhaps that isn’t part of their ritual, but for the UMC, that would be essential.

    Lots to think about liturgically and theologically. Thanks for posting Andrew.

  5. Interesting. I think it’s a “legit” baptism, but not one that I would want to emulate. The first time I baptized someone I was so nervous that I forgot pieces of the litury. It was a mess. But I think the baptism still took – it’s God doing it, not us. Similarly, even if the language is imperfect and the setting is imperfect the perfect God is still able to work.

    However, it seems to me that our role in all aspects of worship is to make God as visible and real as possible. In a sense, for us to get out of the way and let God work. One reason for clergy to be the only people to conduct sacraments is for this reason. Generally, clergy who are trained and practiced will be more effective at getting out of God’s way. But in this case I was more focusd on the pastors and on the technology than I was on the baptism. In video 2 it seemed to me like the pastors themselves were almost as excited about the technology as they were about the baptism. Was God at work? I think so. Were the people involved helping God or hindering God? I think hindering. I think it would have been better for a pastor to be onsight or for a lay person to baptize instead.

  6. All – Thanks for your responses. Each has been helpful in my processing of the videos. Some of you have some different opinions. How would you respond to each other?

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