I read blogs on the blogging platform Medium.com fairly regularly. Sometime I read a post’s title and it grabs me and I have to go read it. It happened to me over the weekend with a post title, “Sorry Sir, Your Baptism is Not Valid.” It was written by a guy named Dan Foster who is pastor of “Backyard Church.” From the way it sounds, it seems like a house church of sorts.
When I first started reading the post I thought it was a poor attempt at humor. I am not saying Pastor Foster was trying to turn it into humor, in fact he thought much the same as I did saying, “This is no joke.”
It seems that early in August 2020, Father Matthew Hood, associate pastor of St. Lawrence Parish in Utica, Michigan decided to watch a video of his own baptism. As he was watching, he heard a word that flipped his world upside down.
As the priest was saying the traditional Roman Catholic liturgy and said these words, “…We baptize you…” The actual liturgy says, “…I baptize you…” Father Hood was shocked and appalled by what he heard.
Since the liturgy was not followed correctly, it would seem that Father Hood was not technically baptized by Roman Catholic theology. For some 30 years Father Hood believed himself baptized and imagine his shock when he learned he was not.
To compound the problem, since Father Hood’s baptism wasn’t valid, neither was his confirmation which for Roman Catholics is a sacrament but is one dependent on baptism. Since his baptism was not valid, neither was his confirmation. It also meant that holy orders, another sacrament, ordination. So this Catholic priest learns in pretty short order that he isn’t baptized, confirmed, or properly ordained.
But that is not the end of it. It gets worse. Every person Father Hood baptized, is in the same jeopardy. As I understand Roman Catholic theology, God would not recognize their baptism and that could make them lose their salvation. The Church is frantically working to get in touch with all he baptized to inform them they need to be baptized again.
Things have gotten straightened out for Father Hood. As I understand it, he has been baptized, confirmed and ordained in pretty short order.
As I said, I am not an authority on Roman Catholic theology and the sacraments. I know there are seven – Baptism, Holy Communion, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders (ordination), Penance (confession and forgiveness), and Extreme Unction (anointing the sick and dying). Buy, my question would be, because he was considered not baptized and it, at best, calls the baptisms of people he baptized into question. Would that also void marriages, confession and forgiveness, extreme unction, and confirmation. Would that mean anyone to whom he served communion would have done so taking it in an unworthy manner?
I am not trying t flippant or wrongly share the theology of Roman Catholics. I am trying understand and where would it stop.
I understand the Methodist theology on baptism and I know it wouldn’t matter. Why? because we understand God to be the primary actor in baptism. God reaches down and pours out grace upon the one being baptized. It may be my voice saying the words of the liturgy. It may be my hands pouring the water or immersing the baptized but it is God who does the baptizing.
I don’t know if I have ever wrongly said the words of the baptism liturgy. It wouldn’t surprise me if I had. Its something I am pretty good at doing. But, the person would still be baptized. We believe that because God is the one who does the baptizing, that person is baptized. Also because God does the baptizing, we only baptize once. To baptize a person a second time is like telling God, “You didn’t do it right the first time so we have to fix the problem, blaming God for something we did wrong.
I also know this. It doesn’t change the way God feels about us.
Seeking the Genuine,
Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved