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Author Topic: Baptizing converts - why not?  (Read 1754 times) Average Rating: 0
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Rilian
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« on: April 07, 2005, 01:26:26 PM »

I was under the impression that it was fairly normal to baptize converts to Orthodoxy, though chrismation is considered acceptable in some cases as well.  In a different Internet fora a couple of people mentioned that it was there wish to be received by baptism, but their priests refused.  Why in the world would a priest do such a thing?
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« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2005, 01:30:43 PM »

Because it is against the decrees of the synods to which they belong. The OCA has explicitly recognized the baptisms done in the name of the Trinity with water to be valid per se (versus acceptable by economy, in effect regularlizing them upon their entrance into the church), so you can't really repeat something you consider to already be valid.

If you search the archives, I recently posted a bibliography on the reception of converts showing both sides. The issue is rather complex, and while some want to claim that chrismation has been the norm throughout time, that's really rather an oversimplification.  Some people also claim that groups such as ROCOR returning to a stricter practice is an overreaction against ecumenism.  I totally disagree and find that if we really believe Orthodoxy is the true faith, then why would we not want to give converts the fulness of the rite of reception?  I think baptism is best for pastoral reasons: is one really joining THE CHURCH or merely moving from one part of it to another?

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« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2005, 01:32:43 PM »

Well, I can only speculate, but...

If there is a situation where the Church views the previous baptism as "persmissable" - i.e. not requiring re-baptism, then it doesn't matter what the people want as far as re-baptism is concerned - the Priest is not permitted to re-baptize them, under penalty of deposition (defrocking, aka being returned to the status of a layman).

Now, as far as the situations under which re-baptism is needed, that's a subject that has been debated before on OC.net... to no successful resolution, other than the idea that each autocephalous church will have its own ideas as far as standards until a Pan-Orthodox or Ecumenical Synod is called to rectify the situation.
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« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2005, 01:43:47 PM »

Because it is against the decrees of the synods to which they belong. The OCA has explicitly recognized the baptisms done in the name of the Trinity with water to be valid per se (versus acceptable by economy, in effect regularlizing them upon their entrance into the church), so you can't really repeat something you consider to already be valid.

There may be some nuance to this I'm missing, but isn't that in effect saying the sacraments of a church outside of Orthodoxy have validity?  I've often heard over and over that we don't make a pronouncement on other churches sacraments, either positive or negative.  We just say we know what's going on in our church.  Having a policy of not baptizing seems to me to be totally counter to that.
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« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2005, 01:52:53 PM »



There may be some nuance to this I'm missing, but isn't that in effect saying the sacraments of a church outside of Orthodoxy have validity? I've often heard over and over that we don't make a pronouncement on other churches sacraments, either positive or negative. We just say we know what's going on in our church. Having a policy of not baptizing seems to me to be totally counter to that.

Which is many of us argue as well.  IMO, I think the best course of action is to take each individual case from a pastoral point of view, err on the conservative side and get that course of action approved by your local bishop.  I think that's what my priest does.
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« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2005, 02:18:15 PM »

Quote
In a different Internet fora a couple of people mentioned that it was there wish to be received by baptism, but their priests refused. Why in the world would a priest do such a thing?

Since we don't know the history of the people, it's hard to say. Maybe they have already been Anglican and Greek Old Calendarist or something like that, in which case they may feel like they still haven't had a "proper Orthodox baptism," but the priest and his bishop might feel differently. There seems to be mixed feelings about conditional Baptisms, but I think the relevant canon talks about doing it if there are doubts about the baptism--such as someone telling you that they think you were baptized as an infant, but there being no certainty of that. In other words, I don't think there is a canon which says "if a convert wants to get baptized, he can't be refused". And even if there were, it's still up to the bishop to decide how canons get applied.

Beyond that, I think it should be a matter of obedience, as the Scripture says: "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account" (Heb. 13:17). As much as we might not like it, the catechumen's has no "rights" to tell the bishop (or the priest) how he must be received; and to think that we as neophytes know better than the bishop: well that says a lot about our (improper) mindset, but even supposing that we would be correct in our opinion, it raises the question of why we are putting ourselves under the authority of that bishop to begin with? Why put yourslelf under a bishop who you have no intention of obeying (in matters that you are suppose to obey him on) when he doesn't agree with you?

Now, certainly a wrong decision can be made, but God will not hold it against someone because the bishop decided to only chrismate instead of baptize. The Church Fathers brought monophysites* (full blown heretics, at least in the eyes of those who wrote the canons) into the Church by confession alone, for Pete's sake! Smiley I am personally for baptizing most converts coming into Orthodoxy, but again that's not really our call. I myself am in a position where, yeah it would have been nice to have had an "Orthodox baptism," but what is done is already done, sacramentally speaking (I became Orthodox via chrismation, and have been communing for years), and I can't go back now and redo things. Sometimes, once things are set in motion, you just have to go with them, whatever your wishes might be.

Quote
I've often heard over and over that we don't make a pronouncement on other churches sacraments, either positive or negative. 

Such language might be a nice way of avoiding conflict (and it is true) when talking about salvation, but it is not true regarding sacraments. We can certainly know that in some groups there are not grace-filled sacraments (e.g., the Arians), though it may be true that in other groups it is too cloudy to know. Agnosticism can only be pushed so far when it comes to sacraments, for the Fathers and Councils clearly speak of specific groups being deprived of sacraments. Accepting someone by chrismation or confession does not necessarily mean that the new Church accepts the sacraments of the previous group as valid (though it might); it might just mean that the Church is using economia to bring someone in, and in that case the chrismation/confession fills in that was lacking (which may or may not be everything).

Justin

*Now I'm not calling Oriental Orthodox monophysites here!
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« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2005, 02:30:25 PM »

My priest told me that baptism by one of the "other" Christian groups is accepted because a priest in apostolic succession is not required for Orthodox baptism to be valid. In the event of there being no priest an Orthodox layman can perform a baptism. The key is the water and in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


I would have preferred to have been both baptised and chrismated, but my priest thought it unnecessary. I was only chrismated.
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« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2005, 03:18:52 PM »

Because it is against the decrees of the synods to which they belong. The OCA has explicitly recognized the baptisms done in the name of the Trinity with water to be valid per se (versus acceptable by economy, in effect regularlizing them upon their entrance into the church), so you can't really repeat something you consider to already be valid.

Anastasios,

Can you possibly provide a link to this decision? Are you saying that, within the view of the entire synod of the OCA, baptisms performed outside of the Orthodox Church are Grace-filled and "valid"?

Gregory
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« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2005, 03:32:50 PM »

Baptisms performed with water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are "counted." This is not a statement on the sacraments of any jurisdiction if for no other reason than many jurisdictions (even those who baptise) do not even believe in sacraments. How can it be a "sacrament" if the group doesn't believe in them?

Because our faith proclaims "One baptism for the remission of sins" in our very creed, those who have been baptised in an acceptable Trinitarian format are brought into the Church through Chrismation. Because we "know where the Church is, but not where it is not" and because we do not hold a monopoly on where and how the Holy Spirit can act, we do not repeat what was physically done already. Whether that physical experience had the same spiritual results as an Orthodox baptism is not the point. Chrismation fulfills and completes baptism, with the reception of the Holy Spirit correcting, completing, and "compensating," if you will, for any spiritual experience that was possibly lacking in the catechuman's original baptismal ceremony.
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« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2005, 03:46:28 PM »

I should say I don't believe that those received by chrismation are any less Orthodox.  I think really I'm in agreement with Elisha, in that I think it should be a pastoral decision based on each individual convert.  The priest and the bishop then can decide how to either exercise economy or strictness.  I agree with paradosis that ultimately we need to be obedient to what is decided.

The stories I have heard are that the converts wished to be received by baptism because they felt their previous baptism was not valid.  I get the feeling there is some regret that reception was by chrismation only.
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« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2005, 04:16:33 PM »

I think we will see in the next few years more reluctance of any Orthodox Jurisdiction to accept outside baptisms. I recently heard some priests in my jurisdiction discussing this issue and some new concerns. Unlike a generation ago, they cannot be sure if a western baptism now actually invoked the Trinitarian formula, or a formula like “Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier” or “Mother Child Wisdom”
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« Reply #11 on: April 07, 2005, 06:56:21 PM »

I will not weigh in on this as everyone can probably guess my view but I will ask the rest of you this question:
Does the gender of the person performing the Baptism matter? By this time many converts are coming from the first and second generation in which women have served as ministers and Anglican priests and bishops. So many while having been baptized by in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit were baptized by a woman. Does this matter? I tend to think it should as this is a new development not foreseen in the past when at various times the Church decided to allow people to enter the Church via Chrismation.

Also Anastasios you may be able to help me with this question. If someone is baptized in the Name of the Trinity outside the Church but later apostasizes from that denomination to another religion and then converts to Orthodoxy are they still received via Chrismation?
I ask because a while back I read this conversion story by former Tibetan Buddhist Nilus Stryker http://www.sfaturiortodoxe.ro/orthodox/orthodox_advices_yoga.htm In the article he mentions having grown up Presbyterian before becoming Tibetan Buddhist but when he joined the Orthodox Church in the OCA he was baptized.
I would think it would be that since there are no Mysteries outside the Church that apostasizing from your previous denomination to another religion makes it necessary to baptize?
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« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2005, 07:13:50 PM »

No, the gender is not a determing factor in deciding if a baptism is to be accepted (I don't like the word valid-that implies something that I do not think is being practiced when practicing economia.) My friend's mother is a nurse. She was serving as a missionary in Africa where she delivered a baby that was not going to survive more than a few hours. She baptised the little one before it passed away, completely "validly." There is no dispute over the acceptiblity of the baptism she performed.

This in no way means that anyone and everyone can go baptizing with authority. But it also does not mean that the Orthodox Church thinks denominations have "valid" sacraments in the same way Orthodox sacraments are valid. It does mean that the OC does not presume to pronouce upon where God can and cannot work.
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« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2005, 08:38:32 PM »

Don't you folks find "re-baptism" to be an odd, if not incorrect, term? One has either been baptized or not, no?
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« Reply #14 on: April 08, 2005, 04:37:49 AM »

In the article he mentions having grown up Presbyterian before becoming Tibetan Buddhist but when he joined the Orthodox Church in the OCA he was baptized.
I would think it would be that since there are no Mysteries outside the Church that apostasizing from your previous denomination to another religion makes it necessary to baptize?

I'm not sure, but I wouldn't have thought so. Surely if an Orthodox Christian were to become a Buddhist and then later return to the fold they wouldn't be received by being re-baptised? The Church seems pretty clear that baptism is a once only event. If you accept that Chrismation completes the form of a heterodox baptism, I would have thought that the same thing applies in this instance. Nonetheless, I'm certainly interested to see what others think.

James
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« Reply #15 on: April 08, 2005, 06:04:15 AM »

Surely if an Orthodox Christian were to become a Buddhist and then later return to the fold they wouldn't be received by being re-baptised? The Church seems pretty clear that baptism is a once only event.

Its funny to look back at the standards set in the past for the reception of "non-Orthodox" - some of the Ecumenical Synods set down guidelines for reception of those coming from heretical sects, and sometimes that included re-baptism.  Of course, often this was ignored for pastoral reasons, and the people were still received by anointing with Chrism.  (We should be careful about saying "Chrismation" as well - some people are not "Chrismated" in the sense of having the full Chrismation anointing done - for certain converts there is a special anointing with Chrism that is done that is not necessarily the full Chrismation service).

My priest told me that baptism by one of the "other" Christian groups is accepted because a priest in apostolic succession is not required for Orthodox baptism to be valid. In the event of there being no priest an Orthodox layman can perform a baptism. The key is the water and in the name of  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I would have preferred to have been both baptised and chrismated, but my priest thought it unnecessary. I was only chrismated.

We still do not accept outside baptism as "valid" per se, but instead what the Church does is accept the form in which it was done if it closely resembles our baptismal formula (Trinitarian baptism with water); this is done as a pastoral consideration for the one who is being received, to not confuse or scandalize them.  The act of anointing with Chrism is done, and we ask the Holy Spirit to complete the previous act (i.e. the baptism).

The only time a layperson can perform a baptism is in the case of a manifest fear of imminent death, in which case any Orthodox (and even non-Orthodox) layman can perform the baptism, either with water (in these cases immersion is not required), or if it is not available or not safe to use water, then even in air (as can be done, say, with dying infants, to be picked up and make the sign of the Cross with them in the air).  If the person dies, then they are considered baptized validly.  If the person lives, then they are required to be baptized formally in the Church (I'm not sure if there is a modification of the service or an omission of certain prayers).

Now, I believe for an Orthodox baptism to be "valid" - i.e. to be acceptable without additions like anointing - the priest must be a) permitted to perform sacraments by his bishop (not be under canonical ban, not be deposed, etc.) and b) must have been ordained canonically from a bishop with proper Apostolic Succession (not some rogue bishop).  If a priest performs a baptism and does not meet these two conditions, then his baptismal action is considered to have never had the grace of the Holy Spirit in the first place, and would be considered invalid by nature.  (Now, if you are baptized by a priest who is later put under canonical penalty for something he does during his ministry, your baptism is okay - they don't retroactively de-certify baptisms in these cases).
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