When My Pastor Becomes an Atheist, Must I Get Rebaptized?
15 March 2019 |
Dear Aunt Sevvy,
My husband and I were baptized by a popular and charismatic Adventist pastor, who we deeply admired. Not long after our baptism, though, that pastor quit the ministry and declared himself an atheist. My husband feels like it’s left a tainting of our baptism, and he’d like to get rebaptized by our current pastor. I say our baptism is valid, because it wasn’t between us and the pastor, but between us and God. What do you say? Signed, Abandoned.
It can be especially devastating when someone we admire lets us down. You have Aunt Sevvy’s sympathies. Your former pastor has to make his own decisions about his spiritual journey but it is always sad when there is collateral damage from a pastor who had a spiritual crisis of his own.
My initial feeling is that there is nothing about the situation that would erase either the practical or the spiritual implications of baptism. But just to be sure, Aunt Sevvy turned to a theologian, Dr. Denis Fortin, for his wisdom.
“Most churches feel that a baptism is valid regardless of the state of holiness of the pastor who officiates,” said Dr. Fortin. “First, because baptism is a commitment between the person being baptized and God—it is the state of the heart of the person being baptized that determines if a baptism is valid. Second, the spiritual benefits of baptism are God’s acts, not the pastor’s. God communicates the state of God’s forgiveness at the moment of baptism. Third, the pastor is only acting as a representative of the church. It is not the pastor who joins you to the Body of Christ, but the community that acknowledges the baptism.
Dr. Fortin concludes, “You do not need to be rebaptized. God’s act of adoption of you at your baptism still holds and God does not require a ‘holier’ officiant to go through this with you again.”
Aunt Sevvy would add that it sounds like your husband is experiencing grief over the loss of a trusted spiritual advisor. And grief is never logical. There is nothing wrong with one being rebaptized, either, though Aunt Sevvy hopes that when your husband has worked through his grief he will see that baptism is an act between him and God and the church, and that the person standing in the water with him does not determine its significance.
You can write to Aunt Sevvy at DearAuntSevvy@gmail.com. Please keep questions or comments short. What you send us at this address won’t necessarily be, but could be, published—always without real names. Aunt Sevvy writes her own column, and her opinions are not necessarily those of Adventist Today’s editors.