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[150th General Synod Minutes, 12 May 1972, pp. 84-85; Documents of Synod, pp. 115.]

OVERTURE G -- Counsel regarding baptizing children of non-members.

The New Jersey Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod meeting at Star Cross, New Jersey, March 25, 1972, respectfully overtures the 150th Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod meeting at Harvey Cedars, New Jersey, May 12-18, 1972, for a solution to the question of what children shall be baptized in our churches.

While recognizing that the basic necessity for the performance of the ceremony of baptism of children is that at least one parent be a believer in Christ, we desire counsel as to whether this parent, or these parents, must be members of the local church where the covenant child is baptized.

We find reasons to require that they should be members since the name of the child is placed up on the roll of covenant children of the church. The vows taken can only be properly fulfilled if the parent, or parents, take full advantage of the ministry of the church in their effort to bring up their children in the understanding and nurture of the Lord. It is the expectation of believing parents that the child who is baptized shall eventually declare his own faith in Christ and become a communicant member of the church confirming his own baptism, and thus it makes good sense that the parent also be a member of the church.

Problems arise if a blanket rule is made that such parents must be members of the particular church in which the child is baptized are, that a missionary or minister who is not himself a minister of the local church may wish to have his child baptized at the church; a Christian who holds membership in a church elsewhere and has not seen fit to transfer to the church may wish to have his child nevertheless enrolled as a covenant member of the church where he wishes him baptized and brought up.

The matter becomes important when a neighborhood family expresses an interest in having a newly born child baptized, and the pastor or elder must state the policy of the church to that parent. Shall the answer be simply that we baptize the children of church members only, or shall there be a period of time during which efforts are made to lead the parent to Christ (if not a Christian), and to lead the person to greater interest in the church and in future membership.

Assuming that the goal is membership for the parent as well as the newborn child, shall we refuse to baptize the child until the parent has joined, or can we allow a period of time during which the effort is made to bring the parents into the church while not refusing baptism until the time of their joining?

We would request information from Synod with respect to procedures to follow in this matter.

The Bills and Overtures Committee recommends that Synod respond to this overture by declaring (1) that in no case should the local church baptize an infant, none of whose parents or foster parents is a believer (see FOG, II, 3); (2) that a parent or foster parent of an infant to be baptized in a local church should ordinarily be a member of that church; and (3) that exceptions to (2) occur in the case of such believing parents as missionaries, chaplains, ministers who are not members of the local church where they worship, and lay people living where there is no evangelical church that practices infant baptism. After considerable discussion, Synod adopted the recommendation.

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