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Why I Voted Against 22-U

by on March 9, 2023

Amendment 22-U seeks to add the words, “when appropriate” to the direction that those who come to the Lord’s Table prior to being baptized should receive an invitation to baptism. I voted against this amendment because it is unnecessary, but more, because it dilutes our baptismal theology.

1. The proposed amendment is unnecessary for the reason that the Advisory Committee on the Constitution already identified, namely because the use of “should” in the existing language allows for pastoral discretion in issuing an invitation to baptism.

2. To fully understand the theological issues at stake, an historical perspective is helpful. The origins of this amendment date back to 1998. Then, the 210th General Assembly received an overture to remove the language inviting only “baptized members” to the Lord’s Table. Similar overtures over the next few years were combined and assigned to the Sacrament Study Group (SSG) which convened from 2003-2006. Their report “Invitation to Christ” inaugurated a season of renewed sacramental practice and reflection throughout the Presbyterian Church (USA).

3. In an oversimplification of the SSG’s findings, we may say that “it is appropriate to wash before dinner.” To elaborate a bit more, the SSG found that for: 1) historical, 2) theological, and 3) ecumenical reasons, maintaining the order of baptism before eucharist was advisable. For practical reasons, however, the order may justifiably be reversed. (Note that the overtures leading to the SSG came from both “conservative” and “progressive” churches. Conservatives desired to admit recent converts—“people of faith”—who were not necessarily baptized, to the Table; Progressives desired the Table to be more “hospitable.”) The synergistic solution was to serve everyone at the Table, and invite the unbaptized to baptism.

4. In 2016 the denomination approved a revision to the Directory for Worship which removed the language restricting the Lord’s Table to the baptized only and adopted the language of Invitation to Christ: Inviting those who came to the Lord’s Table prior to baptism to a season of baptismal discernment.

5. The theological issue at stake is the understanding that it is the same grace extended in baptism as at the Table. Thus, if someone is moved to respond to the invitation to the Table, they also desire the grace represented in baptism. They should not be denied the baptismal means of grace simply because they are unaware of it. Even though it is always appropriate to invite people to baptismal preparation and baptism, it is evidently so when they respond to the invitation to the Lord’s Table.

6. Or to put it another way, in the form of a question to the proposed amendment, “Whenever is it not appropriate to invite someone to baptism?


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