World Conference: Converts welcome without rebaptism

Adrianne DeWeese

A portion of the course of Community of Christ’s 180-year-old history was rewritten Wednesday afternoon.

An overwhelming majority of the 2,800 delegates present at Wednesday afternoon’s Community of Christ 2010 World Conference legislative session voted to allow people baptized in other Christian denominations to become members of the church without being rebaptized.

The new passage of scripture was included as President Stephen M. Veazey’s Counsel to the Church that was presented on Jan. 15 during a worship service at Community of Christ Temple. The scripture also emphasizes the power of the sacrament of Communion. Community of Christ practices open Communion.

“Obviously, it is historic, but I also think it goes beyond history,” said Linda Booth, Community of Christ’s director of communications and a member of the Council of Twelve Apostles, the lead missionary quorum of the Community of Christ. “I believe God is moving us to be a people who live our baptismal covenant and honor and respect the other baptismal covenant that others have made. I believe God is pressing us to welcome them as brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Booth said Community of Christ ministers in other countries, especially Haiti, had presented the issue previously. She said rebaptism discussions have taken place at world conferences at least since she was ordained as a member of the Council of Twelve in 1998. At the 2007 World Conference, a request was made in legislation for the First Presidency to consider the issue of membership conditions.

“The church has been growing quickly in Haiti,” said Booth, adding that rebaptism is unacceptable in Haiti, “and so ministers continue to lift up the issue of rebaptism. “People sent in their prayerful reflections on what they thought should happen, not only individuals but also entire congregations. The Community of Christ is very intentional in involving members in the process of being prophetic. There are calls for people to pray for specific things. We have a high regard for common consent.”

Now included as part of the church’s scripture, Booth said policies and topics like the age of baptism are still being discussed. Traditionally, in the Community of Christ, baptism takes place by full immersion in water. Previous baptism by water, whether it is full immersion, sprinkling or other methods, would be accepted, Booth said.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was legally organized in 1830. Following the assassination of founder Joseph Smith Jr. in 1844, the church split into multiple groups. Joseph Smith III succeeded his father and was ordained prophet-president of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1860. The RLDS changed its name to the Community of Christ in 2001.

The LDS, or Mormon, church still retains rebaptism practices when a previously baptized member of a different Christian denomination or another religious practice joins the church. It also is practiced when a previously excommunicated member rejoins the LDS church.

“It’s yet to be seen whether the church’s membership will grow, Booth said, “but certainly we know there are people who have made those statements. I also see some who have been attending Community of Christ and have been waiting for this moment when their baptism will be honored.”

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