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Methodists Will Baptize Ex-Mormons

May 13, 2000|Religion News Service

Delegates to the United Methodist Church's General Conference have approved a report that calls on Mormon converts to receive a new baptism, saying that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "is not a part of the historic, apostolic tradition of Christian faith."

The report, which was approved Wednesday without a vote, was the result of difficulties faced by Methodist pastors in Western states with large numbers of Mormons. Pastors reported being unsure whether a Mormon baptism could count as baptism in the Methodist church. The report responded with a strong but cautious no.

In the Mormon church, adult baptism by immersion is a necessary step toward entering the eternal "celestial kingdom." Mormons are urged to undergo baptisms "by proxy" for ancestors who were not baptized so that they might also enjoy an eternal kingdom. Those who are not baptized "shall be damned," according to the Mormon scriptures.

Because of major differences with doctrines of that sort, the Methodist report recommended that Mormon converts receive a new baptism. In addition, the report called for a period of "catechesis"--a time of "intensive exploration and instruction in the Christian faith"--and for converts to officially sever their ties to the Mormon church.

"What that is actually saying is that Mormon baptism is not Christian baptism" in the Methodist tradition, said Gayle Felton, a consultant with the Methodists' General Board of Discipleship. "What it's saying, bottom line, is that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a Christian faith."

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