A theological inquiry into the doctrine of the sacrament of baptism and rebaptism in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.
Kretzmann, Oswin Garnet.
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This dissertation discusses the topic of baptismal convergence in relation to sacramental baptism. It is a theological exercise arising from pastoral concerns, for which both Biblical and theological answers are considered and required. The study relates to the enduring problems surrounding the practice of infant baptism in the MCSA, with concomitant requests for rebaptism. Statistical and anecdotal information drawn from across a number of sources confirm that, in some regions of the world, the practice of infant baptism is in decline, with an alarming drop in membership growth from new conversions. Methodist Ministers also struggle to cope pastorally with members who, despite being loyal, take issue with MCSA baptismal policy and practice. These members either feel obliged to leave the Church, or are compelled to do so, because of the MCSA’s ruling that baptism is non-repeatable. Whilst in the past the MCSA has blamed the intrusion of rebaptism into sacrament squarely on Baptist and Pentecostal denominational influences, indications are that the MCSA’s baptismal woes also derive from its own understanding and practice of paedo-baptism. Attempts at resolution emanating from the WCC Lima Text Baptismal Directive seem however to have provoked new attempts at unity, and this enquiry into the possibility of the conjoining of two baptisms with current MCSA paedo-baptist practice is seen as a possible valid measure intended to bring unity to the Church, overcome the problem of rebaptism, and allow this rite to become more sacramentally and evangelistically effectual. Qualitative insights concerning baptismal understanding have been obtained from as wide a spectrum of scholars as possible, along with other sources of theological debate, and from various paradigms of consensus which are being tried and tested in various parts of the World Church. The notion of convergence as a possible alternative to rebaptism arises from the idea of combining both baptisms into MCSA practice in sacramental and evangelical tandem. The combining of these practices into a single sacrament is a gap issue which seems to carry potential, especially since a union between the two baptisms seems to be the logical next step towards baptismal unity in the Church. The Wesleyan Quadrilateral of Authorities is the framework guiding this investigation, with dependence on a qualitative method of research which has been used, not only to find out whether baptism, if practiced in this way, is theologically acceptable, but also to provide the opportunity for members of the Methodist Church to become more united in their search for the true nature of the Spirit of Divinity. The findings of this study are tested according toMCSA sacramental and evangelical hermeneutical requirements, because such principles form the basis of what it ultimately means for the Bible to be the highest authority for all matters of faith and practice within MCSA doctrine and theology. The modus operandi for this task is to find movement in the discussion of the tenets of a debate surrounding this issue regarding convergence within baptism, which logically marks the stages through which this enquiry must pass for conclusions which would be, as nearly as possible, accurate and objective, to be arrived at with regard to this highly concerning matter.