The Evangelical Covenant Church practices both infant baptism and infant dedication. Through pastoral counseling and the support of members, the congregation joins the parent or parents in the discernment process as they consider whether to baptize or dedicate their child, and deepen their understanding of these sacred rites. In making this decision, the first question for parents is, what is your relationship with Jesus Christ? Your faith is crucial to the way in which God will work in the life of your child, bringing him or her to personal faith in Christ. Baptizing or dedicating your child is also a time to affirm that you have given your life to Christ, and are committed to a lifelong growth as Christ’s disciple. Always remember that your example is the most influential model your child will have concerning what it means to be an authentic and growing follower of Christ. In bringing your child to the community of faith to be either baptized or dedicated, you are acknowledging your desire and the child’s need for the gathered church to help children come to faith and to grow in faith throughout their lives. Baptism and dedication, however, are not the same. Baptism is a sacrament, an action ordained and commanded by God. Dedication is a practice of the church developed in relation to believer baptism.
The Evangelical Covenant Church celebrates the sacrament of baptism as commanded by Christ in Matthew 28:19-20. This sacrament is a visible sign of God’s invisible grace. It signifies that it is through God’s love and grace and by God’s initiative alone that God:
• created us,
• redeemed us through the death and resurrection of God’s Son,
• promised us the forgiveness of sin and eternal life through Jesus,
• placed us in the community of believers, that we might be nurtured and encouraged in faith,
• is present as the Holy Spirit to transform and guide us into an ever-deepening faith in Jesus Christ and eternal life,
The Sacrament of Baptism
Through the sacred means of water and the word, is a sign and seal of the new covenant in Jesus Christ, whereby God cleanses our sin and welcomes us into the family of God. When parents bring their child for baptism, they acknowledge in the sacrament God’s promise and the unmerited gift of God’s prevenient and redeeming grace. Its emphasis is not on our response, but on what God has already graciously done for us through Jesus Christ. God has already provided the means of salvation and nurture within the community of faith, with the hope that one day the child may acknowledge his or her acceptance of new life in Christ. Through water and the word, the child is indelibly marked with the sign of the covenant, conveying a new identity to the baptized in the name of the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Parents who baptize their child emphasize the unique way in which the child is tied to the believing community. While the elements of hearing, repenting, and believing are necessary in the reality of conversion, the presence of word and sacrament in the community of faith recognizes the ongoing work of God in a child’s life making it difficult to pinpoint where one of the three is a distinct experience.