In an earlier essay entitled The SPRINKLED Baptist Convention, the practice of accepting members into a Southern Baptist Church without requiring immersion baptism was explored. As evidence, I cited the following policy verbatim:
While we practice a baptism by immersion at [Church Name], we do not require the mode of immersion for membership. If a person was sprinkled or immersed (or a possible other mode) after conversion, he or she has met our requirement for membership.
In the comment stream, I was told by one commenter that he had copied this quote and pasted it into his search engine browser. He found that on the very first page of search engine results there were several churches that had embraced this same precise language. It is reasonable to conclude others are using it as well.
Is it possible that some of our church plants receive members in this fashion? Yes, it is altogether possible, especially when one considers that one of America’s leading church planting networks is led by a Pastor whose congregation is among those accepting members in this manner. Is it possible that the network is training their church planters to embrace non-immersed membership as normative?
If any of our church planters are, in fact, receiving as members those who have merely been sprinkled but not immersed, then they are operating in violation of ecclesiological guidelines adopted by NAMB Trustees in October 2004 as recorded in the Baptist Journal of Theology and Ministry, Volume 5, Number 1, p. 90:
Baptism of believers by immersion as profession of faith in Christ as initiatory rite for membership
To my knowledge, this policy has never been revoked by NAMB trustees. Of course, given our current difficulty in requiring mandatory reports from our church plants, one is left to wonder how NAMB could possibly enforce such a membership policy anyway. If considerations of autonomy prevent us from identifying their co-funding sources, then how do we expect to acquire information about their membership practices?
The only possible conclusion is that we may or may not be sprinkling the plants—and Southern Baptists may only discover the truth once our plants are fully grown.