Chronology of Sacrament of Baptism Statement & Legislation
1976 & 1980
A Service of Baptism, Confirmation, and Renewal was published as Supplemental Worship Resources 2 for trial use.
The United Methodist Hymnal containing "Services of the Baptismal Covenant" was approved by General Conference and published the following year.
General Conference directed the Discipleship Ministries, with participation from other church agencies, "to study the meaning of baptism as it applies to confirmation and other rites of the church."
The Committee to Study Baptism was appointed and began its work.
The United Methodist Book of Worship containing "Services of the Baptismal Covenant" with commentary, expanded rubrics, and worship resources was approved by General Conference and published.
The report of the study committee entitled "By Water and the Spirit: A United Methodist Understanding of Baptism" was approved for churchwide study.
The report of the study committee was published as By Water and the Spirit: A Study of Baptism for United Methodists with study guide by Dwight Vogel.
By Water and the Spirit was revised, using responses the committee had received from United Methodists.
The General Conference overwhelmingly approved (833 affirmative votes) By Water and the Spirit as "a position paper on baptism for The United Methodist Church and as an official interpretive statement." The General Conference further resolved "that By Water and the Spirit be used by Church School Publications and by the Discipleship Ministries as a guide for teaching about baptism . . . [and] that it commend this interpretation of baptism and its relation to confirmation and other rites of the Church to any entity of the Church interpreting or administering the sacraments." By Water and the Spirit: A United Methodist Understanding of Baptism was published in The United Methodist Book of Resolutions, 1996, pages 716-735.
Legislation was prepared by the Discipleship Ministries and approved by the General Conference to implement the theological and practical understanding of the document in The Book of Discipline, 1996.
The directive of the General Conference that the document be published "in book form with a leader's guide for study by the Church" was fulfilled by the Discipleship Ministries's publication of By Water and the Spirit: Making Connections for Identity and Ministry by Gayle Carlton Felton. (This resource was revised and reprinted in 1998.)
Judicial Council Decision No. 811 ruled that regardless of theological understandings of baptism, "no change which abolishes the vow requirement can be legislated without amending the Constitution. . . ." The 1996 legislation on membership was declared "unconstitutional and invalid," and the church was instructed to revert to use of the membership provisions of the Book of Discipline 1992.
Discipleship Ministries, in an attempt to resolve expeditiously the contradiction and confusion, asked the Judicial Council to rule that implementing legislation could be approved by the same General Conference that approved a constitutional amendment. Such legislation would go into effect immediately upon the announcement by the Council of Bishops that the amendment had been approved by the required vote in the annual conferences. In Decision No. 843 the Judicial Council ruled that a constitutional amendment must be ratified "before enabling legislation can be proposed or adopted."
The Judicial Council denied the request of the Discipleship Ministries for reconsideration of Decision No. 843.
Discipleship Ministries brought to the General Conference numerous petitions designed to move the church toward resolution of the conflicts between the membership provisions of the 1996 Book of Discipline, the baptism ritual, By Water and the Spirit, and the Judicial Council's rulings. In Decision No. 884, issued during the meeting of the conference, the Judicial Council ruled that no petitions for changes could be considered by the General Conference of parts of the Discipline that had been ruled unconstitutional. The legislative petitions were then withdrawn by the Discipleship Ministries.
The General Conference approved by the required two-thirds majority amendments to ¶ 4, 14, 30, 34, and 42 of the church constitution.
These amendments, relating to church membership, will be submitted to a vote in every annual conference. If they receive a two-thirds affirmative vote of the aggregate number of members of the annual conferences, their passage will be announced by the Council of Bishops.
Legislative petitions will be presented to the General Conference by the Discipleship Ministries to bring the membership provisions of the 2004 Book of Discipline finally into accord with the understandings in the rituals and theological statements.