February 1st, 2011
10:45 AM ET

Tennessee Pastor: Marriage needed for church baptism

A Tennessee pastor refused to baptize a couple's baby in church unless they get married. WMC reports.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Houses of worship • United States

soundoff (79 Responses)
  1. sleepytime

    The Pastor: "No, I will not bathe your baby in magic water. The sky fairy says do the hokey pokey ritual first or else no magic bath to save your baby from being sentenced to stinky fireland if he dies."

    The People: "Outrage! Outrage!"

    Wow, the human race is hilariously silly.

    February 1, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • 2 Dads & 3 Kids

      They take their invisible imaginary friend very serious.

      February 1, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  2. sealchan

    I think this story brings up an important topic pertaining to Christian belief...in what context does one have the right to judge or consequent the actions of another? We all know the "judge not, that ye be not judged" teaching but I really don't think that this means people are not to apply their value judgements. After all we need to judge someone to tell if they are safe to be around or are trustworthy, otherwise we put ourselves and our loved ones at unnecessary and irresponsible risk.

    This case is not that severe but it still raises the issue. God has set standards and He is ready to forgive us when we cross the line, but we have to admit to our sins and sincerely wish to correct the error in our sins in order to be shown as sincere. The pastor has made a judgement against the couple but only as it pertains to holding a ceremony in the church. He is willing to hold the ceremony privately. He does not want to create the appearance of an acceptance of the couple's relationship. I think the pastor has carefully separated the infant's baptism from the couple's relationship.

    I suspect that the teaching "judge not, that ye be not judged" is a warning to those who have judged and come to a "final answer" regarding someone. Often we are quick to judge, we don't know the facts nor do we even stop to ask ourselves the questions. There is no relating to the one who is judged because the relationship is over for the one who judges too quickly. This is the thing to watch out for in judging. If we expect God to always keep His door open for us, we should not get in His way for someone else because we think we know it all.

    February 1, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Anglican

      Sealchan. I do not understand. Are you saying that "one" should judge another to determine whether "one" may be around that other?

      February 1, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • 2 Dads & 3 Kids

      I think you're just another christian who likes to pick and choose how to enforce your "religion". Must be sad to be THAT mired down in 2,000 year old fairy tales.

      February 1, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • sealchan

      Anglican, I've heard many people dismiss the whole character judgement discussion with this teaching. I'm mainly saying the obvious in that you know someone is, for example, an addict currently looking to score that you are okay to prevent them from coming into your home where they might steal, etc. But I am not approving of the kind of judgement where you consider that person a completely lost cause and dismiss them from your life entirely. You could consider allowing them back into your home if they meet certain requirements that help to ensure everyone's safety.

      February 1, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • sealchan

      2 Dads & 3 Kids, I'll bet that if you were to take up dream journaling you might find yourself reliving variants of some of those 2000 year old fairy tales. Then you would have to wonder why?

      Or will you also dismiss the whole idea of your dreams as a reflection of your psyche/personality?

      February 1, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • Anglican

      Sealchan. I just do not recall our Lord screening the sinners he eat and drank with. Christ would have had nothing to do with the "holy huddle." Peace

      February 1, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  3. CDM

    It is solmn mockery to baptize little children. Repentance and baptism are for those who are accountable and capable of committing sin. Little children are alive in Christ, if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God and a respecter to persons; for how many little children have die without baptism! If little children could not be saved without baptism, these must have gone to an endless hell. Those that suppose that little children need baptism do not understand the purpose of baptism. How can one suppose that God saves one child because of baptism, and the other must perish because he had no baptism. Little children cannot repent – how can they do wrong? Little children are alive in Christ and also all they that are without the law, because of the atonement and his tender mercies towards them. The power of redemption comes upon all those that have no law. He that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and for them baptism avails nothing.

    February 1, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  4. Aaron Moore Sacramento, CA

    It seems to me that the real issue here is the parents' desire to use the church to make them feel better about something for which they have litte regard. We're not married, we're banging, we had a kid. But let's get it baptized. Why?

    February 1, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • Anglican

      Aaron. Maybe they are just trying to do the right thing. One may want to be less critical. They may be hopeful for their future.

      February 1, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  5. JimboDaMan

    My question is, why would this couple want this guy to baptize their child in the first place? For whatever reason, they don't think the marriage is a good idea, and the pastor thinks it's a requirement – obviously this church is unsuitable for these people. They should find another church more in line with their beliefs and not let this man's judgement stop their child's baptism.

    February 1, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
  6. apesydaisy

    Baptism is only for those who can willingly and knowingly accept Christ as their Savior. It is an act of obedience. It cannot be done to a child who does not yet understand fully what it means to be saved.

    February 1, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  7. sabs

    I'm so looking forward to going to hell for not being baptized, so I don't have to spend eternity with a bunch of self-righteous religious nutcases.

    February 1, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  8. RW

    As has been mentioned already - this guy is a Baptist pastor. Baptists only baptize those who give a credible profession of faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, BAPTISTS DO NOT BAPTIZE INFANTS ANYWAY. Seems like this guy has latched onto some non-Baptist theology while remaining an ordained Baptist minister. Very strange.

    February 1, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • EAE

      Or CNN's reporter had no idea what they were writing about.

      February 4, 2011 at 12:20 am |
  9. ryan

    Anyone believe in infant salvation? Where's it located in the Bible? I'm honestly curious. If so, lets get to baptising.

    February 1, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  10. marla

    Let's baptize the baby out of the church and then pin a cross with an "I' (for illegitimate) on it to the front of the baby's outfit. This way the parents will be shamed into marrying and if the parent's aren't shamed into marrying then the child will be shamed to pay for the sins of the parents. Further, if the parents don't marry then the child will most definetely want to marry and join the church that caused him/her all of the social stigma and rejection. – And let the children come to Jesus!

    February 1, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      No such thing as illegitimate children, There are however, illegitimate parents!

      February 1, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  11. dxp2718

    I'm not Christian, but I like this guy! If we had more religious leaders like him, we'd be far better off. While marriage to the mother isn't required for a father to be a responsible parent (I was raised in an otherwise-normal two-parent home without a marriage certificate), these are members of the church, and it's a church ceremony they're being denied due to absence of another church ceremony. If you go to church, you've already been taught that marriage should be a prerequisite for having children. I think it's totally reasonable to require that you act responsibly in the eyes of the church in order to have your family blessed by the church!

    February 1, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  12. Dave - Grand Rapids

    What this pastor did is very common in many churches, including my own. There's a common misconception out there that's discussed by a couple of contributors in the comments – babies cannot make a choice for or against Christ, and therefore this pastor isn't harming the child. The soul of a child is bound up in the beliefs of his parents, and obviously these parents aren't interested in following clear biblical teaching – don't live together outside of marriage. We're all sinners, but if these parents aren't interested in following even this simple teaching from multiple sources in the bible, then baptizing the kid is useless anyway, because the parents obviously aren't committed believers in Christ, or willing to come under the authority of the church (which is also a standard biblical teaching from multiple biblical sources). The parents need to get their act together or they are risking their child's (and their own) eternal destiny. That's the tradgedy here.

    February 1, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • sealchan

      Good points Dave. And we must remember that the pastor is not refusing to perform a baptism, only to perform it in the church. I think that the pastor seems to have careful considered the situation and drew an appropriate line.

      February 1, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Anna

      Yep, it's way better to marry someone you enjoy going to dinner on group dates with (since you're not allowed to even spend time alone as a couple before marriage) THEN move in with them and discover that you can't stand living with that person. I'm glad to have lived with my boyfriend, now when we do get married we will have already conquered those hurdles.

      But I know, common sense is against your religion.

      February 1, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • Richard McCarthy

      Actually, Dave, the soul of the child is NOT bound up with the parents, that would make the parents the child's savior. The parents may influence the child in terms of the child's eventual religious beliefs, but the child's soul belongs only to God, from birth to death. Having been raised as a fundamentalist Christian (a Southern Baptist) I have come to realize that my salvation does not depend on a book (the Bible), or a church (pick a denomination), or a preacher, or a rabbi, or a priest. It totally depends on my relationship with God, and God could care less about which church I go to, or whether or not I go at all.

      February 2, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  13. Curt

    Their church their rules. Most churches have a covenant you are to read over before membership and baptism is usually related to membership. If they don't like the way that particular church does things then they can go to another one. There is no shortage of churches in America.

    February 1, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  14. Jim Rousch

    So, this f-ing IDIOT is punishing children for what their parents did in the back seat of a Chevy?

    When Christ blessed the little children, did He first consider whether the marital status of their parents? NYET!

    Oh, so the baby (whom HE wanted to be brought into the world!) is not good enough to be baptized in his God's House?

    This moron should consider two verses. The first is from Ezekiel 18:20, which states that a child does not share in the sin of the father. The second verse he should consider is 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, which states that people should marry if they can't keep it in their pants.

    And Who put those hormones in them ...IN THE FIRST PLACE?

    Instead of thinking this issue out to its just conclusion, this clown has alienated a child because of what his parents did in the backseat of a Chevy, and that was a situation which the child had no control over.

    It's situations like this which delegitimize the pro-life agenda. While they want every embryo to become a baby, they will judge that baby based on whether or not he was born in wedlock.

    February 1, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • EAE

      Please do not go by this "news report." Baptists do not ever baptize infants or even really young children, period. Baptists only baptize people who have made a confession of faith in Jesus as Savior for themselves. Whatever this is about, it isn't baptizing babies.
      I suspect it might be about baby dedications where parents publicly affirm to the congregation that they promise to raise the child in a Christian home, something they cannot promise if they are not going to provide a Christian home morally. Baby dedications are not found in all baptists and there are not really any set rules as they seem to have only become popular with many baptists over the last 20 or 30 years. Some baby dedications stress praying for blessings on the baby and some stress promises of the parents to raise the child in a christian home.
      I have seen baby dedications where there was a single mom, or even a single mom and her parents, but I am sure my pastor would not do a baby dedication that included two unmarried parents either. How can they promise to provide a Christian home together if they are not married to each other?

      February 4, 2011 at 12:15 am |
  15. Mitch

    The word "baptism" is never used in the video. It makes me wonder if CNN's headline writer knows anything about Baptist doctrine and practice. Baptists don't generally "baptize" infants at all. You would think that the editors of a religion page would know something about the topic they are writing about.

    February 1, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  16. CJ

    And what if it were a single parent instead of just two parents who had a child and weren't married? Or a woman whose husband divorced her when he found out she was pregnant because he didn't want kids (you think that only unmarried men decide they don't want kids, hah)? It's a slippery slope. At the pre-baptism class for my daughter, there were two couples who were married, one couple that wasn't, and me, a single parent. The deacon conducting the class didn't make an issue about anyone's situation – and that's the way it should be. A child shouldn't be punished because of decisions that their parents (or just one parent) makes before they're born. That's all this guy is doing. I'm sure he's got plenty of skeletons in his own closet that he should worry about first.

    February 1, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • Anglican

      CJ Agree. Just another southern baptist preacher taking an inappropriate stance.

      February 1, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • dxp2718

      I'm pretty sure the pastor would make an exception in the case that the parents were married at the time of conception. As for a single mother (getting pregnant via in vitro I suppose), that's irresponsible – just look at Octumom. Sorry, but it takes (at least) two to raise a child properly. And if it were a gay couple, it sounds like this guy is for gay rights so he'd be happy to marry the couple before the birth of their child if they weren't married already.

      February 1, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • dxp2718

      I'll add, though, that if a husband doesn't want kids, the wife is going against her vows if she tricks him into getting her pregnant anyway, and if the husband did it knowingly, he's going against his vows by not sticking with her during the pregnancy and afterward. If a pregnancy can break up a marriage, it wasn't really a marriage to begin with.

      February 1, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • Robin

      In Tennessee you cannot get divorced if the wife is pregnant... The state will not be responsible for "bastadizing" a child. Good for the Minister – he agreed to do it in private and not as a part of the church service – what more do they want? Decent church going people don't want to see these unwed mothers celebrating the birth of an illigitimate child. It is a sin and should not be celebrated

      February 1, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Anglican

      Robin. What kind of person are you? The birth of a child should not be celebrated? That is about the most cruel thing a person can say. You have no idea the condition of this couple. Everything God creates is good. How dare you say this child is not a good creation of God. NO where did Christ turn away anyone. Shame on you.

      February 1, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Anglican

      Robin. "decent church going people" ??? Do you not know we are all sinners and fall short. No decent person I know would say what you said. That is God's child.

      February 1, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  17. Ted

    1. The baby's soul isnt in danger. Olny catholics realy believe infant baptism. I dont "think" he is cathoplic otherwise he would abide tby their rules. 2. If they dont agree with it, there are other churches. and 3. At some point Christians must take a stand against the continuing moral decline and begin to stand out for whats right irregardless of what the immoral world believes. Otherwise our light isnt doing much good. Kudos to him. He is doing right.

    February 1, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • Anglican

      Wrong. Most Christians, Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Orthodox etc. have infant baptism.

      February 1, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • Jim Rousch

      Having been raised Lutheran, I can tell you that they also believe in baptizing infants.

      February 1, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • Richard McCarthy

      Actually, no one's soul is in danger, baptized or not. The Abrahamic religions' (Jewish, Christian, Islamic) view of God is so distorted and skewed that we need to start over. If God is anything, he is pure love and totally merciful. Viewing God as jealous, angry, vengeful and condemning makes Him all too human – not divine. And until we realize that, we (humans) will continue to kill each other, and do the other typically inhumane things we do to each other, justifying it all in His name. It is truly wrong-headed.

      February 1, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • Claudie Thompson

      True Baptist Churches do not baptize babies. We only baptize a person after they say they have accepted Jesus Christ as their Saviour. They come forward to join the church and are then babtized. No one cares if they have a parent or not, they are loved just the same.

      February 1, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • Koo ko for Cocoa Puffs!

      The Coo Coo chime is chiming again!

      February 1, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  18. Anglican

    This makes me sad.

    February 1, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  19. Steely Gaze

    I say good for the pastor. You can't be buffet Christians.

    February 1, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • Kim

      I agree. And I thought Baptists didn't baptize infants.

      February 1, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • ScottK

      Fun Facts for the religious:

      How old was the historical Jesus when he was baptized?: about 30 years old
      Matt 3:11 is the first mention of washing away sins through baptism, nearly 2/3 of the way through the book before its used.
      Average cost for a baby baptism in the U.S. – $60 with prices ranging from $16 to $350
      Average cost for a wedding ceremony in a church – $750
      Average cost to have some guy who believes in and pretends to talk to imaginary beings and invisible people charge you for you & your baby's salvation? Priceless

      February 1, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • KD

      You've proven he's imaginary? Please let me know the facts behind this. I agree that baptism is for those who have made the decision to repent and look to God.

      February 1, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • TheRationale

      @ KD
      The real question is...Have you proven that God Isn't imaginary? He remains imaginary until you can prove he exists. The onus lies entirely on you to prove that. To put it another way, have you proven that Santa Claus is imaginary? No? Well then he exists. Now you see where such reasoning leads.

      February 1, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
    • No fear

      Yeah, and you know how many virgin mothers gave birth on Dec. 25th? A LOT. Jesus wasn't the only story...he wasn't even the first one. The idea is to baptise early and brainwash the children from infancy so they will not question religion...most are the religion they are because of their upbringing. If you were raised Muslim you'd most likely be Muslim now.

      February 2, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  20. Bob

    Remove his vestments. Seriously. How can he jeopardize the soul of an infant for the sins of the parents?

    "you're going to conform to what I think you should be doing otherwise your child may potentially go to hell".

    Do we yet see how manipulative churchesa re sometimes?

    February 1, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Steve the real one


      The child's soul is in no danger! Baptism is for those who can knowingly and willfully accept Christ as Lord and Savior. Babies are not capable in doing such. This is where we disagree with Catholics. Notice how I can state my case without bad mouthing them!

      February 1, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • ScottK

      "The child's soul is in no danger!" Steve is on to something here, but maybe not for the reasons he thinks... The childs soul is in no danger because there is no such thing as an everliving soul. And those who disagree can jump up and down and stomp till they are blue in the face, still doesnt make your fantasy come true. And to even think that some imaginary diety would condemn a newborn innocent baby to purgatory or hell just because the parents didnt sprinkle its head with water soon enough? Its insane. It has all the fantastical flair of a Greek myth, but no substance.

      February 1, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Steve the real one


      Believe as you wish! You just need to come bigger than that to shake my faith!

      February 1, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • Robin

      Pastor agreed to baptise in private – just not duing church service.

      February 1, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • TheRationale

      @ Steve
      Do you just completely ignore people when they disagree with you? It is YOU who is doing the believing as he pleases.You voice opinion X, and when someone like Scott disagrees, you just say that you're too stubborn to be reasoned with. Blind faith is far from virtuous.

      February 1, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • Steve the real one


      So you would rather me continue to argue? I cannot change anybody's heart or mind! I stated what I believe, he disagrees, I move on. What might be your issue with that?

      February 2, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • No fear

      Steve and Scott – You both are so correct!!!

      February 2, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • EAE

      Don't know what is going on here with this article, but BAPTISTS DO NOT BAPTIZE BABIES! I am a lifelong Baptist and have been a member of Conservative Baptist, American Baptist, and Southern Baptist churches. All Baptists practice Believer's Baptism. That means you have to be old enough to make your own decision to become a Christian. If they baptize babies, they aren't Baptist.

      I did not hear the minister use the word baptize in the video. I suspect what may be going on is baby dedication, practiced by some, but not all baptists. In a baby dedication, the parents stand before the church with the baby and promise to raise the child as a Christian, and then the pastor and congregation pray for God's blessing on them. A little hard for parents to promise they will guide their child spiritually and morally if they are living together without being married.

      For those worried about the baby's salvation, Baptist teach that until a child is old enough to realize their need to accept Jesus as Savior, that they are not subject to punishment for their sins. Jesus, when speaking of little children, said "of such is the kingdom of Heaven," which Baptists interpret to mean that little children are still innocent in God's eyes and therefore go to Heaven. Also, among Baptists, baptism is seen as a symbol of your commitment to follow Jesus, not as means of salvation. Salvation is strictly through faith.

      February 3, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
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