Membership of Baptists in a Presbyterian Church

[From an email exchange, I thought this might be valuable or interesting to my readers]

 

Dear brother D. Douma,

Good morning!

I hope all is well with you and your family.

I wanted to see if you could help me with something I’ve been discussing with some brothers, that is, the admission of Reformed Baptists as members of the Presbyterian Church.

I am a seminarian at the Presbyterian Church of Brazil.

Based on my church’s documents, it seems that, indeed, Baptists should not be received, and among the implications of receiving them – according to the regulations – is the issue of not being able to exercise their gifts as officers, if they have children and do not baptize them, they should be subject to discipline, etc.

My difficulty in understanding this issue lies in the biblical justification… I am not certain that baptism would be a barrier to membership. It seems strange to me not to be able to imagine that, for example, Pastor John Piper, Paul Washer, and others could be members of the same church as I am…

If we believe they are brothers, we break bread with them, why can’t we be members of the same church?

Could it not be the case that we can admit them, but emphasizing that they cannot teach the opposite to the other brothers?

We have a few cases here of Reformed Baptists who cannot find good Baptist churches and wish to congregate in the Presbyterian Church…

I know your time is extremely busy… But if you could help me with this, I would appreciate it.

If you have any books to recommend that could help on this topic, I would be grateful.

Warm regards, my brother!

-F

 

Good to hear from you F.

You have a good question.

Fortunately it is one that I have studied, as we had a similar case here a few years ago.

Naturally, if a family in a Presbyterian church refuses to baptize their children, the discipline of the session would be necessary. This then leads to the question “If a Baptist family joins the church and they have children who they refuse to baptize would they immediately be under discipline?”

The best answer I found on this was a forum on PuritanBoard where a PCA minister, Fred Greco, explained that “not all discipline is judicial.” So the way my session handled the issue (and the way Greco recommends) is that you have “discipline of teaching” rather than “discipline of judicial process.” What this means is that a Baptist family can join the church, and the pastor (and elders) should explain to them the Presbyterian view of Covenant (& infant) Baptism and continue to encourage them to baptize their children.

You are right that a person (at least here in the Bible Presbyterian Church) who cannot agree with the Westminster Standards is not allowed to be an officer (minister, elder, or deacon) of the church. I would further explain to the new members that they should (for the peace of the church and common decency) not promote their views in the church. (Though I am perfectly happy for them to be discussed with myself and the elders). But agreeing to the full Westminster Standards is not the bar for membership; only leadership.

Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that the “sin” of not baptizing one’s children should not prevent people from joining the church. “Not joining a church” is itself a sin. So if there is not a good Reformed Baptist church in the area, the Reformed Baptist family could or should join the Presbyterian church.

Ask your church what their standards are for membership. Is it explicitly laid out such that Baptists and others are barred from membership?  For new members at my church we use the 5 questions of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church Book of Church order. These are simple questions … Do you believe in Jesus Christ … Do you believe the Bible… etc. The common person or new Christian cannot be required to believe (or even understand) the entire Westminster Confession.

– Doug