Wednesday, March 15

Can women baptize?

Over the years whenever there has been a tough theological/doctrinal issue, or practice that is causing concern in the churches being planted, one of the spiritual exercises we do with our house church people is:

1) ask everyone to close their eyes and imagine they were born and raised on a deserted island with no outside voices to influence their thinking

2) one day they discover in their midst a single book, the Bible.

3) what conclusions would they come up with about the question at hand by having no other outside influences, tradtions, or sources to interpret for them? Just the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and nothing else.

The first time we used this exercise was when the question arose whether or not a woman can baptize?

This is what happened...

Instead of just telling them either yes or no, it was a weighty enough issue to bring before the assembly of believers in what might be called our own "Council of Trent".

What does Scripture have to say about women baptizing?

The easy way would have been to just answer them according to our own tradition and what we had been taught. As missionaries, our say on the matter would have probably been accepted as the final word. Instead we set aside a block of time to gather, pray, and discuss the issue.

Our role as missionaries was to facilitate the gathering together of all the verses related to baptism in the New Testament. We didn't even distinguish between the narrative and didactic portions. The real question for us was whether the Holy Spirit would be able to guide sincere Christians to discern the truth as found in the Word of God without relying on outside influences or extra-biblical sources.

After praying and asking the Spirit to reveal to us the truth from His Word and show us his will on the matter, we carefully examined each passage of baptism Scripture. For several hours we went back and forth, around and around, until the group came to a solid united consensus. Their conclusions?

1) The New Testament is SILENT about whether or not women can baptize.

2) Since Scripture does not expressly allow, or prohibit it, then women are free to baptize, BUT...

3) Since their culture is "machista" where men dominate the women, it was determined culturally appropriate that a woman NOT baptize under ordinary circumstances, but seek out a brother in Christ to do the baptizing.

4) If for whatever reasons no brother is available, a sister would be free to do the baptizing, but normally it was best to have a brother do so if at all possible.

What a great answer to a tough question! At this point, it has become irrelevant to me what I think about women baptizing. That day the Spirit, the Word, and the Body of Christ spokie in unity and I am quite content to abide by the consensus.


Tim Sweatman said...

What great wisdom! Imagine, letting the Spirit do His job through the Word and the Body.

Geo said...

I thought in the kingdom there was neither male nor female, jew nor greek but Christ in all and through all.
I guess Jesus really did not tear down that dividing wall huh?


GuyMuse said...


You are right, of course, it would have been the easiest thing to simply TELL THEM what the Word says and expect them to adhere to our M interpretation of the matter by applying the passage you refer to women being able to baptize.

Isn't that what the IMB BoT have done with the two policies? The majority were convinced this is what the Scriptures teach, and voted it so as policy. What might have happened if the IMB BoT would have taken a similar approach as described in the post? Since when are we supposed to vote on issues in the Body of Christ? My reading of the NT is that consensus is that we are to seek harmony, unity, one mind within the church. This may not always be possible, but it is the goal.

Gary Snowden said...


I agree with Tim's estimation that your team displayed great wisdom in allowing the group to study the Scriptures and draw their own conclusions rather than impose a missionary viewpoint derived from our traditions. You honor and demonstrate a commitment to those cherished Baptist distinctives of priesthood of the believer and the autonomy of the local church at a time when they are under serious attack on many fronts.

Cam Dunson said...

I think it's a very wise way to make a decision and I plan on using this method in our contexts.

Daniel said...

Ha tocado un tema muy polémico de manera inteligente y fundamentada.

Todo lo que no está prohibido está permitido. Pero ¿Todo conviene?

Creo acotada la idea de contextualizar la situación.

Con frecuencia veo que la mujer es ocupada como "mano de obra" apta para todo destino, pero habitualmente es relegada a una posición subalterna con respecto al varón a la hora de tomar ciertas decisiones u ocupar determinada posición.

Creo que bien vale la pena poner el tema sobre el tapete.
Aprecio la forma en que Usted lo ha hecho.

Un abrazo fraterno desde Argentina.

Muy agradecido
Dr. Daniel E. Dañeiluk

GuyMuse said...

DANIEL--Gracias por su visita y haberme dejado su pensamiento sobre el tema en cuestion. Seguimos todos luchando para comprender mejor las Escrituras en cuanto al rol y papel de la mujer en la iglesia de hoy. Apreciamos mucho sus oraciones. Le devuelvo el "abrazo fraterno" a mi hermano alli en Argentina!

R. L. Vaughn said...

In reading about the process, I wondered about the following: did the group already hold the principle that what the Scripture does not expressly prohibit it, Christians are free to do; or did they develop the principle in connection with this study?

Mil gracias.

Mitch said...

Scripture is also silent about letting left-handed people baptize. Therefore since we are in a right-handed dominated culture, we should only let right-handed people baptize, if any are available.

Ditto for dark hair & blonde haired people.

Geo was right on.

-Mitch, a Pastor's Husband.

GuyMuse said...


Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Just in case you have any doubts about where all of this had led check out the following video here. WHO does the baptizing is really a non-issue, in WHOSE NAME they are baptized is very important.

Mitch said...

Thanks for the follow-up reply! This posting has had me thinking for a long time, and I finally started writing down my thoughts. Feel free to chime in if you're so inclinded.

My post is intended to think a little deeper about how cultural issues affect The Church and how we reach out- not to criticze. Hopefully it comes off as positive.

Keep expanding God's Kingdom!