Baptists and the baptism of babies

Do you see the "headline" given this video?

Pastor: Marriage needed for baptism

The caption is:

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

The link to WMC includes the full report by Jamel Major, which is actually pretty good. I mean, it's a great idea for a news story, even if it would have been nice to have much more perspective than just the pastor's.

There are two issues with the media coverage, though. For one thing, if you listen to the actual report or the words of the pastor, I'm not entirely sure they're discussing baptism. The reporter says that the pastor won't do blessings -- not baptisms -- during the church service without the parents of the child getting married. The pastor says he'll do it at a different venue but not during church.

The reader who submitted this link noticed the discrepancy, adding that he's pretty sure the pastor is talking about dedication or some other rite. He makes reference to how during this rite you might discuss how the body is a temple and how such testimony is obscured if a couple is sexually active outside of marriage.

Even though the reporter and the pastor never use the word "baptism," that's how it's presented not only by CNN but also the original broadcast. In a set-up to the original, the anchor actually says that the Baptist pastor is refusing to "Christen" babies whose parents are not married.

There are some Baptist churches that might baptize infants, but obviously that would be the exception as opposed to the rule. So if this Baptist congregation is baptizing some infants, that should be explained. This congregation is part of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship. A quick look at their distinctives doesn't settle the issue of what they believe about infant baptism.

The other media coverage concern is the discrepancy between how the reporter approached the story and how it was presented after that. The reporter is clearly focused on the teen pregnancy angle. That's what he and the pastor are talking about -- the problems with teen pregnancy, the pastor's view that fathers need to take an active role in the baby's life and be responsible for his family's welfare.

The pastor thinks this is a major problem in the community he serves. Again, while the story could definitely use more balance, it's good insofar as it allows the pastor to explain how this decision is part of his larger campaign for fatherhood. That focus is obscured by neglecting to mention it in the text accompanying the video.

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