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Baptism: What happened to John?

In the early days of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches,[1] the first Bylaws published by the movement had the following to say about baptism:

Salome with the Head of Saint John the Baptist by Andrea Solario

Click to see full image.

 

C. Sacraments

The Church shall embrace two Holy Sacraments:

1.  Baptism by water and the Spirit, as exemplified by Christ at the hands of John the Baptist.  This baptism shall be a sign of the dedication of each life to God and His [sic] service.  Through the words and acts of this baptism, the words, ‘God’s own child’ shall be stamped upon the recipiant [sic] (UFMCC 3).

But shortly thereafter, John the Baptist disappeared from the Bylaws.  What happened?

As it turns out, the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke – called synoptic because they "see together") agree that J.B. baptized Jesus in the Jordan, but if we check closely, we find that the Gospel of John tells the story a bit differently.

In the Johannine story, J.B. sees the Holy Spirit descend and remain on Jesus (Jn 1:32), but there is no reference to Jesus’ baptism.  A bit later John’s gospel describes Jesus baptizing in one place while J.B. baptizes in another, pointedly stating that this was before J.B. was arrested (Jn 3:24).  Perhaps this has something to do with MCC’s change in wording.

Further, the earliest MCC Bylaws located authority in the "Apostolic creeds" — a phrase which was later clarified as the Apostles and Nicene creeds.  Neither creed mentions J.B. as the baptizer of Jesus.

I would like to think that faced with an inconsistent witness in the gospels and a lack of mention in the creeds, the early framers of MCC’s Bylaws chose to stick to more fundamental doctrinal issues than make a foundational statement out of J.B.’s role in Christ’s baptism.

If there’s anyone out there who was around when these decisions were being made and remembers the details, I’d love to hear from you.


[1] Now more commonly know by the shorter Metropolitan Community Churches or MCC.

Works Cited

Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. "By-Laws of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches." In Unity August 1970: 1-10.

Resources

In Unity, August 1970, Volume 1, Number 3
Current UFMCC Bylaws

Photo credits | Original painting

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