What we believe
People often ask: 'What do Baptists believe?'
It must first be said that we are a mainstream Christian church with the same core beliefs as Methodists, Anglicans, and so on. This can be summed up in the ancient statement of faith known as The Apostle’s Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
Having said that, we are a Baptist church with our own way of doing certain things. In particular, there are two main differences between ourselves and most other churches:
First of all, the way we baptize people: most churches baptize infants but we prefer to wait until the person is old enough to decide to take this important step for themselves. We believe that baptism has little meaning unless it is accompanied by a real faith in Jesus Christ – this is one reason why our mode of baptism is often called “Believer’s Baptism”.
The baptism is normally “full immersion” – in other words, the person being baptized is completely immersed in the water (rather than just having a few drops placed on their head). The full immersion is symbolic both of a “washing away of sins” and also of a grave: the person is symbolically dying to their old life and then rising again (coming up out of the water) to new life in Christ. It is an intensely moving and powerful service which never fails to impress the people who witness it.
However, baptizing only believers most certainly does not mean that babies are not important to us! Baptist churches have a service called a “Service of Dedication” especially for babies and their parents, at which we pray for the parents, bless the child, and welcome them into the “church family”.
The second thing which is distinctive about Baptist churches is the manner in which we are governed. Baptist churches (unlike most) are entirely self-governing.
When someone comes into membership of a Baptist church, they are entitled to attend and vote at what we call the “Church Members Meeting”. At this meeting the members will seek to hear the voice of God in discussion with one another and decide the business of the church including: how we spend our income, how we wish our buildings to be used, whether or not to employ someone as minister, and so on.
In other words, being a member of a Baptist church means that you have a very real say in the way the church is run!