The Amish community is an Anabaptist group that believes that babies should not be baptized adults should be.
Baptism as an adult comes from the idea that following Christ should be a free, grown-up choice. This differs from religions like Catholicism, where babies are baptized when their parents ask for it.
Amish believe sin came into the world when people knew what was good and evil. Since babies do not know this, they could not have sinned.
Baptisms for Amish babies do not exist because the Amish believe in not baptizing people until they are 16 years old and can choose to follow the Amish way of life on their own.
Even though the Amish believe that you cannot enter heaven unless you are baptized, they do not want to baptize children because they prefer members who want to be Amish on their own rather than being chosen for them at birth.
As a result, until you are baptized, you are not formally a member of the Amish church because the Amish believe in the power of free choice.
After baptism, the expectations are to stay in the Amish church for the rest of their lives and follow the Amish rules.
People can leave the Amish community before they are baptized, and the community usually does not mind. But suppose a person is baptized into the Amish faith but later abandons their community and religion.
In that case, they are ostracized from Amish society since they have broken their pledge to God. This means that the Amish do not baptize infants because they consider it sinful to abandon one's Christian faith later.
They believe everyone should have the chance to be Amish when they are old enough to make that choice.
History of Amish Baptism Traditions
The Amish were part of the early Anabaptist movement in Europe, which started around the Reformation. Early Anabaptists were very concerned about whether or not babies should be baptized.
They thought that baptism should be a choice made by adults. They were very sure that people should only be baptized if they were adults and had already said they believed in God. And because of what they believed, many early Anabaptists were killed as heretics by Catholics and Protestants.
Those who ran away went to the Switzerland mountains and to the southern part of Germany. This persecution was because they believed that adults should be baptized; therefore, they were called "Anabaptists," a derogatory name that means "rebaptizers."
The Amish still believe they should be baptized after confessing their faith. But nowadays, baptism is more about joining the church than anything else.
An Amish Baptism Ceremony
Baptism is a process for Amish people, who are usually between 18 and 22 years old. Every fall and spring, these candidates are considered.
Those chosen spend 18 weeks attending classes and meeting with church leaders. They study the church's Ordnung, or set of regulations, and the Dordrecht Confession at this time.
What the Amish believe is laid out in the Dordrecht Confession of Faith from 1632. After completing their religious education, the final candidates for membership in the congregation are put to the vote.
Two worship services before the fall communion are typically used to baptize the approved applicants. Those who are going to be baptized are given the opportunity to rethink their decision in a private meeting before the ceremony.
This is typically the last opportunity for them to reconsider baptism. Occasionally, a candidate will choose to forego baptism.
Candidates are urged to kneel at the worship service that follows the meeting. Churchgoers should expect to wait until after the sermon is over before the baptism ceremony begins.
The deacon will ask the candidates to solemnly vow to dedicate their lives to Christ and the church's Ordnung.
In addition to reminding them of their vow to God, the church leader will ask them about their faith and why they want to join the church. The bishop raises the candidate's head, and a deacon brings him a cup of water.
The bishop will then pours water over the candidate's head three times, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Amish rite of adult baptism follows a period of religious instruction for teenagers considering becoming church members.
While non-Amish individuals are welcome to go through the process, roughly 90% of new members are children of existing Amish members.
After the baptism, the candidates are helped up, and the bishop says in a Pennsylvania German accent, "We offer you the hand of friendship in the name of the Lord and the Church. Get up and be a faithful church member."
The deacon gives the Holy Kiss to the young men when they join the church, and a deacon's wife gives this gift to the young women. Baptism for Amish people is an emotional and moving event.
It is also a solemn event where young people are asked to say how much they believe and promise to follow the congregation's rules.
Some things expected of them are to marry within the faith and do whatever the church asks of them. New members know they will be shunned if they do not meet expectations.
The Amish youth are given a time of freedom known as Rumspringa (from the Pennsylvania Dutch word for "running around").
On weekends, teenagers and young adults are generally free to do as they like. Young Amish people are not baptized, and neither are not subject to church authority.
Teenagers might gain exposure to the "world" in this way before committing fully to the Amish faith. Some young adults maintain more traditional practices during this period, while others experiment with Western culture.
This is by dressing more "English," going to the movies or nightclubs, buying automobiles or televisions, and exploring the world outside their immediate vicinity.
Outdoor activities, including hiking, volleyball, picnics, and "singing," are popular among more traditional groups. All Amish communities do not practice Rumspringa.
Amish Regulations after Baptism
Those who become Amish are expected to follow the Ordnung, German for "order," after their baptism. To account for the fact that the Ordnung varies from church to church, it is traditionally transmitted verbally and revised as necessary.
The biblical mandate to set oneself apart from the world is the inspiration for these rules. Owning a car, going to university, serving in the military, divorcing, and even using electricity are all taboo.
Married men have the rule of growing a beard and wearing a hat and vest as part of the prescribed dress code. Head coverings and simple, three-piece dresses typically feature an apron are a mandatory attire for women.
Excommunication and Shunning after Baptism
Before being baptized into the Amish faith, church discipline is taken into account. As a result, people must know what happens if they disobey church rules.
If members refuse to confess their sins for the first time, they may be placed on probation. People who break the rules or question authority are often given a second chance.
If the person continues to violate church rules, the leaders can vote to excommunicate them. If a member is ostracized, no other members can accept rides, purchases, or meals from that person. A person's social circle may shrink if they are shunned.
Why Do The Amish Practice Baptism By Pouring Instead Of Immersion?
From examples given in the Bible, baptism by immersion is the proper way to be baptized, and many churches practice adult baptism by immersion.
The Amish baptismal ceremonies, however, consist of pouring only a little bit of water. As stated, the early Anabaptists, who took a stand against infant baptism, were persecuted for their beliefs and often had to meet secretly.
They had been baptized as infants in the Catholic Church but were now rebaptized. Being baptized in secret was easier to baptize by pouring rather than trying to get to a body of water.
So, according to tradition, the early Anabaptists used pouring as a method to baptize. The Amish often reject change and hold fast to the traditions of their forefathers, even those that are not Biblical.
With this, the conservative Amish still practice baptism by pouring.
Amish Baptism Equals Joining The Church
When baptized in an Amish church, you automatically become a church member. You also have to be a member of the church to get married as an Amish person.
If a person wants to get married, they must be baptized and join the church to get married. The Bible teaches that baptism is a sign to the world that you have decided to follow Jesus. But in the Amish church, baptism is more about joining the church.
When a candidate is baptized, they commit to the church and keep its rules. It is, therefore, important to understand the consequences of breaking the rules before becoming a member.
This is why many Amish take it so seriously when a person leaves the church they were baptized into. They believe you are breaking your promise to God to stay in that church.