United Methodist decision makers adopted that guideline May 10 when theyapproved "Sacramental Faithfulness: Guidelines for Receiving People From theChurch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)" as criteria forpastors and congregations in ministering to Mormons seeking to join thedenomination.
The "Sacramental Faithfulness" document, offered by the churchwide Board ofDiscipleship, seeks to provide more understanding on the differences betweenUnited Methodist and Mormon baptism, and to assist people in understandingwho the Mormons are as they relate to United Methodists and otherdenominations.
In a vote with no debate, General Conference delegates recommended thatbefore a Mormon could join the denomination, baptism should be required. "Itis our recommendation that following a period of catechesis (a time ofintensive exploration and instruction in the Christian faith), such aconvert should receive the sacrament of Christian baptism," the delegatessaid in their adopted resolution.
"Sacramental Faithfulness" is the result of a 1998 conference between theUnited Methodist Church's Rocky Mountain Annual (regional) Conference andthe Mormon Church to discuss baptismal theology and practice in bothdenominations. There was a "perceived" need on the part of UnitedMethodists, especially those living and ministering in the Western UnitedStates, for more clarity on taking Mormons into the United Methodist Church.At issue was whether a person's baptism in the Church of Jesus Christ ofLatter-day Saints constitutes a valid Christian baptism. Other differencesbetween the two traditions relate to doctrines and the meaning of salvation.
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, by self-definition, doesfit within the bounds of the historic, apostolic tradition of Christianfaith," delegates said.
While the Mormons identify themselves as Christian, they also "explicitly(profess) distinction and separateness from the ecumenical community,"delegates said. Mormons are intentional about clarifying differences indoctrine, the delegates noted.
"Sacramental Faithfulness" also recommends that Mormons seeking membershipin the United Methodist Church first initiate their own formal removal fromthe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
By approving the document, delegates also authorized the Board ofDiscipleship to provide resources related to "Sacramental Faithfulness" forpastors and congregations. The resources would offer guidance in receivingMormons who seek to join the church in ways that are faithful to the UnitedMethodist heritage.