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Rebaptism in Christianity is the baptism of a person who has previously been baptized, usually in association with a denomination that does not recognize the validity of the previous baptism.[1][2] When a denomination rebaptizes members of another denomination, it is a sign of significant differences in theology. Churches that practice exclusive adult baptism, including Baptists and Churches of Christ, rebaptize those who were baptized as infants because they do not consider infant baptism to be valid.

Rebaptism is generally associated with:

In the 4th century, controversy was provoked by the Donatist sect's practice of rebaptizing Christians who had renounced their faith under persecution. The mainstream church decided that the lapsi could not be rebaptized, because the sacrament of baptism was irrevocable, leaving an indelible mark on the soul of the baptized.[3]

In the Catholic ChurchEdit

The Catholic Church does not admit the possibility of rebaptism:

1272. Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation. Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated.[4]

The baptisms of those to be received into the Catholic Church from other Christian communities are held to be valid if administered using the Trinitarian formula. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

1256. The ordinary ministers of Baptism are the bishop and priest and, in the Latin Church, also the deacon. In case of necessity, anyone, even a non-baptized person, with the required intention, can baptize, by using the Trinitarian baptismal formula. The intention required is to will to do what the Church does when she baptizes. The Church finds the reason for this possibility in the universal saving will of God and the necessity of Baptism for salvation.[4]
1284. In case of necessity, any person can baptize provided that he have the intention of doing that which the Church does and provided that he pours water on the candidate's head while saying: "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."[5]

The 1983 Code of Canon Law (1983 CIC) addresses cases in which the validity of a person's baptism is in doubt:

Can. 869 §1. If there is a doubt whether a person has been baptized or whether baptism was conferred validly and the doubt remains after a serious investigation, baptism is to be conferred conditionally.

§2. Those baptized in a non-Catholic ecclesial community must not be baptized conditionally unless, after an examination of the matter and the form of the words used in the conferral of baptism and a consideration of the intention of the baptized adult and the minister of the baptism, a serious reason exists to doubt the validity of the baptism.

§3. If in the cases mentioned in §§1 and 2 the conferral or validity of the baptism remains doubtful, baptism is not to be conferred until after the doctrine of the sacrament of baptism is explained to the person to be baptized, if an adult, and the reasons of the doubtful validity of the baptism are explained to the person or, in the case of an infant, to the parents.[6]

In cases where a valid baptism is performed subsequent to an invalid attempt, it is held that only one baptism actually occurred, namely the valid one. Thus baptism is never repeated.

In the Orthodox ChurchEdit

Some have claimed that Orthodox Church members have rebaptized Catholics, but no evidence (besides rumors) has come to light.[7] Greek Orthodox practice changed in 1755, when Patriarch Cyril V of Constantinople issued the Definition of the Holy Church of Christ Defending the Holy Baptism Given from God, and Spitting upon the Baptisms of the Heretics Which Are Otherwise Administered; however, the Greek Orthodox does not now insist on rebaptizing Catholics.[8]

In other Christian movementsEdit

Latter Day Saints practice rebaptism, as they believe that the priesthood authority to perform baptisms resides in their church only.[9]

Jehovah's Witnesses do not recognize previous baptisms conducted by any other denomination.[10]

Seventh Day Adventists routinely rebaptize persons who observed the wrong day as the Sabbath and now decide to keep the seventh day Sabbath, and also those who turned from God into open sin but now wish to reenter church membership and fellowship.[11]


  1. ^ Scott Culpepper, Francis Johnson and the English Separatist Influence (Mercer University Press 2011), p. 203 ISBN 978-0-88146-238-8
  2. ^ "Cult Awareness and Information Centre".
  3. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church: The Sacrament of Baptism ( Archive)
  4. ^ a b CCC 1256.
  5. ^ CCC 1284.
  6. ^ 1983 CIC, Can. 869.
  7. ^ Tia Kolbaba, "On the closing of the churches and the rebaptism of Latins: Greek perfidy or Latin slander?" in Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, Volume 29, Number 1, 2005 , pp. 39-51(13) Archived October 25, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "John H. Erickson, "The Reception of Non-Orthodox into the Orthodox Church: Contemporary Practice" in St Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 41 (1997) pp. 1-17" (PDF).
  9. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 22
  10. ^ ""Should You Be Baptized Again?"". Awake!: 26–27. January 8, 1994.
  11. ^ "J. O. Olson, "Should We Rebaptize?"".

External linksEdit