This summer at our All Church Retreat, we baptized a young man who happens to be transgender. He was able to claim the name he wanted to claim when he was baptized because he had not been baptized as an infant, with another name. Two other members of the church were also there at the retreat who were baptized as infants, but not with the names they later claimed as they transitioned to the gender identity that better fit who they were.
Presbyterians don’t “rebaptize”. Baptism happens once, and we trust God’s ability to work through other Christian traditions and circumstances. As our Directory for Worship puts it, “God’s faithfulness to us is sure, even when human faithfulness to God is not. God’s grace is sufficient; therefore Baptism is not repeated.” (W-3.0402) It would not be appropriate to baptize someone who was already baptized, in another church, or with another name.
For the people who were baptized with names that did not conform to their gender identity, we did a Reaffirmation of Baptism and a prayer, so they could claim the baptismal promises that were made for them as children, but with the names by which they now are known.
Here is the Prayer I wrote for the Reaffirmation.
Minister asks, “What is the name with which you were baptized?”
(they spoke those names out loud)
Let us pray.
For these names, O God, hear our prayers. We acknowledge the dreams, hopes, and good intentions with which they were created, spoken, and named.
We are grateful for the good times and celebrations through which these names presided. For laughter, celebrations, milestones that were achieved with them, we are grateful.
We also acknowledge the way these names were binding, and did not fit. For the way they constrained, and limited, and incorrectly defined, hear our prayers. For the rough edges they left because of their poor fit, we pray, O God, you will make smooth, and bring healing. Redeem and restore their memories, and bring space for new stories yet to be told.
God, you are a God of many names–Yahweh, Elohim, Abba, El Shaddai, Wisdom, Rock, Fortress, the shelter of a mother bird’s wing–Give us courage to also live into complexity, acknowledging our many names as well.
You are also a God of name changes. Abram and Sarai became Abraham and Sarah. Jacob became Israel. Saul became Paul. As these children claim their baptismal promises with new names, may they see the way their stories are connected to your Divine Story.
We pray your blessings on the stories that are still ahead for all of us.
We pray your blessings on all of our names, that in our individuality, we may all claim the name Beloved. For we are fearfully and wonderfully made, in your very image.
We pray these blessings in the name of your Son, named Jesus, Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, Savior, Teacher, Risen Christ.
Minister: With which name do you now wish to claim your baptismal promises?
(They spoke their new names out loud).
Minister: Remember your baptism, _______________________. You are God’s beloved child, fearfully and wonderfully made, named and claimed.
Permission to use and adapt (liturgy means “work of the people”, after all) for worship purposes is granted. Citation is appreciated. If you seek permission to publish this in a book, or on another website, please contact me. Thank you.