The Sacraments and Related Rites
In the United Methodist tradition, sacraments are understood as "outward signs of inward grace." In other words, they are an assured "means" or avenue by which God conveys his grace to us. We believe that there are two sacraments ordained by Christ. They are "Holy Baptism" and "Holy Communion."
The Sacrament of Holy Baptism is the means by which we are incorporated into the Church and made a part of Christ's Body. Through the sacrament we are made one with Christ in both his living, dying and rising. Because baptism initiates us into Christ's whole church and not only into a particular denomination, United Methodists recognize all Christian baptisms as valid and look upon baptism as something that should unite, rather than divide, Christians.
Candidates for baptism, whether adult or infant, may receive the sacrament through sprinkling, pouring or immersion. Each mode of baptism brings out a part of the rich and diverse symbolism given to the sacrament by the Bible. Each mode is a form of washing which symbolizes the washing away of sin. Being totally immersed in water and raised from it is also a powerful symbol of our burial and resurrection with Christ and of being born anew of water and the Spirit. Pouring or sprinkling of water upon the candidate's head also signifies God's pouring out of the Holy Spirit.
Baptism is an act that looks back with gratitude on what God's grace has already accomplished, it is here and now an act of God's grace, and looks forward to what God's grace will accomplish in the future. While baptism signifies the whole working of God's grace, much that it signifies, from the washing away of sin to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, will need to happen during the course of a person's lifetime.
Persons of any age may be baptized because Christ's body, the Church, is a great family that includes persons of all ages. On the day the Church was born, Peter preached: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children" (Acts 2:38-39). The New Testament repeatedly records that when a believer was baptized, the believer's whole household was baptized. Nowhere does the New Testament record, or even suggest, that any Christian family delayed the baptism of their children until they could make their own profession of faith. For more information on the United Methodist understanding of baptism, please consult the teaching document By Water and the Spirit, available at the link below:
The Sacrament of Holy Communion