Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
How is it that the EFCA allows both infant (paedo) and believer baptism (credo)?
Regarding the ordinance of baptism, we affirm this is a biblical/theological essential. The Lord Jesus mandated that the church celebrate the ordinances. It is not that this is a matter of indifference (adiaphora), since it is a clear command given by the Lord Jesus for the church to celebrate (Matt. 28:19-20). But the timing (paedo and credo) and the mode (sprinkling and immersion) we have placed in a category of silence, i.e. we will not divide over this issue.
The EFCA is primarily believer baptism by immersion in both belief and practice. But there are also some churches who practice infant baptism, though not considered for salvation. We are baptist with a small "b" in that what is critical for membership in a local church is true salvation. The fact that both credo and paedo baptism are allowed is a "significance of silence" issue, i.e. we will debate it but not divide over it.
With this position we do not want to portray that the Scriptures are unclear or baptism does not matter. Instead, we want to state there are some significant differences, which we neither deny nor conceal, but godly evangelicals with a strong commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture can affirm these positions, and we “allow” either/both. (This is a similar rationale for the discussion/debate between Arminians and Calvinists).
The key centers not on the command to be baptized but on the time and mode of baptism. It is on that matter that we grant a charitable parameter. Here is what we have stated in a footnote as we have spelled out how it is we can “allow” both infant (paedo) and believer (credo) baptism in the EFCA (Evangelical Convictions: A Theological Exposition of the Statement of Faith of the Evangelical Free Church of America, p. 170, n. 40).
We recognize that the interpretations of Scripture on the relevant points regarding the two positions on baptism differ with one another and are in some ways incompatible. We allow different interpretations, not because we think Scripture is intrinsically ambiguous on the matter, nor because we think Scripture provides so little information that it is unwise to hold any opinion, but because some of us think the credobaptist position is in line with Scripture and that the paedobaptist position is mistaken, and some think the paedobaptist position is in line with Scripture and that the exclusively credobaptist position is mistaken. In other words, both sides hold that Scripture speaks to the matter, but each side holds a view that excludes the other. However, we do not believe that our differing views on this matter (among others) should prevent our unity in the gospel in full local church fellowship. It is in this sense, and only in this sense, that the Statement of Faith "allows” both views.