Baptism, Bees, and Salvation

I'll convert YOU!

Into a stew.

A nice little, white little, missionary stew!

- T.S. Eliot, Sweeney Agonistes

still at it. I'm referring to the Cornerstone Baptist Church in
Colorado Springs. They've probably learned that it really works. How
else to explain its practices. We examined its practices in 1993 and 16
years later it's still going strong. It's called involuntary baptism.

1993 the Cornerstone Baptist church advertised a kids' carnival that
featured, among other things, a water fight, free balloons, squirt guns
and candy. The carnival was obviously directing its advertising at
children since most adults are not attracted to an event just because
it has water fights, balloons and squirt guns. Unadvertised, but
nonetheless a big part of the festivities, was a spontaneous (as far as
the kids were concerned) baptism. Reports suggest that the pastor
encouraged the carnival attendees to become baptized by telling them
that without the baptism they could be killed by bee stings. If he was
right, those accepting the invitation were permanently inoculated
against that particular peril. Right or wrong, most children would
probably find that appealing since any inoculation one can obtain
without being given a shot seems like a very good kind of inoculation

Baptism in carnival like surroundings was not the only
type of surprise baptism engaged in by the church. In at least one case
it was sued by a parent whose child had not gone to the carnival but
had gone to the church with two women from the church. Aware of the
church's tendency to surprise young attendees with baptism, Audrey Ausgotharp
told the two women that she did not want the children to come home
baptized. As it turned out, the church did not have a hair dryer. When
the children came home their hair was wet. Their mother figured out
instantly that either they'd been given a shampoo or they'd been
baptized. Given Cornerstone's reputation she put the notion of a
shampooing out of mind and settled on baptism. She was right and
righteously angry.
When the two women who had picked the children up were confronted they
were apologetic and said the children had been baptized by mistake. The
Cornerstone Baptists were not the only denomination that increased the
church rolls by involuntary baptism.

1996 it was reported that the Anchor Baptist Church in Woburn,
Massachusetts had taken to the same practice. It wasn't as much fun for
a couple reasons. The first was that it violated all truth in
advertising rules and the second was the actual event was preceded by a
long and presumably predictably boring sermon. The Anchorfolk
reportedly attracted hundreds of kids by promising pizza and
basketball. The Anchormen, notwithstanding their love of the Lord, were
not infected by the truth in advertising bug. There was, as it turned
out, neither pizza nor basketball. Instead of pizza there was a sermon
and instead of basketball, swimming-sort of. The swimming was a full
body immersion and to participate the children had to disrobe and put
on church garb. That is, of course, history, having taken place in
1996. Who'd have thought that a practice from the dark ages of 1996
would still be in vogue today? The answer is it is.

In early May it was reported that representatives of the Cornerstone Church tried to lure
a seventh-grader at Russell Middle School in Colorado Springs into a
van. Most children lured into vans face consequences far more drastic
than a simple hair washing and promise of salvation. The 7th grader
refused to enter the van and upon learning of the encounter, the school
principle cautioned parents about the threat and reminded them to
remind their children not to talk to strangers, even if carrying
bibles. According to reports church members have also been approaching
children on the playground and outside the school grounds preaching the
bible. Van luring is not the church's only method of capturing souls.
The carnival is still a favorite.

On May 1 the carnival was
again announced but before the attendees could do the fun stuff they
were required to be baptized by total immersion. Whether the very
tangible benefit of immunity from bee stings was offered, in addition
to the promise of salvation, was not stated. Asked about the practice,
assistant pastor Ford Glover said he would have no comment. Dan Irwin,
an associate pastor said: "No one can show me one passage in the Bible
where it says parental permission is required before a child is
baptized." Pastor Dean Miller of the church says the church is merely
pursuing the Bible's "great commission" to baptize lots of people.

Cornerstone Church's home page there is a pretty picture of clouds and
blue sky. Across the sky in block letters is written "Salvation" and
beneath that in cursive, "Easy As 1. 2.. 3..." One probably stands for
the carnival, 2 for baptism and 3 for bee sting immunity. Getting 1 and
3 for free would seem to make 2 no big deal. It's hard to understand
why parents object.

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