McCain’s Latest Flip-Flop: He’s a Baptist not an Episcopalian

He used to run the Straight Talk Express. He used to call Jerry Falwell an “agent of intolerance.” He used to consider George W. Bush unfit to be President, but that was before he gave him a bear hung.

He told an Aiken VFW crowd on Monday that he used to be an Episcopalian, but now he’s a Baptist. An unimmersed Baptist presumably, since he has not, according to reports, been re-baptized at the North Phoenix Baptist Church. He says it’s not necessary to be a full member there.

North Phoenix Baptist is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, a denomination that has been known to throw member churches out for accepting “alien immersion,” which Baptists define as baptism by sprinkling, pouring or any other method other than full immersion of a believing, confessing adult or young person old enough to make his or her own confession of faith. It’s doubtful, but possible that John McCain was baptized in an Episcopal Church as an adult or young person at the “age of accountability.” But generally, the Episcopal Church follows the ancient practice of baptism by “affusion”: pouring water over the person being baptized. And usually those being baptized are children, whose parents promise to raise them in the Christian faith. They only make their own confession later, in the Rite of Confirmation, where they take take their parents promises as their own.

I believe that one can make a pretty good case that it’s not the form of baptism, but the fact of baptism that matters. But I’m an Episcopalian, so I’m somewhat prejudiced on the matter. It would come as a great surprise, I think, to most Southern Baptists that one of their member churches was awarding full membership to people who had not been immersed, at the accepted age.

But, hey, nothing’s impossible. John McCain no longer talks straight. And that’s not something any of us who supported him in 2000 would have thought possible. So maybe there’s a Southern Baptist Church that accepts Episcopalians as full members.

Or maybe McCain has just become the thing he used to despise: a smooth-talking politico who will say anything for a vote.

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