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This week in Christian history: English pope dies, ‘Christ and Culture’ author born, early church baptism controversy

This week in Christian history: English pope dies, ‘Christ and Culture’ author born, early church baptism controversy

Bishops support re-baptism for lapsed believers – Sept. 1, 256

St. Cyprian (200-258), Bishop of Carthage who was martyred for his beliefs. | (Photo: Public Domain)

This week marks the anniversary of when the North African Bishops of the early church unanimously decided that Christians belonging to churches formed by relapsed believers had be to re-baptized.

During times of persecution, many Christians in the Roman Empire signed papers confirming that they were offering sacrifices to pagan gods, in keeping with mainstream opinion.

Some of these lapsed Christians came to form their own congregations, with baptisms being performed along with other sacraments.

After the latest wave of persecution had passed, the lapsed Christians wanted to return to the main Church. Led by the Bishop Cyprian of Carthage, the North African Bishops ruled that the baptisms of those churches were invalid.

“Cyprian insisted that there was only one true universal church and denied that rival groups could possess the Holy Spirit. Therefore their baptisms were invalid,” explained the Christian History Institute.

“Stephen, Bishop of Rome, disagreed. Christians, he said, are baptized in the name of Christ. No matter who does the baptizing … But then Stephen died and his successor did not press the issue. Eventually, the worldwide church adopted the Roman view.”

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