GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) -- The 2,800-member First Baptist Church is considering accepting new members without baptism by immersion, which could mean ouster from the local Baptist association.
Three other South Carolina Baptist congregations that dropped the immersion rule have been dismissed from local associations.
Baptists traditionally require transferring members to undergo full immersion if their former churches practiced other forms of baptism. Under the proposed change, First Baptist would grant full membership to transfers while requiring immersion only for those undergoing first-time baptisms.
Baptism ''is not a prerequisite of salvation,'' said the church's minister for pastoral care, Donna Forrester, ''so what's most important is the faith response.''
Greenville Baptist Association official Ron Davis objected. ''If you're going to be Baptist, this is one of the distinctives,'' he said.
First Baptist quit the Southern Baptist Convention in 1999 over its conservative policies.
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