Rebaptism, Chrismation and Reception of Converts

The Various Positions

  1. Baptism by pouring is a valid form of baptism: Didache, St. Hippolytus of Rome
  2. Heretics do not have valid baptisms (or sacraments) and thus must be rebaptized upon entering the Church: St. Cyprian and the Council of Carthage +257, St. Firmilian of Caesarea, Patriarch Philaret of Moscow, Council of Constantinople +1756, St. Nikodemus the Hagiorite
  3. Heretics who do not have the proper form of baptism are to be rebaptized: Apostolic Constitutions, Laodicea
  4. By ancient custom, most heretics are to be received into the Church through chrismation or a profession of faith, and not rebaptism (excepting groups that don’t have proper baptismal form): Nicaea I +325, Constantinople I +381, Chalcedon +451, Trullo, Joannes Zonaras, St. Mark of Ephesus, Council of Constantinople +1484, Council of Jassy +1642, Council of Moscow +1667, Russian Archbishop Benjamin, Orthodox Church in America, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese
  5. Some believe heretics have valid baptisms and others believe they don’t, but regardless we should strictly obey whatever the canons tell us: St. Basil the Great
  6. Because heretics have the Church’s baptism, they are not to be rebaptized: Pope St. Stephen, Pope Dionysius of Alexandria, St. Augustine of Hippo, Pope St. Siricius, Pope St. Leo the Great, St. Optatus of Milevis, St. Jerome, Pope St. Innocent I, St. Vincent of Lerins, St. Fulgentius of Ruspe, Council of Carthage +419, Pope St. Gregory the Great, St. Isidore of Seville, Patriarch Marcarius of Antioch, Bishop Nikodim Milaš, Fr. Georges Florovsky, Jubilee Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church
  7. Anti-rebaptism stance is implied, but not explicit: Council of Jerusalem +1672, Council of Crete +2016, Patriarch Balsamon of Antioch
  8. Pro-rebaptism stance is implied, but not explicit: Patriarch Dositheus of Jerusalem
  9. There is a real “ecclesial nature” within heterodox confessions: St. Philaret of Moscow, St. Sophrony of Essex, Fr. Dumitru Staniloae, Recent Orthodox Theologians.

Please feel free to send un-mentioned additional quotations to this florilegium at

First Millenium

Didache (50 – 70 AD)

“And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Matthew 28:19 in living water. But if you have not living water, baptize into other water; and if you can not in cold, in warm. But if you have not either, pour out water thrice upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whatever others can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.”  -Chapter 7

St. Hippolytus of Rome (d. 235)

“If water is scarce, whether as a constant condition or on occasion, then use whatever water is available” (The Apostolic Tradition, 21)

St. Cyprian & Council of Carthage (257 AD)

“Cyprian said: You have heard, my dearly beloved colleagues, what our fellow bishop Jubaianus has written to me, taking counsel of my littleness concerning the illicit and profane baptisms of heretics, and the answer which I made him; being of the same opinion as we have been on former occasions, that heretics coming to the Church should be baptized and sanctified with the Church’s baptism. […]Cyprian, the Confessor and Martyr of Carthage, said: The letter which was written to Jubaianus, my colleague, most fully set forth my opinion, that heretics who, according to the evangelical and apostolic witness, are called adversaries of Christ’s and anti-Christs, when they come to the Church, should be baptized with the one (unico) baptism of the Church, that they may become instead of adversaries friends, and Christians instead of Antichrists.” -Council of Carthage 257

Pope St. Stephen (d/m. 257)

“If, therefore, someone comes to you from any heresy whatsoever, let nothing be renewed except that which has been handed down (nihil innovetur nisi quod traditum est), namely, that the hand be imposed on him in penance, for the heretics themselves quite properly, do not baptize those who come to them from each other, but simply admit them to communion… But the name of Christ accomplishes much toward the faith and sanctification of Baptism, so that whoever has been baptized anywhere in the name of Christ, immediately receives the grace of Christ.”  – Letter 73

Pope Dionysius of Alexandria (d. 264)

“Inasmuch as you have written thus, setting forth the pious legislation, which we continually read and now have in remembrance—namely that it shall suffice only to lay hands on those who shall have made profession in baptism, whether in pretense or in truth, of God Almighty and of Christ and of the Holy Spirit; but those over whom there has not been invoked the name either of Father or of Son or of the Holy Spirit, these we must baptize, but not rebaptism. This is the sure and immovable teaching and tradition, begun by our Lord after his resurrection from the dead, when he gave his apostles the command: Go ye, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This then was preserved and fulfilled by his successors, the blessed apostles, and by all the bishops prior to ourselves who have died in the holy church and shared in its life; and it has lasted down to us, because it is firmer than the whole world. For, he said, heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” Letter to Sixtus II

St. Firmilian of Caesarea (d. 269)

“Inasmuch as Stephen and those who agree with him contend that the remission of sins and the second birth can take place in the baptism given by heretics, even while they admit that the Holy Spirit is not present among the heretics, let them take thought to understand that there can be no spiritual birth without the Spirit… But what is his error, and how great his blindness, who says that the remission of sins can be given in the synagogue of the heretics… In this respect I am justly indignant at this so open and evident stupidity of Stephen: that although he glories so much in the place of his Bishopric and contends that he holds the succession of Peter, on whom the foundations of the Church have been laid, he should introduce many other rocks and establish the new building of numerous Churches, since he defends with his authority that Baptism is found in them.” Letter74:8

Nicaea (325)

“Concerning those who call themselves Cathari, if they come over to the Catholic and Apostolic Church, the great and holy Synod decrees that they who are ordained shall continue as they are in the clergy. But it is before all things necessary that they should profess in writing that they will observe and follow the dogmas of the Catholic and Apostolic Church; in particular that they will communicate with persons who have been twice married, and with those who having lapsed in persecution have had a period [of penance] laid upon them, and a time [of restoration] fixed so that in all things they will follow the dogmas of the Catholic Church. Wheresoever, then, whether in villages or in cities, all of the ordained are found to be of these only, let them remain in the clergy, and in the same rank in which they are found. But if they come over where there is a bishop or presbyter of the Catholic Church, it is manifest that the Bishop of the Church must have the bishop’s dignity; and he who was named bishop by those who are called Cathari shall have the rank of presbyter, unless it shall seem fit to the Bishop to admit him to partake in the honour of the title. Or, if this should not be satisfactory, then shall the bishop provide for him a place as Chorepiscopus, or presbyter, in order that he may be evidently seen to be of the clergy, and that there may not be two bishops in the city.” Canon 8

“Concerning the Paulianists who have flown for refuge to the Catholic Church, it has been decreed that they must by all means be rebaptized; and if any of them who in past time have been numbered among their clergy should be found blameless and without reproach, let them be rebaptized and ordained by the Bishop of the Catholic Church; but if the examination should discover them to be unfit, they ought to be deposed. Likewise in the case of their deaconesses, and generally in the case of those who have been enrolled among their clergy, let the same form be observed. And we mean by deaconesses such as have assumed the habit, but who, since they have no imposition of hands, are to be numbered only among the laity.” Canon 19

Laodicea (c. 363/4)

“Persons converted from the heresy of those who are called Phrygians, even should they be among those reputed by them as clergymen, and even should they be called the very chiefest, are with all care to be both instructed and baptized by the bishops and presbyters of the Church.” Canon 8

Canons of St. Basil the Great (d. 379) 

“As to your enquiry about the Cathari, a statement has already been made, and you have properly reminded me that it is right to follow the custom obtaining in each region, because those, who at the time gave decision on these points, held different opinions concerning their baptism. But the baptism of the Pepuzeni seems to me to have no authority; and I am astonished how this can have escaped Dionysius, acquainted as he was with the canons. The old authorities decided to accept that baptism which in nowise errs from the faith. Thus they used the names of heresies, of schisms, and of unlawful congregations. By heresies they meant men who were altogether broken off and alienated in matters relating to the actual faith; by schisms men who had separated for some ecclesiastical reasons and questions capable of mutual solution; by unlawful congregations gatherings held by disorderly presbyters or bishops or by uninstructed laymen. As, for instance, if a man be convicted of crime, and prohibited from discharging ministerial functions, and then refuses to submit to the canons, but arrogates to himself episcopal and ministerial rights, and persons leave the Catholic Church and join him, this is unlawful assembly. To disagree with members of the Church about repentance, is schism. Instances of heresy are those of the Manichæans, of the Valentinians, of the Marcionites, and of these Pepuzenes; for with them there comes in at once their disagreement concerning the actual faith in God. So it seemed good to the ancient authorities to reject the baptism of heretics altogether, but to admit that of schismatics, on the ground that they still belonged to the Church.

“As to those who assembled in unlawful congregations, their decision was to join them again to the Church, after they had been brought to a better state by proper repentance and rebuke, and so, in many cases, when men in orders had rebelled with the disorderly, to receive them on their repentance, into the same rank. Now the Pepuzeni are plainly heretical, for, by unlawfully and shamefully applying to Montanus and Priscilla the title of the Paraclete, they have blasphemed against the Holy Ghost. They are, therefore, to be condemned for ascribing divinity to men; and for outraging the Holy Ghost by comparing Him to men. They are thus also liable to eternal damnation, inasmuch as blasphemy against the Holy Ghost admits of no forgiveness. What ground is there, then, for the acceptance of the baptism of men who baptize into the Father and the Son and Montanus or Priscilla? For those who have not been baptized into the names delivered to us have not been baptized at all. So that, although this escaped the vigilance of the great Dionysius, we must by no means imitate his error. The absurdity of the position is obvious in a moment, and evident to all who are gifted with even a small share of reasoning capacity.

“The Cathari are schismatics; but it seemed good to the ancient authorities, I mean Cyprian and our own Firmilianus, to reject all these, Cathari, Encratites, and Hydroparastatæ, by one common condemnation, because the origin of separation arose through schism, and those who had apostatized from the Church had no longer on them the grace of the Holy Spirit, for it ceased to be imparted when the continuity was broken. The first separatists had received their ordination from the Fathers, and possessed the spiritual gift by the laying on of their hands. But they who were broken off had become laymen, and, because they are no longer able to confer on others that grace of the Holy Spirit from which they themselves are fallen away, they had no authority either to baptize or to ordain. And therefore those who were from time to time baptized by them, were ordered, as though baptized by laymen, to come to the church to be purified by the Church’s true baptism. Nevertheless, since it has seemed to some of those of Asia that, for the sake of management of the majority, their baptism should be accepted, let it be accepted. We must, however, perceive the iniquitous action of the Encratites; who, in order to shut themselves out from being received back by the Church have endeavoured for the future to anticipate readmission by a peculiar baptism of their own, violating, in this manner even their own special practice. My opinion, therefore, is that nothing being distinctly laid down concerning them, it is our duty to reject their baptism, and that in the case of any one who has received baptism from them, we should, on his coming to the church, baptize him. If, however, there is any likelihood of this being detrimental to general discipline, we must fall back upon custom, and follow the fathers who have ordered what course we are to pursue. For I am under some apprehension lest, in our wish to discourage them from baptizing, we may, through the severity of our decision, be a hindrance to those who are being saved. If they accept our baptism, do not allow this to distress us. We are by no means bound to return them the same favour, but only strictly to obey canons. On every ground let it be enjoined that those who come to us from their baptism be anointed in the presence of the faithful, and only on these terms approach the mysteries. I am aware that I have received into episcopal rank Izois and Saturninus from the Encratite following. I am precluded therefore from separating from the Church those who have been united to their company, inasmuch as, through my acceptance of the bishops, I have promulgated a kind of canon of communion with them.” Canon 1

“Encratitæ, Saccophori, and Apotactitæ are not regarded in the same manner as Novatians, since in their case a canon has been pronounced, although different; while of the former nothing has been said. All these I re-baptize on the same principle. If among you their re-baptism is forbidden, for the sake of some arrangement, nevertheless let my principle prevail. Their heresy is, as it were, an offshoot of the Marcionites, abominating, as they do, marriage, refusing wine, and calling God’s creature polluted. We do not therefore receive them into the Church, unless they be baptized into our baptism. Let them not say that they have been baptized into Father, Son and Holy Ghost, inasmuch as they make God the author of evil, after the example of Marcion and the rest of the heresies. Wherefore, if this be determined on, more bishops ought to meet together in one place and publish the canon in these terms, that action may be taken without peril, and authority given to answers to questions of this kind.” Canon 47

Apostolic Constitutions (375-380)

“We command that a bishop, or presbyter, or deacon who receives the baptism, or the sacrifice of heretics, be deprived: For what agreement is there between Christ and Belial? Or what part has a believer with an infidel?” Canon 46

“If a bishop or presbyter rebaptizes him who has had true baptism, or does not baptize him who is polluted by the ungodly, let him be deprived, as ridiculing the cross and the death of the Lord, and not distinguishing between real priests and counterfeit ones.” Canon 47

“If any bishop or presbyter does not baptize according to the Lord’s constitution, into the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, but into three beings without beginning, or into three Sons, or three Comforters, let him be deprived.” Canon 49

“If any bishop or presbyter does not perform the three immersions of the one admission, but one immersion, which is given into the death of Christ, let him be deprived; for the Lord did not say, Baptize into my death, but, Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Therefore, O bishops, baptize thrice into one Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost, according to the will of Christ, and our constitution by the Spirit.” Canon 50

Constantinople I (381), 2nd Ecumenical Council

“Those who from heresy turn to orthodoxy, and to the portion of those who are being saved, we receive according to the following method and custom: Arians, and Macedonians, and Sabbatians, and Novatians, who call themselves Cathari or Aristori, and Quarto-decimans or Tetradites, and Apollinarians, we receive, upon their giving a written renunciation [of their errors] and anathematize every heresy which is not in accordance with the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of God. Thereupon, they are first sealed or anointed with the holy oil upon the forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth, and ears; and when we seal them, we say, The Seal of the gift of the Holy Ghost. But Eunomians, who are baptized with only one immersion, and Montanists, who are here called Phrygians, and Sabellians, who teach the identity of Father and Son, and do sundry other mischievous things, and [the partisans of] all other heresies— for there are many such here, particularly among those who come from the country of the Galatians:— all these, when they desire to turn to orthodoxy, we receive as heathen. On the first day we make them Christians; on the second, catechumens; on the third, we exorcise them by breathing thrice in their face and ears; and thus we instruct them and oblige them to spend some time in the Church, and to hear the Scriptures; and then we baptize them.” Canon 5

St. Optatus of Milevis (d. 397)

“For what can be more to our purpose than your argument from the fact that there was only one Flood —-the type of Baptism? And, in maintaining that the one Circumcision availed for the salvation of the people of the Jews, you have written in defense of our doctrine, as though you were one of us. For this is our argument, who defend the Unity of Baptism conferred in [the Name of] the Trinity. It is not an argument in favor of you, who dare to repeat, against the laws, that Baptism, of which the one Flood and one Circumcision are typical. And this, although you yourselves would not deny that what has been commanded to be done once only, ought not to be repeated. But whilst you have praised with acuteness that which is worthy of all praise, you have by a quibble introduced your own persons, as if—-since it is only lawful once [to baptize]—-for you it were lawful, for others unlawful. If it be unlawful for Betrayers to baptize, it cannot be lawful for you, for we can prove that your first fathers were Betrayers. If it be unlawful for schismatics to baptize, it must therefore be unlawful for you, for you originated the Schism. If it be unlawful for sinners to baptize, we can prove from divine testimony that you are sinners also. Finally, since the validity of Baptism does not depend upon the character of the man who has been chosen to baptize, but upon an act which lawfully is done but once, for this reason we do not set right baptisms which have been administered by you, because both amongst us and amongst you the Sacrament is one. The whole nature of this Sacrament we shall set forth in our fifth book.” Against the Donatist, Book I, Chapter 5

Pope St. Siricius (d. 399)

“And so on the first page of your letter you have indicated that very many baptized by the impious Arians are hastening to the Catholic faith and that certain of our brothers wish to baptize these same ones again. This is not allowed since the Apostle forbids it to be done (Ephesians 4:5, Hebrews 6:4) and the canons oppose it, and after the cessation of the Council of Ariminum general decrees sent to the provinces by my predecessor Liberius of venerable memory prohibit it.  These together with the Novations and other heretics we join to the company of the Catholics through the sole invocation of the sevenfold Spirit by the imposition of a bishop’s hands, just as it was determined in the Synod, which, too, the whole East and West observe. It is proper that you also do not deviate from this course henceforth, if you do not wish to be separated from our company from synodal decision.” (Letter of Pope Siricius to Bishop Himerius)

Pope St. Innocent I (d. 417)

“Indeed, from the canon of Nicaea, Paulianists coming to the Church are to be baptized, but not the Novatianists…Clear reason declares what is distinct in the two heresies themselves; for the Paulianists never baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and the Novatianists do baptize in those same tremendous and venerable names; neither among the Novatianists has any question ever been raised about the unity of the divine power that belongs to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” Letter to Rufus and the Bishops of Macedonia

Council of Carthage (419)

“For in coming to faith they [those who were baptized by Donatists, i.e. heretical schismatics] thought the true Church to be their own and there they believed in Christ, and received the sacraments of the Trinity. And that all these sacraments are altogether true and holy and divine is most certain, and in them the whole hope of the soul is placed, although the presumptuous audacity of heretics, taking to itself the name of the truth, dares to administer them. They are but one after all, as the blessed Apostle tells us, saying: One God, one faith, one baptism, and it is not lawful to reiterate what once only ought to be administered. [Those therefore who have been so baptized] having anathematized their error may be received by the imposition of the hand into the one Church, the pillar as it is called, and the one mother of all Christians, where all these Sacraments are received unto salvation and everlasting life; even the same sacraments which obtain for those persevering in heresy the heavy penalty of damnation.” Canon 57

[Note: The Council of Carthage +419 was given Ecumenical authority at the Council of Trullo just a few centuries later.]

St. Jerome (d. 420)

“Cyprian of blessed memory tried to avoid broken cisterns and not to drink of strange and therefore, rejecting heretical baptism, he summoned his African synod in opposition to Stephen, who was the blessed Peter’s twenty-second successor in the see of Rome. They met to discuss this matter; but the attempt failed. At last those very bishops who had together with him determined that heretics must be re-baptized, reverted to the old custom and published a fresh decree” Dialogue with the Luciferians

St. Augustine of Hippo (d. 430)

It appeared to some even eminent men who were bishops of Christ, among whom the blessed Cyprian was specially conspicuous, that the baptism of Christ could not exist among heretics or schismatics, this simply arose from their not distinguishing the sacrament from the effect or use of the sacrament; and because its effect and use were not found among heretics in freeing them from their sins and setting their hearts right, the sacrament itself was also thought to be wanting among them. But if we turn our eyes to the multitude of chaff within the Church, since these also who are perverse and lead an abandoned life in unity itself appear to have no power either of giving or retaining remission of sins, seeing that it is not to the wicked but the good sons that it was said, “Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained,” yet that such persons both have, and give, and receive the sacrament of baptism, was sufficiently manifest to the pastors of the Catholic Church dispersed over the whole world, through whom the original custom was afterwards confirmed by the authority of a plenary Council; so that even the sheep which was straying outside, and had received the mark of the Lord from false plunderers outside, if it seek the salvation of Christian unity, is purified from error, is freed from captivity, is healed of its wound, and yet the mark of the Lord is recognized rather than rejected in it; since the mark itself is often impressed both by wolves and on wolves, who seem indeed to be within the fold, but yet are proved by the fruits of their conduct, in which they persevere even to the end, not to belong to that sheep which is one in many; because, according to the foreknowledge of God, as many sheep wander outside, so many wolves lurk treacherously within, among whom the Lord yet knoweth them that are His, which hear only the voice of the Shepherd, even when He calls by the voice of men like the Pharisees, of whom it was said, “Whatsoever they bid you observe that observe and do. (The Writings Against the Manichaeans and Against the Donatists)

St. Vincent of Lerins (d. 445)

“Once on a time then, Agripinnus, bishop of Carthage, of venerable memory, held the doctrine — and he was the first who held it — that Baptism ought to be repeated, contrary to the divine canon, contrary to the rule of the universal Church, contrary to the customs and institutions of our ancestors. This innovation drew after it such an amount of evil, that it not only gave an example of sacrilege to heretics of all sorts, but proved an occasion of error to certain Catholics even.” Commonitory 6:16

Council of Chalcedon (451), 4th Ecumenical Council 

“Since in certain provinces it is permitted to the readers and singers to marry, the holy Synod has decreed that it shall not be lawful for any of them to take a wife that is heterodox. But those who have already begotten children of such a marriage, if they have already had their children baptized among the heretics, must bring them into the communion of the Catholic Church; but if they have not had them baptized, they may not hereafter baptize them among heretics, nor give them in marriage to a heretic, or a Jew, or a heathen, unless the person marrying the orthodox child shall promise to come over to the orthodox faith. And if any one shall transgress this decree of the holy synod, let him be subjected to canonical censure.” Canon 14

Pope St. Leo the Great (d. 461)

“For they who have received baptism from heretics, not having been previously baptized, are to be confirmed by imposition of hands with only the invocation of the Holy Ghost, because they have received the bare form of baptism without the power of sanctification. And this regulation, as you know, we require to be kept in all the churches, that the font once entered may not be defiled by repetition, as the Lord says, One Lord, one faith, one baptism. And that washing may not be polluted by repetition, but, as we have said, only the sanctification of the Holy Ghost invoked, that what no one can receive from heretics may be obtained from Catholic priests.” (Letter 159)

St. Fulgentius of Ruspe (d. 533)

“Anyone who receives the sacrament of Baptism, whether in the Catholic Church or in a heretical or schismatic one, receives the whole Sacrament; but salvation, which is the strength of the Sacrament, he will not have, if he has had the sacrament outside the Catholic Church. He must, therefore, return to the Church, not to that he might receive again the sacrament of Baptism, which no one dare repeat in any baptized person, but so that he may receive eternal life in Catholic society, for the obtaining of which no one is suited who, even with the Sacrament of Baptism, remains estranged from the Catholic Church.” Rule of Faith 43

Pope St. Gregory the Great (d. 604)

“We have learned from the ancient institution of the Fathers that those who, in heresy, are baptized in the name of the Trinity, when they return to the Holy Church, are to be recalled to the bosom of Mother Church either by anointing with Chrism, or by the imposition of the hand, or by a profession of faith alone…because the Holy Baptism, which they received among heretics, re-engages in them the powers of cleansing at that time when…they are united to the faith in the bowels of the holy and universal church. But as to those heretics who are baptized not in the name of the Trinity…when they come to the Holy Church, they are baptized, because that was not Baptism, which situated in error, they received not in the name of the Trinity. Nor can this be called a repetition of a Baptism, which, as was stated, was not given in the name of the Trinity.” (Letter 9:67)

St. Isidore of Seville (d. 636)

“Heretics also, if nevertheless they were taught to have received baptism in attestation of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, are not to be baptized again but are to be cleansed only by chrism , and therefore it is of no concern whether a heretic or a faithful one baptizes. The sacrament is so sacred that it is not defiled by a murderer ministering it. Certainly a heretic has the baptism of Christ but, because he is outside the unity of the faith, it produces nothing for him. But when he shall have come back in, immediately the baptism that he had outside toward destruction begins now to work in him toward salvation. For the fact that he received it, I approve; that he received it outside the unity of faith, I disapprove. When he comes back in, however, he is not changed; he is recognized. Since the character [given him in baptism] is of my king, I will not be sacrilegious. I correct the deserter; I do not change the character” (De Ecclesiasticis 2:25)

Council of Trullo/Quinisext (691/2)

“Those who from the heretics come over to orthodoxy, and to the number of those who should be saved, we receive according to the following order and custom. Arians, Macedonians, Novatians, who call themselves Cathari, Aristeri, and Testareskaidecatitæ, or Tetraditæ, and Apollinarians, we receive on their presentation of certificates and on their anathematizing every heresy which does not hold as does the holy Apostolic Church of God: then first of all we anoint them with the holy chrism on their foreheads, eyes, nostrils, mouth and ears; and as we seal them we say — The seal of the gift of the Holy Ghost. But concerning the Paulianists it has been determined by the Catholic Church that they shall by all means be rebaptized. The Eunomeans also, who baptize with one immersion; and the Montanists, who here are called Phrygians; and the Sabellians, who consider the Son to be the same as the Father, and are guilty in certain other grave matters, and all the other heresies— for there are many heretics here, especially those who come from the region of the Galatians — all of their number who are desirous of coming to the Orthodox faith, we receive as Gentiles. And on the first day we make them Christians, on the second Catechumens, then on the third day we exorcise them, at the same time also breathing thrice upon their faces and ears; and thus we initiate them, and we make them spend time in church and hear the Scriptures; and then we baptize them. And the Manichæans, and Valentinians and Marcionites and all of similar heresies must give certificates and anathematize each his own heresy, and also Nestorius, Eutyches, Dioscorus, Severus, and the other chiefs of such heresies, and those who think with them, and all the aforesaid heresies; and so they become partakers of the holy Communion.” Canon 95

Zonaras (c. 12th century)

“Thus, the opinions of the Fathers gathered at the council with the great Cyprian do not refer to all heretics and all schismatics. Because the Second Ecumenical Council, as we just pointed out, makes an exception for certain heretics and grants its sanction for their reception without repeating the baptism, demanding only their anointing with the Holy Chrism provided that they renounced their own heresies and all other heresies.” (Quoted in Archimandrite Ambrosius, On the Question of the Order of Reception of Persons into the Orthodox Church, Ch. 1).

Balsamon, Patriarch of Antioch (d. circa 1200)

[The decrees of the Council at Carthage +257] are not mandatory and as such ineffective.” (Quoted in Archimandrite Ambrosius, On the Question of the Order of Reception of Persons into the Orthodox Church, ch. 1). 

[Note: Also see below, St. Mark of Ephesus cites Balsamon in favor of chrismating Roman Catholics.]

St. Mark of Ephesus (d. 1444)

“We turned away from them [the Latins] as from heretics and for this reason disassociate ourselves from them. The venerable canons say thus: ‘He is a heretic and is subject to the laws against heretics if he — even only in a little way — turns from the Orthodox faith.’ If the Latins in no way deviate from the Orthodox Faith then, it seems, we cut them off in error. But if they completely deviated, and this in their theology about the Holy Spirit — sinning against which is the greatest of dangers — then it is clear that they are heretics, and we cut them off as heretics. Why do we anoint them who come to us? — Is not this clear — as heretics? The 7th canon of the Second Ecumenical Council speaks thus: ‘Those heretics who come over to Orthodoxy and to the society of those who are saved we receive according to the prescribed rite and custom: Arians, Macedonians, Novatianists, who call themselves ‘pure and better,’ Quatrodecimans or Tetradites as well as Appolinarians. We receive them on condition that they present a written document and that they anathematize every heresy, which is not in accord with the thinking of the holy, catholic and apostolic Church of God, and then they should be marked with the seal, that is, anointed with chrism on the forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth and ears. And as they are marked with the seal, we say seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ Do you not see how we designate those who come from the Latins? If all those (named in the Canon) are heretics, then it is clear that they (i.e., the Latins) are heretics. What did the learned Antiochian Patriarch Theodore Balsamon write in reply to Mark, the holy Patriarch of Alexandria? ‘The Latin captives and others come into our catholic churches, asking to receive the Divine Mysteries. We would like to know: is this permitted? (Response) “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” (Mt. 12:30; Lk. 11:23) Inasmuch as many years ago the prominent part of the Western Church, namely Rome, was separated from communion with the other four Most Holy Patriarchs, because they made changes in their customs and dogmas, foreign to the Catholic Church and Orthodoxy — for this reason the Pope became unworthy of the common lifting up of names with the Patriarchs during Divine and Sacred Services — it is not proper to sanctify the Latin tribe through the Divine and Most Pure Gifts (given) from the hands of the priest, unless they (the Latins) first decide to abandon the Latin dogmas and customs and be catechized and admitted (by way of the prescribed rite) to Orthodoxy.’ Have you not heard that they adopted not only customs but also dogmas which are strange to Orthodoxy (and that which is strange to Orthodoxy is most certainly a heretical teaching) and that according to the canons they must be catechized and united to Orthodoxy? If it is necessary to catechize then it is clear that they must be chrismatedLatins must not be re-baptized but only after their renunciation of their heresies and confession of sins, be anointed with Chrism and admit them to the Holy Mysteries and in this way bring them into communion with the holy, catholic Eastern Church, in accordance with the sacred canons.” (Quoted in Archimandrite Ambrosius, On the Question of the Order of Reception of Persons into the Orthodox Church, ch. 1-2).

Council of Constantinople (1484)

“The Decision of the Great Synod of Constantinople in 1484. This Synod was summoned at the sacred Church of Pammakaristos by Patriarch Symeon (1472-75, 1482-1485) in 1482 and again in 1484. Ιn the first instance it issued an Horos denouncing the Council of Ferrara-Florence (1438) and its doctrine of the Filioque, and in the second, it published an Acolouthy for the reception of Latin converts into the Orthodox Church. This Synod called itself Ecumenical presumably because all four Eastern Patriarchs were present. It denounced the Council of Florence and decided that [Text of the Council begins]: “the Latin converts to Orthodoxy should be received into the Church only by Chrismation and by signing an appropriate Libellus of faith which would include denunciation of Latin errors… The Service for the Reception of Latins into the Orthodox Church Published by the same holy and great Synod, for those who return from the Latin heresies to the orthodox and catholic Church of Constantinople, but also to the three most holy patriarchs of the East, i.e. those of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. This Acolouthy was published in Constantinople in the year 1484 during the patriarchy of the most holy Patriarch Lord Symeon. Let it be known, also, that this Synod, being ecumenical, is the first one with God’s help, tο bring down and overturn that most unlawful Synod that was summoned in Florence, as one that proceeded in an evil and unconstitutional manner; and as having failed tο follow the holy and ecumenical Synods which preceded it; therefore, we included the Statement (Horos) of this Orthodox and holy Synod of ours, i.e. that one of Constantinople, in the present sacred codex of Christ’s holy and great Church, since it was summoned during our days.” (Fr. George Dragas, The Manner of Reception of Roman Catholic Converts into the Orthodox Church).

Patriarch Philaret of Moscow (d. 1633)

“The Latin papists are the most vile and ferocious of all heretics since they include in their law all the condemned heresies of the ancient Hellenic, Judaising, Arian, and heretical faiths, along with the pagan idol-worshipers, along with all the damned heretics with all their imagination and activity.’ Turning towards Jonah Philaret asked: ‘How dare you begin to introduce here in this capital city things that are contrary to the canons of the Holy Apostles and the Holy Fathers and direct that the Latins, who are worse than dogs and conscious enemies of God, be brought in not through baptism but only through Chrismation?” (Quoted in Archimandrite Ambrosius, On the Question of the Order of Reception of Persons into the Orthodox Church, ch. 2).

Council of Jassy/Iasi (1642) Confession of St. Peter Mogila

[T]his mystery [of baptism] once received is not again to be repeated, provided the person who provided the baptism believed orthodoxly in three Persons in one God and accurately, without alteration, pronounced the aforementioned words: namely, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.” (Quoted in Craig Truglia, Saint Peter Mogila’s Confession and the 1642 Synod).

Council of Moscow (1666-7)

“At the time of Patriarch Nikon, upon the insistence of Patriarch Marcarius of Antioch, who was then in Moscow, it was twice decreed at the Council that Latins would not be re-baptized in the future, the deeply rooted custom of re-baptizing remained in practice. This is why Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich proposed that the Great Council should discuss and make a decision on this question. The Council fathers carefully reviewed Patriarch Philaret Nikitich’s statute and came to the conclusion that the laws were incorrectly interpreted and applied to the Latins. They then referred to earlier Council statutes whereby it was forbidden to re-baptize even Arians and Macedonians in the event of their coming into Orthodoxy, and even more so, the fathers said, Latins must not be re-baptized. They referred to the Council of the four Eastern Patriarchs held in Constantinople in 1484, which decreed not to re-baptize Latins upon their coming into Orthodoxy, but only to anoint them with Chrism, and which even composed the actual rite for their reception into the Church. They referred to the wise Mark of Ephesus who, in his epistle addressed to all Orthodox, offers the same teaching. [These decisions were ratified by another Synod in +1718 and applied to Protestants.]” (Quoted in Archimandrite Ambrosius, On the Question of the Order of Reception of Persons into the Orthodox Church, ch. 2).

Patriarch Marcarius III of Antioch (d. 1672)

“To Patriarch Nikon that “the Latins must not be re-baptized: they have the seven sacraments and all seven Councils, and they are all baptized correctly in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit with an invocation of the Holy Trinity. We must recognize their baptism. They are only schismatics, and schism does not make a man unfaithful and unbaptized. It only separates him from the Church. Mark of Ephesus himself, who opposed the Latins, never demanded their re-baptism and accepted their baptism as a correct one.” (Quoted in Archimandrite Ambrosius, On the Question of the Order of Reception of Persons into the Orthodox Church, ch. 2).

Council of Jerusalem (1672)

“Moreover, we reject as something abominable and pernicious the notion that when faith is weak the integrity of the Mystery is impaired. For heretics who renounce their heresy and join the Catholic Church are received by the Church; although they received their valid Baptism with weakness of faith. Wherefore, when they afterwards become possessed of the perfect faith, they are not again baptized.” (Confession of Dositheus, Decree 15).

Council of Jerusalem (1672), Confession of Dositheus

“Those who are without good cause Baptized without three emersions and immersions risk being unbaptized. Therefore, Latins who perform baptism by aspersion commit mortal sin.” (Quoted in Archbishop Chrysostomos, Common Misunderstandings on the Reception of Converts).

[Note: He does not say that they are unbaptized, and in his authoritative confession, Dositheus says the baptisms of heretics are valid. Moreover, mortal sin does not equate to the invalidity of a sacrament (i.e. it’s a mortal sin to consecrate the Eucharist while in sin, but that doesn’t make the sacrament invalid).]

Council of Constantinople (1756)

“Among the means by which we are vouchsafed salvation, baptism is in the first place that was entrusted by God to the Holy Apostles. Inasmuch as the question was raised three years ago whether it is proper to recognize the baptism of heretics turning to us (with a desire to be received into our faith) then — inasmuch as that baptism is performed contrary to the tradition of the Holy Apostles and the Holy Fathers and likewise contrary to the practice and decrees of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, — we, brought up by the mercy of God, in the Orthodox Church, preserving the Canons of the Holy Apostles and the Godly Fathers and recognizing our One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and her mysteries, among which is the divine baptism, and consequently, considering everything that takes place among heretics and is not performed as commanded by the Holy Spirit and the Apostles and as it is now performed in Christ’s Church, as contrary to all of the apostolic tradition and as an invention of corrupt people — we, by a common decision, sweep aside any heretical baptism and thus receive any heretics turning to us, as not having been sanctified and not being baptized and we first of all, follow in obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ who commanded His Apostles to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We further follow the Holy and Divine Apostles who established triple immersion with the pronouncing at each of them, one of the names of the Holy Trinity. We further follow the Holy and Equal-to-the Apostles Dionysius[83] who says that the catechumen, having had all his clothes removed, must be baptized in the font, in sanctified water and oil, calling upon the three hypostases of the All-Blessed Divinity, afterwards anointing him in the divinely-created Chrism, then becoming worthy of the salvific Eucharist. Finally we follow the Second and the Quinisext Ecumenical Councils that prescribe that those turning to Orthodoxy be considered as unbaptized who were not baptized by triple immersion, at each of which the name of one of the Divine Hypostases is pronounced, but were baptized by some other means. Adhering to these Holy and Divine decrees we consider heretical baptism to be worthy of judgement and repudiation inasmuch as it does not conform with but contradicts the Apostolic and Divine formation and is nothing more than a useless washing, according to the words of St. Ambrose and St. Athanasius the Great, neither sanctifying the catechumen nor cleanse him from sin. This is why we receive all heretics turning to Orthodoxy as those who were not baptized properly as not having been baptized and without any hesitation baptize them according to the apostolic and conciliar canons upon which the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ — the common mother of us all — firmly rests. We affirm this, our unanimous decision which is in conformance with the apostolic and conciliar canons, with a written testament subscribed with our signatures.” (Quoted in Archimandrite Ambrosius, On the Question of the Order of Reception of Persons into the Orthodox Church, ch. 3).

[Note: This appears to be saying that Roman Catholic and Protestant baptisms are not the proper form, and thus are completely invalid. The consequence of this is that you wouldn’t be able to receive them into the Church through any means other than rebaptism, the same way you wouldn’t be able to receive a pagan who was “baptized” with a squirt gun in the name of some god, by any means other than baptism (this would exclude “ekonomia”).]

St. Nikodemus the Hagiorite (d. 1809)

Latin baptism is erroneously referred to by that name: it is not a baptism at all but is simply a washing. This is why we do not say that we ‘re-baptize’ the Latins, but we ‘baptize’ them. The Latins are not baptized since they do not perform triple immersion at baptism, which has been a tradition in the Orthodox Church from the apostles from the very beginning.” (The Rudder).

St. Philaret of Moscow (d. 1867)

“Mark you, I do not presume to call false any Church which believes that Jesus is the Christ. The Christian Church can only be either purely true, confessing the true and saving divine teaching without the false admixtures and pernicious opinions of men, or not purely true, mixing with the true and saving teaching of faith in Christ the false and pernicious opinions of men… but I just simply look upon them; in part I see how the Head and Lord of the Church heals the many deep wounds of the old serpent in all the parts and limbs of his Body, applying now gentle, now strong, remedies, even fire and iron, in order to soften hardness, to draw out poison, to clean wounds, to separate out malignant growths, to restore spirit and life in the numbed and half-dead members. In this way I attest my faith that, in the end, the power of God will triumph openly over human weakness, good over evil, unity over division, life over death.” (Quoted in Fr. Georges Florovsky, The Limits of the Church).

[Note: Here, St. Philaret speaks of heterodox Christian bodies as “not purely true churches,” and “parts and limbs of Christ’s body.” While this isn’t an explicit anti-rebaptism remark, it lends itself to that view and especially the theology behind it.]

Russian Archbishop Benjamin (1899)

“All heretics are divided into three types. To the first belong those who do not believe in the Holy Consubstantial Trinity and do not perform baptism by triple immersion into water; these, along with pagans and Muhammadans are to be baptized as directed by Canon 19 of the First Ecumenical Council. Heretics of the second type are those who believe in the One God in the Trinity and are baptized by triple immersion, but have their own delusions and heresies and with the exception of baptism either do not recognize other sacraments or, in performing other sacraments improperly, reject chrismation. They are not to be baptized because they are baptized, but, following the repudiation of their heresies and confession of the Orthodox Faith, are to be united to the Church by way of the sacrament of Chrismation, as is prescribed by Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council. The third type of heretics, called dissidents, maintain all the seven sacraments including chrismation, but, having separated from the unity of the Orthodox Church, dare to add to the pure confession of faith their own delusions, which are contrary to the ancient teachings of the Apostles and Fathers of the Church, and introduce many pernicious views into the church and, in rejecting ancient pious rites of the Church, introduce new traditions, which are contrary to the spirit of piety. These we do not baptize for the second time nor do we anoint them with the Holy Chrism. After the repudiation of their delusion and repentance from their sins, they confess the Orthodox Symbol of Faith and are cleansed from their sins by the prayers and hierarchical absolution.” (Quoted in Archimandrite Ambrosius, On the Question of the Order of Reception of Persons into the Orthodox Church, ch. 2).

Nikodim Milaš (d. 1915) Serbian Bishop and Canonist

“Non-Orthodox are received into the Church either: a) through baptism, or 2) through chrismation, or 3) through repentance and confession of the Orthodox Faith. This was established back in the 5th century, to which the Presbyter Timotheus of the Church of Constantinople testifies in his epistle to his concelebrant John. The Kormchaya gives this epistle wherein he writes: “There are three rites for accepting those coming to the Holy Divine, Catholic and Apostolic Church: the first rite demands holy baptism, the second one — we don’t baptize, but anoint with the Holy Chrism, and the third — we neither baptize nor anoint, but demand the renunciation of their own and all other heresy.” The basis for this is Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council. These three rites for receiving the non-Orthodox into the Church remain in full force today in the Orthodox Church. By the first rite the Church receives those heretics who wrongly teach about the Holy Trinity, who do not recognize baptism or do not perform it according to the Divine commandment. By the second rite, i.e., by means of chrismation, those heretics who are baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity and do not reject the Holy Trinity, but are in error about certain aspects of the faith; as well as those who do not have a legitimate sacred hierarchy nor the sacrament of chrismation. This includes all of the various Protestants. This rite is also used in receiving Roman Catholics and Armenians who have not been anointed with the Holy Chrism by their bishops or priests. But if they, i.e., the Roman Catholics and Armenians, were anointed with Chrism in their Churches, they are received into the Orthodox Church by means of the third rite in which those who are received, following a certain period of time in studying the Orthodox catechism, then in a verbal or written repudiation of their former beliefs, they solemnly confess the Symbol of Orthodox Faith and then, following prescribed prayers on the part of the Orthodox bishop or priest, are communed with the Holy Gifts.” (Quoted in Archimandrite Ambrosius, On the Question of the Order of Reception of Persons into the Orthodox Church, ch. 3).

“The decision that each Roman Catholic as well as each Protestant who wishes to convert to the Orthodox Church is to be baptized anew was made by the 1756 Council in Constantinople during the time of Patriarch Cyril V. This conciliar decision was motivated by the Western Christians’ being baptized by pouring and not by three immersions. Since the only proper form of baptism is only that which is performed by three immersions, it follows that Western Christians must be considered not to have been baptized since they were not baptized in that manner and consequently, they must be baptized when they want to convert to the Orthodox Church. This decision by the above mentioned Council in Constantinople was called for by extraordinary circumstances, which arose in the 18th century in the relations between the Greek and Latin Churches, and was a reaction on the part of the Greek Church towards the aggression against that Church on the part of Latin propaganda. From a formal point of view the motivation for this decision has some basis since the Orthodox Church’s canons call for the baptism to be performed by triple immersion of the one baptized into the water and the term baptism itself, is derived from the act of immersion, and the same canons condemn that baptism which was done by a single immersion as was done by various heretics of the first centuries of the Christian Church. But the Church has never condemned that baptism which was done by pouring. Not only that, but the Church itself permitted such a form of baptism in the event of need and considered baptism by means of pouring as not contrary to the apostolic tradition. Therefore, the above-noted decision of the Constantinople Council cannot be considered as binding for the whole Orthodox Church since it is contrary to the practice of the Eastern Church of all centuries and particularly, to the practice of the Greek Church itself from the time of the division of Churches to the time of that Council in Constantinople.” (Quoted in Archimandrite Ambrosius, On the Question of the Order of Reception of Persons into the Orthodox Church, ch. 3).

St. Sophrony of Essex (d. 1993)

“Only the one and unique Church can have the fullness of grace. All the other Churches, however, do have grace because of their faith in Christ, but not in its fullness. We can, furthermore, believe that in our days there are still people who, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, are equal to the great Saints of the Church of ancient times. (I am saying this in connection with what I heard about several people in Russia.) [This is] because Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Heb. 13:8). All this is the truth. Whoever departs from this faith will not stand.” (Quoted in Seraphim Danckaert, “Two Schools: What the Council of Crete Means for the Future of Orthodox Theology”).

Fr. Georges Florovsky (d. 1979)

“If beyond the canonical limits of the Church the wilderness without grace begins immediately, if schismatics have not been baptized and still abide in the darkness that precedes baptism, then perfect clarity, strictness, and firmness are even more indispensable in the acts and judgements of the Church. Here no ‘forbearance’ is appropriate or even possible; no concessions are permissible. Is it in fact conceivable that the Church should receive sectarians or heretics into her own body not by way of baptism simply in order thereby to make their decisive step easy? … One may ask who gave the Church this right not merely to change, but simply to abolish the external act of baptism, performing it in such cases only mentally, by implication or by intention at the celebration of the ‘second sacrament’ (i.e. chrismation) over the unbaptized. Admittedly, in special and exceptional cases the ‘external act’, the ‘form’, may indeed be abolished; such is the martyr’s baptism in blood, or even the so-called baptisma flaminis. But this is admissible only in casu necessitatis… For in the Church herself the conviction has arisen among the majority that sacraments are performed even among schismatics, that even in the sects there is a valid, although forbidden, hierarchy. The true intention of the Church in her acts and rules would appear to be too difficult to discern, and from this point of view as well the ‘economic’ explanation of these rules cannot be regarded as convincing.” (The Limits of the Church).

Recent Orthodox Theologians (20th/21st century)

Others (e.g., Zernov and Florovsky) have rejected this “economic” approach to the sacraments altogether. Still others have adopted its vocabulary only to modify it in diverse significant ways: Economy “cannot create out of nothing” but is rather a matter of healing that which is infirm (Abp. Alexis van der Mensbrugghe); it can come into play only when “something, exists but presents a curable defect” (Abp. Peter L’Huillier) ; it is a matter of “discernment” of the “presence or absence of the mystery of the Spirit” (Fr. John Meyendorff). Thus understood, the “principle of oikonomia” suggests that outside the Orthodox “there is a Christian reality that possesses a certain significance for the universal Church,” that “the heterodox have maintained a certain relationship with the Church and therefore the possibility of enjoying the grace of the Church” (Fr. Ion Bria). (John H. Erickson, The Reception of Non-Orthodox into the Orthodox Church: Contemporary Practice).

Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America (1966)

“Upon the reception into the Orthodox Church of one who converts of his own will from non-Orthodoxy, the priest receives the candidate by means of one of three rites, prescribed by the Quinisext Ecumenical Council: by means of Baptism, Chrismation or the confession of faith, depending on the case.” (Quoted in Archimandrite Ambrosius, On the Question of the Order of Reception of Persons into the Orthodox Church, ch. 4).

Fr. Dimitru Staniloae (d. 1993)

“But here the question is posed: what are the other Christian confessions that do not confess such an intimate and effective union of the integral Christ in them? We hold that they are incomplete churches, some closer to fullness, others farther away… We hold that the non-Orthodox confessions are separate groups that have been formed in a certain relationship with the full Church and exist in certain relationship with it, but do not share in the full light and power of Christ the sun. Thus in a way the Church includes all the confessions divided from it, because they could not fully depart from the Tradition present [in the Church]. But the Church in the full sense of the word is only the Orthodox Church.” (Quoted in Seraphim Danckaert, “Two Schools: What the Council of Crete Means for the Future of Orthodox Theology”).

Note: Fr. Staniloae speaks of heterodox bodies as “churches,” though incomplete. He suggests that there is some way in which heterodox Christians are members of the Church, which once again lends itself to the anti-rebaptism stance, though not explicitly

Orthodox Church in America “Guidelines for Clergy” (1998)

“After the established catechetical instruction has been administered, non-Chalcedonians are to be received through Holy Confession, Penance, Confession of the Orthodox faith, and the reception of the Holy Eucharist. These include Monophysites (Armenians, Copts, Ethiopians, and Syro-Jacobites), and Nestorians. Catechumens who previously have been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity in a manner recognized as authenticate by the Church, after having completed the established catechetical instruction and making a personal affirmation of the Orthodox faith, are received through the Mysteries of Penance, Chrismation, and Holy Eucharist according to the prescribed ritual. This group includes Roman Catholics and some Protestants. (OCA Guidelines for Reception of Converts)

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (c. 2000)

It is the practice of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and the Metropolis of San Francisco that those who have been baptized in water with a Trinitarian formula (i.e., “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”) within the context of a Church that affirms the Holy Trinity are received into the Orthodox Church through the Sacrament of Chrismation or anointing with Holy Chrism. Those who have never been baptized, or who were baptized in a church that does not affirm the Trinity or use a Trinitarian formula, are received through Baptism and Chrismation.” (Reception of Adults by Baptism or Chrismation)

Jubilee Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church (2000)

“The Orthodox Church, through the mouths of the holy fathers, affirms that salvation can be attained only in the Church of Christ. At the same time, however, communities which have fallen away from orthodoxy have never been viewed as fully deprived of the grace of God. Any break from communion with the Church inevitably leads to an erosion of her grace-filled life, but not always to its complete loss in these separated communities. This is why the Orthodox Church does not receive those coming to her from non-orthodox communities only through the sacrament of baptism. In spite of the rupture of unity, there remains a certain incomplete fellowship which serves as the pledge of a return to unity in the Church, to catholic fullness and oneness… The ecclesial status of those who have separated themselves from the Church does not lend itself to simple definition. In a divided Christendom, there are still certain characteristics which make it one: the word of God, faith in Christ as God and saviour come in the flesh (1 Jn. 1:1-2; 4, 2, 9), and sincere devotion.” (Quoted in Seraphim Danckaert, “Two Schools: What the Council of Crete Means for the Future of Orthodox Theology”).

Council of Crete (2016)

“The Orthodox Church, in her unity and catholicity, is the Church of Councils, from the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem (Acts 15.5-29) to the present day… The Conciliar work continues uninterrupted in history through the later councils of universal authority, such as, for example, the Great Council (879-880) convened at the time of St. Photios the Great, Patriarch of Constantinople, and also the Great Councils convened at the time of St. Gregory Palamas (1341, 1351, 1368), through which the same truth of faith was confirmed, most especially as concerns the procession of the Holy Spirit and as concerns the participation of human beings in the uncreated divine energies, and furthermore through the Holy and Great Councils convened in Constantinople, in 1484 to refute the unionist Council of Florence (1438-1439), in 1638, 1642, 1672 and 1691 to refute Protestant beliefs, and in 1872 to condemn ethno-phyletism as an ecclesiological heresy.” (Encyclical of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, 3) 

“The prospects for conducting theological dialogues between the Orthodox Church and the rest of the Christian world are always determined on the basis of the canonical principles of Orthodox ecclesiology and the canonical criteria of the already established Church Tradition (Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council and Canon 95 of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council)… † Bartholomew of Constantinople, Chairman † Theodoros of Alexandria † Theophilos of Jerusalem † Irinej of Serbia † Daniel of Romania † Chrysostomos of Cyprus † Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece † Sawa of Warsaw and All Poland † Anastasios of Tirana, Durres and All Albania † Rastislav of Presov, the Czech Lands and Slovakia.” (Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World, 20)

Note: The Council of 1756, which called for the rebaptism of Latins, is not listed among the authoritative Synods of the Church, however the Synods of 1484 and 1642, which both explicitly speak against the rebaptism of heretics, are listed as authoritative.

Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese (2018) 

“In response to numerous unnamed sources spreading confusion over the internet, His Eminence Metropolitan JOSEPH reaffirms the long-standing policy of the Antiochian Archdiocese, which is in accordance with the practice of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, regarding the reception of converts to the Faith. To be clear, Holy Baptism in the Name of the Holy Trinity, followed by Holy Chrismation, is the normative means by which one is initiated into the Holy Church. When receiving those coming into Holy Orthodoxy from religious confessions who profess a belief in the Holy Trinity and baptize with water in the Name of Father, and of Son, and of the Holy Spirit, the Church from ancient times has done so through means of Holy Chrismation or a profession of the Faith – depending on the circumstances. When questions arise requiring discernment as to how a person is to be received into the Church, a priest must consult with his local bishop.” (Statement Regarding Reception of Converts to the Orthodox Christian Faith)


15 thoughts on “Rebaptism, Chrismation and Reception of Converts

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  3. Maximus, thank you for posting all of these quotations and please continue to do so whenever you find them. We are currently swamped with producing videos but in the next couple of months, we will go through each and every one of these quotations and add them to their pertinent sections. Thanks again, Ubi.


  4. Maximus

    Pope St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

    [Job’s] friends, who, while acting as his counsellors, at the same time inveigh against him, are an express image of heretics, who under shew of giving counsel, are busied in leading astray; and hence they address the blessed Job as though in behalf of the Lord, but yet the Lord does not commend them, that is, because all heretics, while they try to defend, only offend God. Whence they are plainly told, and that by the same holy man I desire to reason with God; first shewing that ye are forgers of lies, ye are followers of corrupt doctrines. [Job 13, 3.4.] According to which it appears that these by their erroneous notions stood as a type of heretics, whom the holy man charges with adhering to a creed [cultui] of corrupt doctrines. But every heretic, in this, that he is seen to defend God, is a gainsayer of His truth, according to the testimony of the Psalmist, who says, That Thou mightest still the enemy and the defender [Ps. 8, 2. E.V. avenger], for he is an enemy and defender, who so preaches God as thereby to be fighting against Him.

    Now because it sometimes happens that heretics being penetrated with the bountiful streams of Divine grace return to the unity of Holy Church, this is well represented in the very reconcilement of his friends. Yet blessed Job is bidden to intercede for them, because the sacrifices of heretics can never be acceptable to God, unless they be offered in their behalf by the hands of the universal Church, that by her merits they may obtain the recovery of salvation, whom they did strike before by assailing her with the darts of their words; and hence seven sacrifices are recorded to have been offered for them, for whereas in confessing they receive the Spirit of sevenfold grace, they do as it were obtain expiation by seven offerings. It is hence that in the Apocalypse of John the whole Church is represented by the number of seven Churches [Rev. 1, 12]. Hence it is said of wisdom by Solomon, Wisdom hath builded her house; she hath hewn, out her seven pillars. [Prov. 9, 1] And thus by the very number of the sacrifices those reconciled heretics set forth what they were before, in that these are not united to the perfection of sevenfold grace, except by returning.
    But they are well described as having offered for themselves bulls and rams. For in the bull is figured the neck of pride, and in the ram, the leading of the flocks that follow. What then is it to slaughter bulls and rams in their behalf, but to put an end to their proud leading, so that they may think humbly of themselves, and not seduce the hearts of the innocent to follow after them. For they had started away from the unity of the Church with a swelling neck, and were drawing after them the weak folk like flocks following behind. Therefore let them come to blessed Job; i.e. return to the Church; and present bulls and rams to be slaughtered for a sevenfold sacrifice, and that they may be united to the universal Church, let them with the interposition of humility kill all the swelling humor wherewith their proud leadership savoured them. (Morals on the Book of Job, Preface: 15, 17-18)


  5. Juan

    Great florilegium! Though I’d call the stance Patriarch Dositheus (and by extension Jerusalem 1672) both implicitly and explicitly against rebaptism. In the same work quoted by Abp. Chrysostomos, he writes (translated via google with some corrections):

    “In 255 in Carthage, the first conciliar hearing on this issue took place … At this meeting, some, according to the Apostolic Tradition and the general custom of the Catholic Church, believed that lawfully baptized by heretics should not be re-baptized. Others held the opposite opinion, arguing that there is only one baptism – ecclesiastical, and therefore from heretics, as those who are outside the Church, there can be no true and catholic baptism. So, after this discussion passed, in the end it was decided and determined that no one can be baptized outside the Church, since there is only one baptism – that which is in the Catholic Church – so they misinterpreted the apostolic tradition and narrowed the meaning of that which the Apostle says in a general sense. As for those who were canonically baptized by the Orthodox, and then retired to heretics, then if they returned to the Church, then they were decided to be accepted back not through Baptism, as Nabat taught, but through prayer and the laying on of hands This is how the great Cyprian conciliarly wrote decisively, saying that heretics, according to what was said in Jeremiah in the second chapter , “they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13). That is why Jerome, in his dialogue against the Luciferians, wrote: “Blessed Cyprian tried to avoid the commonly visited lakes, and not drink other people’s water.” That is why Cyprian rejected the baptism of heretics, but in vain. However, he did not do it out of love for disputes and did not approve this decision with anathema, and therefore was not condemned as a heretic, because he did not persist in his opinion.”

    More on this can be read here, which also agrees with your note that Patriarch Dositheus didn’t deny the validity of pouring baptism:


  6. Maximus

    St. Philaret of Moscow:

    “If Palmer were not a reliable witness it would be difficult to believe that the learned Ikonomon considers Western Baptism at the same time both valid and invalid, depending upon the will of the Church that the affused person be baptized or unbaptized. Surely the efficacy of Baptism is in the name of the Trinity and in the sacramental grace given to it by the action of its founder, Christ the Lord. Surely human will, even though it were the will of the Church, cannot make Baptism to be a simple laver, or a simple laver to be Baptism” (Письма Митрополита Московского Филарета к A. H. M. 1832 – 1867 [Kiev, 1869], 368. Cited from: F. J. Thomson, “Economy,” 372).

    excerpt from


  7. Maximus

    St. John Moschos ca. 550-619

    Saint Athanasios, the Pope of Alexandria, was once asked whether a person could be baptized whose beliefs were not in accordance with the faith and preaching of the Christians, and what would be the fate of — or, how would God receive — somebody who had been baptized under false pretenses and had simulated belief. Athanasios replied: ‘You have heard from those of old how the blessed martyr, Peter, was faced with a situation in which there was a deadly plague and many were running to be baptized for no other reason than that they feared death. A figure appeared to him which had the appearance of angel and which said to him: “How much longer are you going to send from here those purses which are duly sealed, but are altogether empty and have nothing inside them?” So far as one can tell from the saying of the angel, those who have the seal of baptism are indeed baptized since they thought they were doing a good work in receiving baptism.’ (The Spiritual Meadow, 198)


    1. Fr. Peter Alban Heers.

      After a quick review, it seems that you are missing quotes from:

      The Apostolic Canons
      References to the Councils in The East mentioned by St. Dionysios
      St. Gregory the Theologian
      St. John Chrysostom
      St. Basil’s 47th canon (very important)
      Canon 7 of the 2nd Ec. Council and 95 of Trullo
      St. Nikodemos’ Pedalion
      St. Paisios Velichkovsky
      St. Athanasios Parios
      St. Hilarion Troitsky
      St. Justin Popovich
      St. Paisios the Athonite
      Metropolitan Anthony Krapovitsky
      Fr. George Florovsky (from The House of the Father essay)

      I may be missing several.

      Also did you mean to put Philaret of Moscow together with the second group?


  8. Maximus


    I know not whether any further point is mooted to bring baptism into controversy. Permit me to call to mind what I have omitted above, lest I seem to break off the train of impending thoughts in the middle. There is to us one, and but one, baptism; as well according to the Lord’s gospel as according to the apostle’s letters, inasmuch as he says, One God, and one baptism, and one church in the heavens. But it must be admitted that the question, What rules are to be observed with regard to heretics? is worthy of being treated. For it is to us that that assertion refers. Heretics, however, have no fellowship in our discipline, whom the mere fact of their excommunication testifies to be outsiders. I am not bound to recognize in them a thing which is enjoined on me, because they and we have not the same God, nor one — that is, the same— Christ. And therefore their baptism is not one with ours either, because it is not the same; a baptism which, since they have it not duly, doubtless they have not at all; nor is that capable of being counted which is not had. Ecclesiastes 1:15 Thus they cannot receive it either, because they have it not. But this point has already received a fuller discussion from us in Greek. (On Baptism, 15)

    Clement of Alexandria

    Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215
    Now he who has fallen into heresy passes through an arid wilderness, abandoning the only true God, destitute of God, seeking waterless water, reaching an uninhabited and thirsty land, collecting sterility with his hands. And those destitute of prudence, that is, those involved in heresies, I enjoin, remarks Wisdom, saying, Touch sweetly stolen bread and the sweet water of theft; (Prov. 9:17) the Scripture manifestly applying the terms bread and water to nothing else but to those heresies, which employ bread and water in the oblation, not according to the canon of the Church. For there are those who celebrate the Eucharist with mere water. But begone, stay not in her place: place is the synagogue, not the Church. He calls it by the equivocal name, place. Then He subjoins: For so shall you pass through the water of another; reckoning heretical baptism not proper and true water. And you shall pass over another’s river, that rushes along and sweeps down to the sea; into which he is cast who, having diverged from the stability which is according to truth, rushes back into the heathenish and tumultous waves of life. (Stromata 1.19)

    St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

    For not he who simply says, ‘O Lord,’ gives Baptism; but he who with the Name has also the right faith. On this account therefore our Saviour also did not simply command to baptize, but first says, ‘Teach;’ then thus: ‘Baptize into the Name of Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost;’ that the right faith might follow upon learning, and together with faith might come the consecration of Baptism.

    There are many other heresies too, which use the words only, but not in a right sense, as I have said, nor with sound faith, and in consequence the water which they administer is unprofitable, as deficient in piety, so that he who is sprinkled by them is rather polluted by irreligion than redeemed. (Four Discourses Against the Arians Bk. 2.18.42-43)

    St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

    We may not receive Baptism twice or thrice; else it might be said, Though I have failed once, I shall set it right a second time: whereas if you fail once, the thing cannot be set right; for there is one Lord, and one faith, and one baptism : for only the heretics are re-baptized , because the former was no baptism. (Procatechesis 7)

    St. Ambrose of Milan

    This pool was at Jerusalem, in which one was healed every year, but no one was healed before the angel had descended. Because of those who believed not the water was troubled as a sign that the angel had descended. They had a sign, you have faith; for them an angel descended, for you the Holy Spirit; for them the creature was troubled, for you Christ Himself, the Lord of the creature, works.

    Then one was healed, now all are made whole; or more exactly, the Christian people alone, for in some even the water is deceitful. Jeremiah 15:18 The baptism of unbelievers heals not but pollutes. (On the Mysteries, 4.22-23)


  9. Maximus

    Shouldn’t there be a category called: “Those outside the Church have Baptism, but lacking the Spirit, illicitly and unto their condemnation”?

    That’s the true teaching of Augustine and the Western Fathers.

    Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

    For they who have received baptism from heretics, not having been previously baptized, are to be confirmed by imposition of hands with only the invocation of the Holy Ghost, because they have received the bare form of baptism without the power of sanctification. And this regulation, as you know, we require to be kept in all the churches, that the font once entered may not be defiled by repetition, as the Lord says, One Lord, one faith, one baptism. And that washing may not be polluted by repetition, but, as we have said, only the sanctification of the Holy Ghost invoked, that what no one can receive from heretics may be obtained from Catholic priests. (Letter 159.8)

    Concerning those who have come from Africa or Mauretania and know not in what sect they were baptized, what ought to be done in their case ?
    Reply. These persons are not doubtful of their baptism, but profess ignorance as to the faith of those who baptized them: and hence since they have received the form of baptism in some way or other, they are not to be baptized but are to be united to the Catholics by imposition of hands, after the invocation of the Holy Spirit’s power, which they could not receive from heretics. (Letter 167: Question 18)

    St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

    And indeed we have learned from the ancient institution of the Fathers that whosoever among heretics are baptized in the name of the Trinity, when they return to holy Church, may be recalled to the bosom of mother Church either by unction of chrism, or by imposition of hands, or by profession of the faith only. Hence the West reconciles Arians to the holy Catholic Church by imposition of hands, but the Eastby the unction of holy chrism. But Monophysites and others are received by a true confession only, because holy baptism, which they have received among heretics, then acquires in them the power of cleansing, when either the former receive the Holy Spirit by imposition of hands, or the latter are united to the bowels of the holy and universal Church byreason of their confession of the true faith. Those heretics, however, who are not baptized in the name of the Trinity, such as the Bonosiaci and theCataphrygæ, because the former do not believe inChrist the Lord, and the latter with a perverse understanding believe a certain bad man, Montanus, to be the Holy Spirit, like whom are many others—these, when they come to holy Church, are baptized, because what they received while in their error, not being in the name of the Holy Trinity, was not baptism. Nor can this be called an iteration of baptism, which, as has been said, had not been given in the name of the Trinity. But the Nestorians, since they are baptized in the name of the HolyTrinity— though darkened by the error of their heresy in that, after the manner of Jewish unbelief, they believe not the Incarnation of the Only-begotten— when they come to the Holy Catholic Church, are to be taught, by firm holding and profession of the true faith, to believe in one and the same Son of God and man, our Lord God Jesus Christ, the same existing in Divinity before the ages, and the same made man in the end of the ages, because The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us Jn. 1:14. (Epistles, Bk. 11: Epistle 67)

    Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

    For where is a good conscience except where there is a sincere faith? For the Apostle Paul teaches that the purpose of the commandment is charity from a pure heart and a good conscience and unfeigned faith. (1 Tim. 1:5) The fact, therefore, that the water of the flood did not save thouse outside the ark but slew them without doubt prefigured every heretic who, although having the sacrament of baptism, is to be plunged into the lower world not by other waters but by those very waters by which the ark is raised up to the heavens. (Commentary on 1st Peter)

    Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735
    For where is a good conscience except where there is a sincere faith? For the Apostle Paul teaches that the purpose of the commandment is charity from a pure heart and a good conscience and unfeigned faith. (1 Tim. 1:5) The fact, therefore, that the water of the flood did not save thouse outside the ark but slew them without doubt prefigured every heretic who, although having the sacrament of baptism, is to be plunged into the lower world not by other waters but by those very waters by which the ark is raised up to the heavens. (Commentary on 1st Peter)

    This explanation can also be add to your list

    Patriarchal αnd Synodical Letter May 26, 1875

    Having considered in synod the matter under discussion, namely, the baptism of the Latins, that is, whether it can be regarded as valid or not, we saw clearly in the historical facts and the ecclesiastical enactments of various times, that this matter bears many pros and cons and has had many advocates and opponents, which certainly has not escaped Your Excellency. For even before the Schism, Patriarch Kerularios used to baptize the Latins who converted tο Orthodoxy, as it is stated in the Pittakion which Humbert, the Exarch of Leo ΙΧ left οn the Table of St. Sophia against Patriarch Michael, αnd from an epistle of this Patriarch tο Patriarch Peter of Alexandria and from the fact that this act of Kerularios appears to have fοund many imitators as time went οn. Indeed the Lateran Synod of 1215 criticized the Orthodox for re-baptizing the Latins, i.e. the converts from the Latin Church. After the Schism, however, we have, αmong the many others, Mark Eugenikos, who pronounces that we should only anoint the Latins with Myrhon, and besides, there are synodical decisions, such as that summoned in 1207, and that summoned in 1484 under Patriarch Symeon in which the other three Patriarchs were present, οn which occasion the well known Acolouthy was composed, and also another one in 1600 summoned in the Royal city and another one summoned in Moscow by Patriarch Ioasaph of Moscow in 1667 on which occasion two other Patriarchs from the East were present, Paisios of Alexandria and Makarios of Antioch. All these declared that only with Myrhon (Chrism) should we perfect the converts from the Western Church. Οn the other hand we have the Decision taken in Moscow in 1622 by Philaret Patriarch of Russia and the Horos which was issued under Cyril V, Patriarch of Constantinople in 1755 αnd which became accepted by all the then Patriarchs, which indicates that they [the Latin converts] should be baptized. Thus, the baptisιn of the Westerners, was sometimes regarded as valid, because it wαs done in the name of the Holy Trinity and was referred to the proper baptism, and sometimes as invalid, because of the many irregularities of form with which it was clothed with the passage of time by the constantly increasing vain study of the Western Church. Hence, the Most Holy Russian Church, taking its lead from obvious reasons makes use of the Decisions of the newer Synod of Moscow under Patriarch Ioasaph of Moscow, discerning that they are contributive tο the benefιt of the Church in that place, whereas the Churches in the East consider it necessary for the benefit of Orthodoxy to follow the Horos which had been issued under Cyril V. Since these things happen to be such, it is left to the spiritual discernment of Your Excellency αnd of the rest of the Synodical members to accept or reject the use of economy which another Church has upheld for more than two centuries without wavering, if, as she writes, this economy implies many benefits to the Church there and secures her from encroaching dangers. Whenever, then, the local orthodox Churches might be able tο gather together, then, with God’s help, the desired agreement οn this subject will take place, as with others as well. (Memorandum of Metropolitan Agathangelos of Chalcedon to His Αll-Divine Αll-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Photius, published in Ορθοδοξία, 6:66 (1931 ) pp. 418-9. Translated by Fr. George D. Dragas)


    1. Maximus

      St. Fulgentius of Ruspe 467-533

      Anyone who receives the sacrament of baptism, whether in the Catholic Church or in a heretical or schismatic one, receives the whole sacrament; but salvation, which is the strength of the sacrament, he will not have, if he has had the sacrament outside the Catholic Church [and remains in deliberate schism]. He must therefore return to the Church, not so that he might receive again the sacrament of baptism, which no one dare repeat in any baptized person, but so that he may receive eternal life in Catholic society, for the obtaining of which no one is suited who, even with the sacrament of baptism, remains estranged from the Catholic Church. (The Rule of Faith 43)


      1. Leo

        Maximus, I have seen you post elsewhere for the past few years regarding this subject, including on ancient faith. Is there a way I can contact you?


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