While visiting an ELCA congregation, I noticed in the bulletin that they baptize or dedicate children. Is dedication of children something new in the Lutheran church?
It's not our practice to dedicate children as an option to infant baptism. The practice of dedicating babies is used in churches that don't practice infant baptism but which want to ask God's blessing and the prayers of the community until the person makes a conscious decision to be baptized.
This might be practiced in a Lutheran church when a family has custodial care of an infant but doesn't have the legal right to have the child baptized, such as the case of a foster family. In this case they, too, might ask God's blessing and the congregation's support in nurturing the child in faith. The hope and intent is that the infant would be baptized as soon as possible.
When a dedication rite is used, care should be taken that it not be seen as an equal alternative to baptism, which is God claiming us for time and eternity.
How can I explain to others why our church teaches a different Ten Commandments than is stated in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5? Have we eliminated the second commandment?
Since the Scripture texts don't number the commandments, it's possible to divide the text differently while still ending up with 10. Martin Luther did not separate out the commandment against idolatry but understood it to be included in the first, "You shall have no other gods before me."
When referring to the commandments, it's best to identify them by content, not number, with the exception of the first. So when it comes to numbering the commandments, take your choice. The issue isn't how we number them but how we respond to them.
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