Original Research

River baptism and climate change among African-Initiated Churches: An eco-theological critique

Mookgo S. Kgatle, Mashilo Modiba
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 44, No 1 | a2878 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v44i1.2878 | © 2023 Mookgo S. Kgatle, Mashilo Modiba | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 April 2023 | Published: 27 September 2023

About the author(s)

Mookgo S. Kgatle, Department of Christian Spirituality, Church History and Missiology, School of Humanities, College of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Mashilo Modiba, Department of Information Science, College of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


River baptism has biblical and historical significance in the Christian tradition. Many established mainline churches have baptismal pools where they safely conduct baptism. However, some African-Initiated Churches have been practicing river baptism because of their beliefs, theology and at times a lack of resources. While African-Initiated Churches have a theological basis for practicing river baptism, the challenge is that during rainy seasons, river baptism among African-Initiated Churches becomes hazardous because congregants can get swept away by water during the baptism ritual. This study uses an eco-theological critique to assess the relevance of river baptism amid climate change. This is a conceptual study that opted for content analysis as the research methodology. The study recommends that African-Initiated Churches that still practice river baptism must take extra caution in ensuring the safety of their congregants. If possible, life savers can be included in the baptismal programme of such churches as a way of ensuring the safety of their members. Most importantly, the African-Initiated Churches will have to rethink their theology of practicing river baptism amid climate change and other environmental crises. Such a theology should find a balance between the beliefs in river baptism and the safety of the believers.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The theological concept of baptism is discussed within the environmental science challenge of climate change. The article proposes solutions to contemporary challenges of river baptism in African-Initiated Churches through an eco-theological critique.


baptism; river baptism; eco-theological critique; climate change; African-Initiated Churches.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 13: Climate action


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