foot washing

foot washing
   In the 13th chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus washes the feet of the disciples at the Last Supper, usually the task of a servant. He says in verse 14, "If I then your Lord and Master have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet." In the Roman Catholic tradition, priests wash the feet of several representatives of their congregation during Maundy Thursday, when the events of the Last Supper are remembered and ritually reenacted.
   The Church of England continued the practice, but over the centuries it fell into disuse. Martin LUTHER had problems with the practice, and over the years, Lutherans have tended to substitute sermons on the meaning of Christ's foot washing.
   However, the Anabaptists, who tended to take admonitions such as that of John 13:14 literally, revived foot washing as an integral part of church life. It was considered a third ordinance besides that of baptism and the Lord's Supper, and mandated in the Dordrecht Confession of 1632. The practice passed from the Mennonites to the Baptists and various Free Church groups in Europe. Some chose to practice it as an ordinance, some to practice it but not consider it an ordinance, and some did not adopt the practice. In the modern world, the practice is most identified with the various Mennonite and Amish groups, the Church of the Brethren (and related groups), the Primitive Baptists, the Free-Will Baptists, some Adventist groups, and many Pentecostal groups.
   In recent years, as part of a movement to explore new Christian rituals, new and innovative foot washing practices have appeared for optional use in various churches and informal Christian fellowships. Examples may be found in the Episcopal Church's Book of Occasional Services and in the United Methodist Church's Book of Worship.
   See also sacraments/ordinances.
   Further reading:
   ■ Elam J. Daniels, Footwashing by the Master and by the Saints (Orlando, Fla.: Christ for the World Publishers, n.d.)
   ■ Martin Connell, "Nisi Pedes, Except for the Feet," Worship 70 (1996) 517-530
   ■ J. Gordon Melton, The Encyclopedia of American Religions: Religious Creeds, 2 vols. (Detroit: Gale Research, 1988, 1994)
   ■ John Christopher Thomas, Footwashing in John 13 and the Johannine Community (London: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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