For most of Christian America, this is not an age of baptism. Among Southern Baptists, the country's largest evangelical Protestant denomination, the ritual has been in steady and steep decline. The same is true in mainline denominations, which are shrinking in general; Presbyterian churches, for example, have seen slow movement away from the rite for kids and adults for at least the past several years. The trend is most pronounced in the Catholic world: Last year, there were roughly half as many adult baptisms and roughly 25 percent fewer infant baptisms than there were a decade ago, according to this year's Official Catholic Directory.
Not so in the Assemblies of God. The Pentecostal denomination, which had roughly 3.1 million members in the United States as of 2013, has seen a steady rise in water baptisms over the past two and a half decades. But it has also seen steady participation in another kind of ritual: "Holy Spirit" baptisms, or an encounter with the divine that causes someone to speak in tongues. On the Assemblies of God website, the ritual is described as "a special work of the Spirit beyond salvation." The site cites several passages in the Bible, including experiences of Paul and Peter on the Pentecost in Acts, when the Holy Spirit is said to have descended upon the apostles. And, the site says, it can happen to anyone: "We believe the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the initial physical evidence of speaking in other tongues is the promise of the Father to every Christian who desires the experience."