Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Baptismal Integrity

Completely by accident, whilst looking for something on a related topic, I came across this website titled Baptism Integrity, which claims to be (and probably is) “the only website dedicated to consideration of the issues of the theology and practice of baptism, christening and thanksgivings primarily in the Church of England.”
Back in the 1970s, when we were taught liturgy by the inestimable Colin Buchanan (not the Aussie singer, but the Bishop of Aston and, later, Woolwich), a ‘rigorist’ line on infant baptism was all the rage amongst alumni of St John’s Nottingham, many of whom (myself included) were extremely reluctant to baptize the children of non-churchgoers.
Indeed, for a brief while the whole issue was of interest to the Church of England. Since then, however, it has become of far less concern, and I suspect that, as in many other areas, private judgement reigns supreme amongst clergy as to what sort of policy they adopt.
More importantly — and I hope to catch up with the Synod debate on the subject — I suspect equally widespread confusion reigns as to what precisely we are doing in infant baptism, and not least regarding the relevance of the parents’ faith.
It took me quite a while to realize that if you follow the BCP then, technically, the faith of the parents is irrelevant. Thus, speaking to the godfathers and godmothers, the priest says (inter alia),
... this Infant must also faithfully, for his part, promise by you that are his sureties, (until he come of age to take it upon himself,) that he will renounce the devil and all his works, and constantly believe God's holy Word, and obediently keep his commandments.
I demand therefore,
Dost thou, in the name of this Child, renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the carnal desires of the flesh, so that thou wilt not follow nor be led by them?
A renunciation is indeed demanded, but from the child, not the parents and godparents!
Anyway, I’m sure there’s a debate to be had, but at this stage I just wanted to commend the website for people’s interest. There is a newsletter, and my old friend Taffy Davies, who used to do the covers of Grove Booklets, still seems to be drawing for them.
Go and have a read.

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  1. Stephen Bazlinton11 February 2011 at 23:56

    Gee! I am not sure how the evolutionary origins man can reinforce the idea of household baptism! Stephen Bazlinton

  2. Every time I hear or read the name "Colin Buchanan", I find it highly amusing to re-imagine the concept with the wrong Colin. :-)

    It pretty much always works:
    "400 children screaming for Colin Buchanan to arrive."
    "Colin Buchanan took a strong line on infant baptism in his visits."

    (My location is a country where Xianity isn't encouraged, so I'd like to omit my name - I comment via Internet magic)

  3. Anon, you're welcome in the circumstances. Your comment reminds me of how difficult I found it when we had a Bishop of Chelmsford called John Waine.

  4. From: Revd. Dr. Clifford Owen, priest-in-charge Oostende and Brugge, Belgium.

    Thank you for commending this website. I was one of seven people who helped found Baptismal Integrity as an organisation back in 1986. My personal account of my own struggles with infant baptism policies in parishes can be read in 'Baptise Every Baby?' Monarch 1991. It is now out of print but I still have free copies if folk are interested