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Extracts from two of the papers presented at our June 2008 Conference.   We hope to publish more comprehensive feedback in due course.

They are clearly only notes, and if you need further information please contact editorial@baptism.org.uk 

The Baptismal Situation

Roger’s Reflections  

 

 

Statistics

100 year continued decline in % of live births baptised.   In last 5 years infant baptisms continuing to decline in numbers, child baptisms steady, adult baptisms increasing and Thanksgivings after a rise two years ago have declined to the 2002 level.

The adult baptisms indicate that a generation of unbaptised are able to declare their own faith

The BI website

The issues can be broadly classified as follows:

Research

Typically “I am a student/ having study leave/ at Theological college. I am preparing an essay etc.  Can you help with…”  - ranging to  put some pictures on this website so i can do my homework”.  

Resources

Enquiries for a huge range of material in connection with TV programmes, videos, guidance for godparents and adult candidates, advice on legal partnerships etc  

Pastoral

The category which gives the greatest joy and encouragement

“this might sound really silly but how do I go about getting my baby son christened”

“I am Muslim ……can I be a godparent at all?

“I used to go to … church .  But I've been told this is a prodesent (sic) church and they don't do christenings there” resulting in “We had a lovely Service of Thanksgiving for our daughter, ….  I have spoken with many friends who had no idea such a service existed, and a few are now wondering whether to pursue this option…”

 “Until I found your site I felt a lurking guilt/confusion/upset that we hadn't christened our daughter. I felt in my heart we had done the right thing in leaving her to make up her own mind... but it made me feel a bit of a social leper in some respects rather than as if we had made a very carefully and difficult decision at a time when we felt very vulnerable”.

Some heart-rending stories of custody and divorce and “mixed” marriages

Legal

Many questions come up under this heading.  For example, qualifications of parents and godparents, change of name on baptism, who can baptise? age of godparents; how can I get a copy of my baptism certificate?, “My friend was baptised “somewhere in Wales ”, can you help?”  “Can I have a private baptism?”

Bishops

Those who respond to my letters are generally supportive to our “integrity” flag, but differ somewhat about our methods.  

Active Churchgoers’ views will in theory not be far from those of General Synod members.  The 1980s debates predictably showed opinion about baptismal discipline was predominantly negative and the resulting “Reardon Report” left status quo. 

Our own 2005 survey of GS members primarily directed towards views on the Thanksgiving service indicated only 18% use the service “regularly”, and 65% consider the service should be “actively promoted” – including10% of those who “never” use it.

And finally …

Enquiries from USA , Zambia , West Indies , Australia New Zealand , Japan , Scandinavia , South Africa Canada and Nepal (from memory!) lead me to say

 “BI International is there to help the world – you need us!”

          

The Legal Position

Ven Dr Gordon Kuhrt

The primacy of biblical theology - of baptism and of the Christian family. These theologies should be (and largely are) enshrined in the liturgy and the Canon Law. The law is part of the background (not the foreground) to pastoral practice. Thus, it must be 'pastoral', gentle shepherding - never harsh or unloving. 

The key Canons are B 21 - 26. Four disciplines emerge:  

1   Ministers are to respect one another's baptism practices.  22.5 requires that if a minister is asked to baptise a child from another parish, they must seek the goodwill of the minister of that parish.  

2   Baptism should normally be at a main Sunday service (21). This enables a proper welcome to, and by, the Christian family. It also reminds the whole congregation of  the sacrament and its rich significance and daily relevance.  

3   Godparents (sponsors) should be baptised, confirmed (and thus communicant) Christians (23.4). Discretion to dispense with confirmation was probably mainly for those from a denomination with a different pattern of initiation. The role of godparents is set out in 23.2 and includes 'the example of their own godly living'.   

4   Parents need to receive adequate instruction (22.3-4). 22.3 says unequivocally that the 'same responsibilities' rest on parents as on godparents - clearly implying baptism, confirmation and the example of godly living. 26 requires parents to ensure continued Christian instruction.  

NB also - Lambeth 1988 para 193 "we accept the Lima judgment that indiscriminate infant baptism should not be practiced. It obscures the purpose of such baptism . . ."

See  "Believing in Baptism - Christian Baptism - its theology and practice"  (Mowbray, 1987), especially chapter 9.                        

For more articles on Godparents click here

"Early Moves"

Rev Steve Corbett

This was a discussion centred round the policy used by Steve in 3 parishes.   Click on the above link to see more

 

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