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Church of England or Anglican?
Stephen Corbett is Vicar of Walmley, Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham 

Cast your mind back to the 1990s.  Then think about the Canadian city of Toronto.  What springs to mind?  For many, on both sides of what became a watershed, there will be images of people falling over in response to prayer, noisy “charismatic” church meetings, media interest, and an often heated debate among Christians.  All this in the wake of the spiritual phenomenon which was dubbed “The Toronto Blessing” in 1994.  This article is not about that! 

The Toronto Statement 

What many may not be aware of - or have been aware of and then forgotten about - is the Toronto Statement of 1991.  This was, to give it its official title, “Walk in Newness of Life”, and it represented the findings of the Fourth International Anglican Liturgical Consultation which was held in Toronto that year*.  Among the Church of England’s delegates was Baptismal Integrity’s President, Bishop Colin Buchanan.  The aims and objectives of Baptismal Integrity are thoroughly in line with this international Anglican document. 

The report included and affirmed the following:

           The propriety of infant baptism in the context of “the faith of the Church as mediated by believing parents, other sponsors, and other Christians.”

           The rejection of “apparently indiscriminate baptism of all infants soon after birth.”

           The incorporation of parents into “the worshipping community prior to the baptism of their children.”

           The postponement of baptism where the families were not so incorporated “until the children can make their own profession of faith, or until parents ... are prepared to nurture them actively in the Christian faith.” 

UnAnglican? 

 As such, the Report revealed something not often appreciated in England: that universal infant baptism need not be thought of as a sine qua non of Anglicanism, and those who seek to implement a more discerning policy should not feel intimidated by accusations of being “unAnglican.”  Rather, it is a peculiarly English (and probably British) line of thought and practice, out of step not only with scripture but also with world Anglicanism as represented by international liturgists.

Along with international ecumenical statements - such as the earlier Lima Statement from the World Council of Churches - The Toronto Statement was largely ignored by the Church of England.  And, to be fair, the English Anglican agenda during the 1990s was dominated by significant issues other than Christian initiation.  But it remains true that the “mother church” of Anglicanism has never been particularly good at receiving the occasional word of correction from her “children”.  Such words remain on the shelf awaiting a considered and humble response from her.  Maybe one day she will experience the grace to take the point.

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