web correspondent raised this important issue:
anyone on the Committee aware of any national or diocesan pastoral
guidelines concerning a request for baptism of a child born to or
adopted by parents who are in a civil partnership or other committed
responded as follows:
immediate response to your question is in the extract from the Bishops’
Pastoral statement (paras 24 and 25) [set out at the end of this
article]. This seems clear enough but our Committee members do
legal mistake comes in the first sentence, where it says baptism cannot
be refused. Canon B 22.4 actually says:
minister shall refuse or, save for the purpose of preparing or
instructing the parents or guardians or godparents, delay to baptise any
infant within his cure that is brought to the church to be baptised,
provided that due notice has been given and the provision relating to
godparents in these Canons are observed."
reading a legal document you have to read the complete sentence.
It doesn't say "No minister shall refuse." It says the
minister can delay for some purposes and s/he can refuse on some
grounds, and it sets out what the purposes and grounds are. In
fact baptism can be refused on two grounds: if adequate notice has not
been given, or if the provisions in the Canons relating to godparents
have not been observed.
provisions relating to who is qualified to be a godparent are quite
exacting. Canon B 23.1 says there must be a minimum number of two
of the same sex and one of the other sex. Canon B 23.2 states that
they must be people who will faithfully fulfil their responsibilities
their care for the children committed to their charge, and
the example of their own godly living.
addition to this Canon B 23.4 insists that they be baptised and
confirmed, although the minister has the power to dispense with the
requirement of confirmation (though this is meant to be used of people
from other Trinitarian churches not having that rite).
course the Canons are favourable towards infant baptism overall, and in
fact many churches seek to provide Christian parents with close friends
within the congregation who can fulfil these responsibilities.
Nevertheless it is not right to say that baptism cannot be refused where
the parents do not follow the requirements of the canon by providing
godparents who are both practising Christians (setting an example) and
not just casual acquaintances (exercising care of the children).
Notice also that the canon does not give the minister the right to waive
this requirement of godparents.
is also a less-important misquotation of the Canon in Paragraph 25
delay is for the purpose of "preparing or instructing" and not
just for "instruction". This point is discussed by Colin
Buchanan in his book "Infant Baptism in the Church of England"
(Grove Books 1992), where he points out that there's a question of what
counts as "preparing or instructing the parents or guardians or
godparents"? If it just means the vicar has to have told them
something, then it would just use the word "instructed".
It also means that they have to receive the preparation. In the
book Colin says:
the rites of infant baptism require the child to be brought up within
the worshipping life of the church ... it is wholly consistent with the
Canons to expect the parents ... to be regular worshippers, and
preparation should be directed towards that end, and may properly be
viewed as incomplete until the parents come to faith and take their
place in the life of the church." (page 5). (Since then the
baptism service has changed, but it still makes this requirement, and
the law has not changed.)
had the book checked by "an eminent ecclesiastical lawyer",
who said that the paragraph above was a valid understanding of what the
Committee member comments (perhaps slightly tongue in cheek!)
might argue that there is no issue, i.e. according to ancient precept,
we are bound to seek out the unbaptised, and there should be no more
discrimination against babes and children in homosexual homes than there
is against those born out of wedlock.
one argues that the whole thing of infant baptism is so messy as
regards the people who have a stake in children's lives and certain to
become even more messy that it can no longer be justified and we should
revert to the baptism of catechumens, i.e. those who have a
declared desire to be baptised and who have been prepared for it
from the Bishops' Pastoral Statement
While the House of Bishops recognises many in the Church have
reservations about these developments, we believe an unconditional
welcome should be given to children in our churches, regardless of the
structure of the family in which they are being brought up.
relation to infant baptism, Canon B 22.4 makes it clear that, while
baptism can be delayed for the purposes of instruction (including on
marriage and the family), it cannot be refused. The responsibility for
taking vows on behalf of the infant rests with the parents and
godparents. Provided there is a willingness, following a period of
instruction to give those vows, priests cannot refuse to baptise simply
because those caring for the infant are not, in their view, living in
accordance with the Church’s teaching
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