Baptism in Iraq War.
PUB - lic Baptism?!
|In April 2010 The Church
Times published the following article which appeared to demonstrate that
Canon Law had been correctly used. However dissenting correspondence
arose! Names of the couple concerned and the original correspondent have
been changed for confidentiality and avoiding embarrassment to him.
diocese of Blackburn rebuts an accusation that a lesbian couple suffered
discrimination from the Revd Peter Nunn, Priest-in-Charge of The Risen
Lord, over the baptism of their daughter, writes Ed Beavan
The Lancashire Evening Post
(Names changed - Ed)and her civil partner
were “denied a private christening for their nine-month-old daughter
at St Matthew's, in the parish, by Mr Nunn. They said that they were
"disgusted" and "not welcome in the Church of
He point blank said himself that doing this christening would depend on
how the congregation would take to us, being parents in a same-sex
A diocesan statement said that the
Vicar had explained to them that their proposed baptism would be expected to
conform to the normal practice of the C of E. "This would include
the couple attending St Matthew’s regularly prior to the baptism,
taking part in baptism preparation, and the baptism being conducted
during a public Sunday-morning worship service."
Mr Nunn told the Church Times that
the couple had been offered a baptism in the main service, but would not
|The following was published
in the next issue
Sir, - The decision of the Revd Peter Nunn,
Priest-in-Charge of the Church of the Risen Lord (or St Matthew's) in
Preston, as affirmed by the diocese of Blackburn, not to baptise the
daughter of a lesbian couple (News,9 April) is flawed.
Canon B2l says that it is desirable that baptisms take
place "on Sundays at public worship when the most number of people
come together'. It is not a
requirement, and thus a request for a special service cannot be refused.
In any case, no event in a church is "private", in the sense
that anyone can attend: the Book of Common Prayer makes it clear that a
"private baptism" is one that takes place "at home in
their houses" and for which special reasons must be given.
There is no canonical reason why
"the opinion of the congregation" must be sought. If
that is not sought in the case of the children of heterosexual couples,
then the Priest-in- Charge's decision was clearly discriminatory.
Supposed "normal practice" is not a
determinant. The only one of the three supposed norms put forward by the
diocese which is legal is the need for "taking part in baptismal
preparation" (Canon B22.3). Apart from this, "No minister
shall refuse . . . or delay to baptise any infant" (Canon B22.4).
Here "normal practice" was put forward as an obstacle to
prevent a legitimate baptism.
Above all, any supposed decision by "the
diocese" is irrelevant. An appeal by the parents or guardians of a
child against the decision of the minister must be decided by the bishop
alone, who after consultation with the minister is to direct the
minister. Any supposed decision by a diocesan official or committee has
no meaning, as Canon B.22.2 gives such power to the bishop alone. His
decision must surely accord with canon law, as any reference to his
personal opinion outside the law would be discriminatory.
It appears that the Priest-in-Charge has failed in his
duty, and that the diocese has supported his failure. It is to be hoped
that the lesbian couple are able to find a more welcoming and
law-abiding priest down the road.
Vicar (not a BI member) specifically asked us not to perpetuate the
correspondence but another contributor did!
Mr Michael Speight (Reader)
— I regret to say that I believe the reasoning (Letters, 16 April) is
flawed, not least because he contradicts himself. I am unhappy that he
appears to feel that something not required by Canon Law is therefore
prohibited; and I am unhappy also that he ignores the rite of Holy
Baptism's Pastoral Introduction (Common
345), which states
that "The wider community of the local church and friends
welcome the new Christian, promising
support and prayer for the future:'
expresses the hope that this family will "go down the road" to
find a more welcoming and law-abiding minister. But that is precisely
what the Revd Peter Nunn hoped they would do. Unless a family worships
elsewhere, the parish church, I suggest, is the best place for
children's baptism. It is where their friends will worship; where they
will be instructed in the faith; and where they will have the
opportunity to attend an excellent Christian school. The priest-in-charge
of the Parish of the Risen Lord had the child's best interests at heart.
to Google Maps, it is more than eight miles between the family home and
the church the couple
chose for their child's baptism. That is the flawed decision. There
was not a breach of canon law.
Michael! We did however feel the original correspondent (and
our readers) should be made aware of the facts and the law which were
set out in the following private letter.
you can imagine, the “Lesbians” article in CT plus your letter
thereon caused us in BI some concern!
We had rather hoped the issue would not be perpetuated in
correspondence, but the letter in today’s CT shows that the issue is
only a few can know the real facts of this “apparent breach” we took
the trouble to learn more and I think you will agree it was wrong of you
to assume that the cleric “failed in his duty” and was
not “law-abiding”. What was not reported was that
(a) the "couple"
don't live in his parish anyway [requiring at the very least that
permission be sought from the priest of their residential parish), and
(b) the child in question is in local authority care, raising questions
about whether they can request a baptism anyway.
apart, In one respect at least it is clear that Peter Nunn has been law
abiding where many clerics fail viz the right to delay for “taking
part in baptismal preparation”. That Canon also requires
that “the provisions relating to godparents…are observed”; we
do not know whether three qualified (baptized and confirmed?) godparents
were nominated do we?!
am sure anyone can ask for a special service – and not just for
baptism - but surely the minister has a right to refuse for whatever
reason (Canon B3 gives the minister the decision rights for Occasional
rightly quote Canon B21 as saying it is “desirable” that
baptism shall normally be “administered at public worship when the
most number of people come together” – but omit quoting the very
clear reason - “that the congregation there present may witness the
receiving of them that be newly baptized into Christ’s Church, and be
put in remembrance of their own profession made to God at their
baptism”. How sad that once again there are many
churches where even this provision is ignored often for allegedly
pragmatic reasons. The spirit of the law is more important than a
tendentious legalistic interpretation.
else in your letter is based on supposition of facts quoted from a local
newspaper, and I am surprised you should have accepted this at face
value without any further investigation. On the plain facts that
there has been no baptism, Mr Nunn has been both law abiding and
had intended to write as above to the Church Times, but the Vicar (not a
BI member) prefers to “turn the other cheek” and wanted the issue to
Chair -Baptismal Integrity