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A tried and tested policy commended by the BI Committee and Council that has worked in three parishes.   Contact details available.

INSERT: Name of Parish/Church 

INCUMBENT’S POLICY FOR THE ADMINISTRATION OF

HOLY BAPTISM 

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you”

Matthew 28: 19-20 

1.         THEOLOGICAL INTRODUCTION 

1.1     The Church of England in its official formularies affirms the authority of holy Scripture as containing “all things necessary to salvation” [Article 6].  The Incumbent of the Parish of INSERT: Name of Parish/Church, supported by the PCC, is committed to a policy and practice of Baptism that is consistent with God’s revealed will in Scripture. 

1.2     In accordance with the words of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 28: 19-20 (and received by the Church), this Policy understands Baptism to be a Sacrament of Trinitarian mission – an essential part of the event and/or process by which people become disciples of Jesus Christ, children of his heavenly Father and receivers of the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

1.3     We understand the scriptural meaning of baptism in terms of the following[1]:- 

          (a)      Forgiveness and cleansing from sin (Acts 22:16)

          (b)      Belonging to and being identified with Jesus Christ (Rom 6:3)

          (c)      Sharing in the death and resurrection of Christ (Rom 6: 3-5; Col 2:12)

          (d)      The gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38)

          (e)      New birth to adoption and sonship (Gal 3:26)

          (f)      Membership of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13) 

1.4     In accordance with Article 27, the practice of Baptism of “young children”[2] is to be retained where parents (and godparents or sponsors) are willing and able, in all conscience, to affirm and profess the Trinitarian faith of the Church and undertake their responsibility to bring up their baptised children within the fellowship, prayer and worship of the Church.  This should be known as “Christian Family Baptism”.  Scripturally, there is no such thing as “infant baptism”. 

1.5     The scriptural basis and appropriate context for Christian Family Baptism is Covenant Theology”.[3] That is “the faith of the Church as mediated by believing parents, other sponsors, and other Christians.”[4] 

1.6     We also affirm and respect the preference of some parents who wish to leave the baptism of their children until later years (this being entirely consistent with Scripture). 

1.7     In the case of adults and children who come for baptism, we encourage the practice of baptism by immersion for which provision will be made.  The meaning of the Greek  verb “baptizo” implies submersion in water, and it is probable that Jesus himself received the Baptism of John by this mode. 

2.         OUR MISSIONARY CONTEXT 

2.1     The post-Christendom and post-modern nature of the culture around us is to be recognised.  We therefore aim to respond to all enquiries for Baptism in ways which preserve the theological integrity of Baptism as a sacramental sign of membership of the church, while aiming with pastoral sensitivity to engage with people where they actually are. 

2.2     It is recognised that people often come to faith in Jesus Christ through a process of:- 

Belonging (being in some sense part of, or associated, with the Christian community)
Believing  (consciously affirming faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour)
Behaving  (taking on board the doctrinal, moral and ethical implications of Christian faith and discipleship)

2.3     Baptism – scripturally understood – comes at the point of believing (for oneself or, in the case of Christian Family Baptism, as a Christian household). 

2.4     Again, in accordance with Matthew 28: 19-20, we recognises the necessity of baptism following profession of faith (rather than preceding it). 

2.5     In the case of the baptism of babies and very young children, this requires the support of at least one believing parent.  We concur with the view of wider world-wide Anglicanism as expressed in the so-called “Toronto Statement” – Walk in Newness of Life:  “Parents who have not participated actively in the eucharistic fellowship should be integrated into the worshipping community prior to the baptism of their children.  Efforts to encourage a family’s active participation in the community after the child’s baptism are predictably unsuccessful where a parent has not already been integrated.”[5] 

2.6     That said, we promote the creative and sensitive use of the Service of Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child in Common Worship.  We will aim to be as flexible as is reasonably possible to the needs and requests of the family in offering this rite. This we see as an appropriate first step into the stage of “Belonging” (in however vague a sense) to the Church.  The practice outlined below reflects this. 

3.         OUR PRACTICE IN RESPECT OF APPLICATIONS FOR CHRISTIAN FAMILY BAPTISM FROM NON-CHURCH-ATTENDING ENQUIRERS 

3.1     Initial enquiries may come through the parish office, by telephone or by personal contact.  A leaflet and application for Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child [TGC] should be given or sent to the enquirer. 

3.2     It may be that enquirers want to discuss this before submitting an application.  If so, one of the clergy or a lay member of the Baptism Team (lay visitor) should visit or meet with the family. 

3.3     On receipt of an application, a lay visitor (ideally) or a clergy member will visit to arrange a date for a TGC.  The lay visitor’s small group should, where possible, be involved in prayer for,  and befriending of the family. 

3.4     By agreement with the Vicar, a TGC may be held in a Sunday morning service, on a Sunday afternoon in Church, in the family home (at a mutually agreed time), or in another suitable venue on the occasion of a gathering of the family and friends (eg. a hotel).[6]  It will usually be conducted by one of the clergy, but when deemed appropriate a Reader might officiate.  Members of the small group that has been praying for the family should be encouraged to attend.[7] 

3.5     If, subsequent to the TGC rite, the family express an interest in proceeding to Christian Family Baptism, those who have had previous contact should visit to (a) invite the family to begin attending church (if they have not already done so), and (b) to attend a pre-Alpha course[8] (6-7 weeks duration).  The relevant small group should continue prayer support, care for the family in all kinds of informal ways, and take care to invite them to any social occasions the group runs. 

3.6     Depending on demand (ie numbers), pre-Alpha courses will normally run termly (ideally lay led).  The aim here is to present the Gospel in as accessible a way as possible.  At its conclusion the family choose whether to proceed with baptism, or defer.  One of the clergy will normally conclude the course with an evening on Baptism. 

3.7     For a Baptism to proceed the requirements of Canon B23 must be observed.  That is that for each infant to be baptised there should be three communicant godparents.[9]  

3.8     Baptisms will take place in a morning service (either an all-age service or Morning Worship, though preferably not Holy Communion). 

3.9     Following Baptism, it is hoped that families will be worshipping.  This should be encouraged.  Attendance at an Alpha Course will be encouraged with a view to parents being confirmed (if they have not already been so). 

3.10    It is not our policy to baptise the children of families resident outside of our parish – except in the case of those who regularly worship at INSERT: Name of Parish/Church, and whose names are on our electoral roll.

4.         OUR PRACTICE IN RESPECT OF APPLICATIONS FOR CHRISTIAN FAMILY BAPTISM FROM CHURCH MEMBERS 

4.1     The choice of whether to bring young children either to Christian Family Baptism (CFB) or Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child (TGC) (sometimes called “Dedication”) is for the parents in consultation with the Vicar. 

4.2     Parents choosing CFB, might consider first coming for TGI, the reason for this being that it promotes a sense of unity across the congregation and parish – everyone beginning, as it were, from a common starting point.  This could have a supportive impact upon the policy outlined (so far) above. 

4.3     Preparation should be agreed with the Vicar and be appropriate to the family concerned. 

4.4     Baptisms will normally take place in a main morning service. 

5.         OUR PRACTICE IN RESPECT OF OLDER CHILDREN 

5.1     By “older children” we mean those able to understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus (in ways appropriate to their age) and able to make the promises in the Baptism service for themselves. 

5.2     Preparation for primary age children should make use of the material in When a Child asks to be Baptised[10]  [or a suitable alternative].  Ideally, this should be done by the parents.  However, there might be circumstances in which another adult might be appropriate (eg a godparent).  The clergy will be available for support, and will meet with the child(ren) and parents prior to baptism. 

5.3     Preparation for teenagers should be conducted by the Youth Worker (involving others) in consultation with parents, and with clergy in overall support and supervision.  It is probably best for this to be done in a group (using a course like Youth Alpha).  This might be done in conjunction with Confirmation preparation for those teenagers baptised in infancy or early years. 

5.4     Each child or teenage candidate should have at least one “sponsor” who is a practising Christian.[11]   

5.5     Teenagers should normally be ready to be confirmed as well a baptised. 

5.6     The mode of Baptism will normally be by immersion in a main service.  Where this takes place with Confirmation, the Bishop may wish to be the baptising minister. 

5.7     In the case of child or teenage candidates whose parents do not worship with us, we would only baptise with their consent and good will.  

6.         OUR PRACTICE IN RESPECT OF ADULT CANDIDATES 

6.1     Candidates for “adult” baptism should be able to articulate their personal faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, a relationship with God as Father, and an experience the Holy Spirit. 

6.2     Clergy (or others) will be available to provide preparation.  New Christians should have completed Alpha (or something similar). 

6.3     Candidates should choose at least one “sponsor”. 

6.4     The mode will be immersion at the main service, or a specially arranged service. 

7.         OUR PRACTICE IN RESPECT OF PERSONS ALREADY BAPTISED REQUESTING “RE-BAPTISM” 

7.1     Theologically (in Anglican terms), there is only one Baptism whether administered in infancy or later years. 

7.2     That said, we recognise that there is sometimes a real pastoral issue here to which we have responsibility to minister[12].  People baptised very young, sometimes feel that their baptism (which they can’t remember) is lacking, in some sense.   

7.3     There are two options.  (a) For some, the (purely verbal) renewal of baptismal vows (either at a Baptism or Confirmation service) will suffice.  (b)  Others may sense the need for something more than this; in such cases we offer a renewal of baptismal vows with immersion in water.[13] 

7.4     Where this latter option is chosen it is administered on the understanding that it is an experiential renewal of an existing and valid baptism, for pastoral purposes.  As such, it makes up for a perceived lack – ie  a personal profession of faith and the experience of immersion in water.


[1] See Gordon Kuhrt: Believing in Baptism (Mowbrays 1987) pp 76-77

[2] Article 27 of the Church of England (Book of Common Prayer)

[3] For an exposition of this see, for example, Kuhrt Op Cit @1 – especially chapter 7

[4] Walk in Newness of Life – The Findings of the 4th International Anglican Liturgical Consultation, Toronto 1991.  Grove Worship Series No. 118, p. 7.

[5] Walk in Newness of Life – The Findings of the 4th International Anglican Liturgical Consultation, Toronto 1991.  Grove Worship Series No. 118, p. 7.

[6] In the latter case, the agreement of the Vicar must be sought first.

[7] In this way we are saying that for TGC, “if you so wish, the church will come to you – where you are – rather than requiring you to come to us.”

[8] Eg.  CPAS “START” Course

[9] By “communicant” we mean worshipping, practicing members of an orthodox Trinitarian church.  The dispensation in paragraph 4 (of B23) is to be interpreted as allowing members of Christian churches which do not practice Confirmation to be godparents at an Anglican Baptism service.

[10] When a Child asks to be Baptised, Daphne Kirk.  Kevin Mayhew Ltd, 1999.  ISBN 1 84003 323 1

[11] In accordance with Canon B23.4

[12] This is preferable than people going to a “baptist” church to get baptised “properly”.

[13] See The Renewal of Baptismal Vows, Bishop Colin Buchanan.  Grove Worship Series No. 124.

 

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