We deny to claim "any Superiority to ourself
to defyne, decyde, or determyn any Article or Poynt
of the Christian Fayth and Relligion,
or to chang any Ancient Ceremony of the Church
from the Forme before received and observed
by the Catholick and Apostolick Church."

Norman Simplicity

Norman Simplicity
Click image for original | © Vitrearum (Allan Barton)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Rite, not Right

Because an infant is unable to make a profession of faith, the Anglican understanding of Christian initiation requires that this profession is made on behalf of the infant by parents and godparents who thereby undertake to raise the child in the fullness of the faith—the “full stature of Christ.” Baptism is a rite of the church not a civil right of the individual and parents. It is certainly not some kind of medieval amulet against ill fortune for babies.

Under the Anglican concept of “lex orandi, lex credendi” (the rule of prayer is the rule of faith) the public worship of the church is the teaching of the church. When a same sex couple (or an unmarried couple) present their child for baptism they are required to answer publicly the following question:

“Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?

I renounce them.”

This question and answer, as well as others in the baptismal covenant, unavoidably present the question of what the church’s teaching on sex outside traditional marriage really is. If the same sex or unmarried couple answers this question affirmatively, they and the officiant are publicly proclaiming that the teaching of the church does not consider their relationship sinful. Under the lex orandi standard, that is the teaching of the church.

Um, oops?

Post scriptum: Lest I be misunderstood, I have no desire to deny baptism to anyone and would think that the practical problem could be solved by sufficiently strong Godparents, drawn from within the congregation in question.

My objection is in the title of the post and, so, is closely related to the following line of thought: "... the new, thinner view of baptism, buttressed now by an ideological notion of baptism as an instrument of social legitimation for gay couples, seems to have made it morally inexcusable even to suggest that the church has an obligation to discern whether the child’s parents or sponsors properly understand and consent to the teaching of the church on behalf of the child, or whether there is a reasonable expectation that the child himself will be raised into a proper understanding of this faith and practice. This is deeply unfortunate ...."

1 comment:

  1. Or, of course, that the 'parents' and godparents are prepared to take upon themselves the responsibility for making solemn promises without meaning them .... that's not an uncommon phenomenon, of course, in the case of those who have little intention of bringing their child to church in order to worship with the parish community.
    The officiant's personal responsibility is altogether more ambiguous here and would seem to depend on what instruction he has given... but ultimately if people are prepared to take baptismal promises lightly there is very little to be done. Exactly the same consideration would, of course, apply to parents who were drug dealers or members of the Mafia.