Monday, June 06, 2011

Revising the Baptism Services (Again)

Of all the services in Common Worship the Baptism service has proved the most unsatisfactory. This appears to reflect the confusion and diversity of views within the Church of England about the nature of baptism. The problem is no less acute amongst evangelicals. Some evangelicals are not paedo-baptist at all and this appears to be one of the main reasons why many good men are unwilling to go into Anglican ministry. Moreover, many reformed Anglicans, though convinced of the rightness of infant baptism have felt uncomfortable with the Prayer Book service and it is notable that though the Free Church of England, which began in the mid 19th century, retained the Prayer Book one of the few things they modified was the infant baptism service. In the Church Society bookstore we sell at least three books on infant baptism and they are amongst our best sellers, but all are written by American Presbyterians. They defend infant baptism from the standpoint of Covenant Theology, and do so very well, yet this is not the underlying rationale of our Prayer Book.

The problem with Covenant Theology is that infant baptism makes sense for children of believing parents, but as Anglicans we are required to baptise children when often we do not have confidence that the parent(s) are within the covenant community. This is a tension felt by clergy and laity alike and is part of the reason for the discontent amongst evangelicals about infant baptism. It leads to a
curious situation in some churches where those on the fringe or outside the church bring their children for baptism whilst believers within the church do not.

To read more, click here.

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