Baptism is the sacrament given to the Church for making disciples. Baptism announces and enacts a life made new in Jesus Christ. An opportunity for the kind of formation and transformation signified in baptism is an essential part of initiation.
If baptism is initiation in a covenanted life, then there must be opportunity for that life to be seriously considered, and for that covenant to be mutually affirmed. Such Catechesis must enable the development of faithful friendship between the initiate (or his/her family) and the community of faith. The aim of initiation is to establish people in responsible membership within the community of faith.
There is not a "proper age" for baptism; and we must repudiate the predominant cultural and superstitious reasons for "getting the baby done". For one thing, we must restore a sense of true dignity and celebration to the baptism of adults and older children, taking care not to allow these celebrations to be colored by the conventions that have grown up around infant baptism. For another we must guard against conventions which suggest that infant baptism is the exclusive pattern, or give to it a sense different from the baptism of anyone else.
The one special concern that attaches to the baptism of a young child is the need to clarify the role of his/her parents. Young children cannot repent and turn to Christ on their own; only the sponsors can do it for them. And so, if parents are unable to do this for themselves, or unable to take on the unique responsibilities outlined in the guidelines, they should be urged to postpone the baptism of their child, so that the child may some day choose baptism for him/herself, and at a time when it might conform more closely to his/her spiritual experience.
The following principles are held in this diocese:
- Baptism should be understood as initiation into membership in the Christian community.
- Adult baptism should be recognized as a normal feature of the Church's teaching and practice.
- In the case of infant baptism, emphasis should be placed on pastoral discipline, with a view to the nurture of baptized children into responsible membership of the Church.
- Baptism should be administered in the context of a catechesis* that makes clear the meaning of responsible membership; and in the case of infants and young children, those who answer for them should also enroll in the catechumenate with them, for the purpose of clarifying their own part in the children's growth in faith.
- This Catechesis is properly the concern of the whole community of faith, and should engage some of the congregation and not only the clergy.
- Baptism, in the case of both adults and children, is to be recognized as the one Sacramental qualification for admission to Communion.
*The word "Catechesis" here refers to instruction for the baptismal candidate and/or for the sponsors.
The following guidelines are held in this diocese:
Baptism should be administered within the context of a regular service of worship, preferably the Eucharist, in view of the responsibility being undertaken by the community for the support and nurture of the newly baptized, and the nature of Baptism as entrance to the Church's life.
This understanding of the role of parents implies a distinction between two kinds of sponsorship. An adult is sponsored by another Christian person(s), a young child is also sponsored by one or both parents or guardians - and they are the primary sponsors. Sponsors of adults and older children present their candidates, and thereby signify their endorsement of the candidates and their intention to support them by prayer and example in their Christian life. Sponsors (traditionally called godparents) of infants present their candidates, make promises in their own names, and also take vows on behalf of their candidates.
It is fitting that parents be included among the sponsors of their own children. Parents and sponsors are to be instructed in the meaning of baptism, in their duties to help the new Christians grow in the knowledge and love of God, and in their responsibilities as members of his Church.) BAS page 150
Agreement to baptize may be reached only from within the Catechesis which normally precedes Baptism. In this way the Church can make clear the meaning of Baptism and the nature of the new life to which it gives entrance. This will allow candidates and their sponsors to weigh the responsibilities being undertaken, and decide for Baptism in good faith. This Catechesis will also normally include instruction regarding the candidates' participation in Holy Communion.
A person is eligible to be admitted to Holy Communion from the day of his/her Baptism, regardless of age. The parish priest should encourage a family to bring baptized children to share regularly in Communion. Before a practice of admitting all baptized children to Communion is begun, the congregation must be consulted and given opportunity for discussions. When the practice is adopted in a parish, the Bishop must be notified in writing at once.
The Baptism of those not old enough to profess the faith is to be encouraged, provided only that each is sponsored by at least one parent who is baptized and professes the Christian faith, and will undertake the following responsibilities:
- to provide leadership in the Child's' development of responsible membership in the church, by helping him/her to be regular and frequent in public worship and in private prayer, not only be teaching, but also by example and by praying for him/her, and by bringing him/her to share in Holy Communion.
- to co-operate with the community as it attempts to fulfill its responsibilities of Christian nurture and support.
Baptism should not be administered to a person who neither resides in the parish, nor is a member of the congregation until a letter of commendation has been received from the Incumbent of the Parish in which the person resides.
Please call our rector the Rev'd John Clarke firstname.lastname@example.org to talk about Baptism (902-892-1691).