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2009-03-20
"Debaptism" and the BBC’s anti-Anglicanism
Maybe the Anabaptists had a point after all, and perhaps the Baptists are more in tune with the UN and EU notions of ‘freedom of religion’. The BBC is reporting of the growing demand for ‘debaptism’ – the ‘cancellation’ of one’s baptism on the grounds that it is imposed upon babies without consent. There are even Debaptism certificates to record the ceremony (whatever form that takes). Setting aside the more trivial debate to which some of His Grace’s more pedantic communicants shall immediately turn their attention – that of whether this should be ‘unchristen’ or ‘de-baptise’ – this is quite a credible campaign in the context of religious liberty and the EU’s Convention on Human Rights.

There is no doubting that some Christian denominations view baptism as nothing more than a symbol, while for others it constitutes a formal initiation into the Christian religion. This being the case, in an era of ever-increasing rights, there ought to be provision if one later changes one’s mind: some announcement in the London Gazette or a certificate declaring: ‘I, (insert name), having been subjected to the rite of Christian baptism in infancy... hereby publicly revoke any implications of that rite. I reject all its creeds and other such superstitions in particular the perfidious belief that any baby needs to be cleansed of original sin...’

As ever, a Church of England bishop has proposed an accommodating via media. The Rt Rev Nick Bains, Bishop of Croydon, is willing to see such notices inserted into the baptismal roll to record such a repudiation, though the Church of England has no official policy (Cranmer is tempted to say ‘on much at all’, but he shall resist) to formalise this.

Yet it is curious to read that the Archbishops' Council is of the opinion that the Church of England does not regard baptism as a sign of Church membership.

Here Cranmer revokes his aforementioned resistance, and would like to humbly remind the Archbishops’ Council that baptism is a sacrament initiated by Christ. It is not only a literal cleansing, but a symbolic dying and rising again with Christ. It is the orthodox belief of the Church of England that baptism is necessary for the cleansing of the taint of original sin, and it is for this reason that the Church of England baptises infants. This is consistent with the Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church, as preserved in the Catholic Creeds and maintained in the Catholic and Apostolic constitution of Christ's Church from the beginning.

The position of the Church of England is clearly set out in Article XXVII of the XXXIX Articles of Religion:

Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of regeneration or new birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed, faith is confirmed, and grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God.

The baptism of young children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ.

The Article was framed to confront the errors of the Anabaptists who maintained an unspiritual view of the sacrament and denied that baptism ought to be administered to infants and young children. Just as circumcision was a mark distinguishing Jews from all others, so baptism was the initial rite for distinguishing Christians from non-Christians. And on the silence of Scripture on infant baptism, the Apostles and all Jews were perfectly familiar with the idea of infants and children being brought into covenant with God by means of (imposed) circumcision. But baptism is not only a badge or mark, but an effectual sign through which grace is conveyed. According to His Grace’s Book of Common Prayer, admission to the Church is one of the blessings of baptism: ‘Seeing now, dearly beloved brethren, that this child is regenerate and grafted into the body of Christ’s Church...’ (cf Jn 3:5; Mk 10:13-16).

But, with its usual anti-Anglican slant, the BBC gives a misleading account of the teaching of the Church of England, and states unequivocally that only the Roman Catholic Church views baptism as incorporation into the Church, noting that ‘membership is later important to the Church if, for example, the same person wants to get married in a Catholic church’.

And so, once again, the BBC portrays the Roman Catholic Church as the guardian of Christian orthodoxy.

Well, with Anglican clerics all doing the trendy bishops’ dance to the tune of the archbishops’ jig, who can blame the corporation for that?

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, informs us that 60,000 former Anglicans and Catholics have downloaded their Debaptism certificate, noting (cryptically) that ‘Evangelical noises are getting louder and louder’.

Cranmer is not quite sure what Mr Sanderson means by this, and even less does His Grace understand Mr Sanderson’s assertion that ‘the recent change in European legislation has led to religious beliefs not being challenged at all, and there's no limit at all on what anybody can claim as a valid religious belief’.

Source: Archbishop Cranmer’s Blog
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