Is it Anglican to delay baptisms?
Sir, The Rev John Hartley of “Baptismal Integrity” asks: “Can it be Anglican to delay baptisms?” (article, 23 May).
Our modernisers have removed the rule or rubric of the 1662 Prayer Book which instructed “The Curate of every Parish shall often admonish the people, that they defer not the Baptism of their Children longer than the first or second Sunday next after their birth, or other Holy-day falling between, unless upon a great and reasonable cause, to be approved by the Curate.”
This clear rule exhorting to baptise in the earliest days of life disappeared in 1968 when the following appeared: “Due notice, normally of at least a week, shall be given before a Child is brought to the church to be baptized.”
On the surface this ought to have signalled only a mild relaxation of our former baptismal discipline, but either through incompetence or Machiavellian intent, it allowed the introduction of the “Baptist” ideal of delaying baptism so that it can be the seal on a personal faith in Christ.
Article 17 of our Thirty-nine Articles states “we must receive God’s promises in such wise, as they be generally put forth to us in holy Scripture...” Given this, some Anglicans of the Evangelical Revival argued: “we also hold that infants may and ought to be baptised in virtue of one or both believing parents; because the spiritual privilege of a right unto, and a participation of the initial seal of the covenant was granted by God to the infant-seed of Abraham: which grant must remain firm for ever, without the Lord’s own express revoking or abrogation of it, which can never be proved from Scripture that he has done.”
So whether the modern practice is “Anglican” depends on your idea of “Anglican”. As argued by Mr Hartley, it certainly is allowed and practised, however if “Anglican” is taken in its older signification as in contrast with “Baptist” then “Anglican” it certainly is not. Alan Bartley, Greenford, Middlesex