Baptism in the Episcopal Church

From the Episcopal Library "This is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body, the church. God establishes an indissoluble bond with each person in baptism. God adopts us, making us members of the church and inheritors of the Kingdom of God (BCP, pp. 298, 858). In baptism we are made sharers in the new life of the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of sins. Baptism is the foundation for all future church participation and ministry."


From the Diocese of New York

We owe much to the Apostle Paul who, through his writings, left a record of how the early Christian community understood Baptism. 

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by Baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4). 

Baptism was, for the early Christian community, a sacramental action to convey that one was experiencing spiritual conversion and renewal–the end of one life and the beginning of another in Christ. By using the metaphorical language and imagery of death, burial, and resurrection, the early community ceremonially expressed, that in Baptism, we die to our destructive and distorted ways of being, relating, and acting, and that by the goodness and faithfulness of God, we are raised from death to a new life, guided by and filled with the Spirit of God. It was an outward and visible sign of the spiritual transformation God was doing in one’s life. It was a symbolic action performed to depict what was happening within the life of one on a spiritual journey towards communion with God, the people of God, and all God’s creation. 

Although the metaphor of being raised from death to new life is the dominant image of Christian Baptism in the New Testament, no single image or metaphor can exhaust the rich meaning of one’s conversion and experience of spiritual renewal. Consequently, there developed other images and metaphors in Scripture that express how the early Chrisitan community spoke of their conversion of life and experience of renewal in the Holy Spirit. Among them are: 

Spiritual Rebirth (John 3:3-10)
Spiritual Awakening (Romans 8:37-39)
Initiation into the Body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:12-13)
Transformation of the whole person (Romans 12:1-2)
Made a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17)
To turn from darkness to light (Ephesians 5:8, Colossians 1:11-14)
To be saved (Titus 3:3-7)

One 0f the questions in baptism is whether infants or children should be baptized automatically or there is a specific age ?

History of Children in Baptism

Child-centered attitude of the Jewish culture, education of children is given a high priority. Religious education is not instruction in ritual but participation in ritual

Apostolic Church  -Children of believing parents are within the Christian fellowship.  Children’s participation in rituals can be assumed in Jewish Christianity. The practice among Gentile Christians is not certain.

Council of Nicea 325 A.D. -Geographic spread of Christianity causes bishops to visit less frequently. Baptism is separated in Western Church from final anointing and laying-on-of-hands which is reserved for the bishop and becomes Confirmation. Infant Baptism becomes established practice.Communion continues to be administered to all the baptized infants or adults 

11th to 12th c. General acceptance of the Doctrine of the Real Presence. Concern over Infant’s inability to swallow the Bread; the custom of giving Infants wine only grows.

13th c. Becomes common to give laity the Bread only; communicating infants begins to die out.

Ca. 1265 Thomas Aquinas commissioned by the Pope to write a liturgy, abandons the communion of the children and withdraws the Cup from the laity. Thomas declares that to receive communion requires "real devotion” on the part of the recipients, a criterion for participation.

14th c.15th c.  Pontifical requirement that children wait until the “Age of Discretion” before communion. The age is not further defined.

Council of Trent 1545-63. Council claimed that the Church fathers did not treat communion of children as necessary to salvation. Communion before the Age of Discretion becomes an anathema. Council claimed that the Church fathers did not treat communion of children as necessary to salvation. Eastern Orthodox Churches continue practice of Infant communion as previously with no major changes to present day. English bishops equate intellectual understanding of faith with confirmation as the prerequisite for communion 

19th Church Scholars tend to take a neutral position, declaring that while noting forbids giving Holy Communion to infants, so also was there no command for it. 

1970 In preparation for the 1979 Book of Common Prayer said that Holy Communion is an integral part of the child’s Christian experience. . .’’He can never remember when he was not fed at the Table of the Lord.”  General Convention asserted that admission to Communion is to be based on Baptism alone, not upon Baptism plus Episcopal Confirmation.

From All Saints Episcopal, Fort Worth 

"The 1979 Book of Common Prayer restores and renews the ancient Christian understanding of Holy Baptism in the liturgical life of the Church. It is clear that Baptism is the initiatory rite of the Christian Community. In the words of the Catechism, "Holy Baptism is the sacrament by which God adopts us as his children and makes us members of Christ’s Body, the Church, and inheritors of the kingdom of God."   

" This is why we catholic Christians have never resisted baptizing infants—not because we fear that unbaptized children will not be "saved", but because we want children to be incorporated into the Body of Christ and "branded" as God’s own. Having said this, we cannot logically exclude baptized children from Holy Communion; the grace of both sacraments flows from God and is not contingent upon the understanding of the recipient. Having been made members of Christ’s Body in Baptism, children need the spiritual nourishment of the family meal of the Christian Community. (With this renewed understanding, the 1970 General Convention of the Episcopal Church authorized admission to Communion of baptized, but unconfirmed, children.)  

" But commitments to live the Christian life must be made in Baptism (see pp. 302-305, BCP). In the case of infants and young children, the sponsors (parents and godparents) make these promises for them and take vows to "support them by prayer and example in their Christian life." For this reason the Prayer Book requires that sponsors 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."  

" Now, it should be obvious that choosing (or agreeing to serve as) godparents should not be done lightly, or even as a nice gesture to honor friends of the family. For many years godparents were obligated to become the child’s guardians, should the parents die. No less sober a commitment is expected of godparents today.  

" What we have said about the child’s incorporation into the Christian Community makes obvious why the Prayer Book stipulates that Holy Baptism be administered “within the Eucharist as the chief service on a Sunday or other feast." The community must be present to welcome and to vow support of this new child in the Household of Faith. Private baptisms, then, are out of the question (except in extreme emergency, and many would argue that even then it is unnecessary for God’s innocents).  

" Moreover, the traditional baptismal days of the Christian year are preferred: the Easter Vigil, the Day of Pentecost, All Saints’ Day, the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord (Epiphany I), or the Visitation of the Bishop. Baptisms should be deferred until one of these days, if at all possible, and instruction scheduled for parents and godparents in the meantime. Of course, our mobile society makes this more complicated than in the past. But surely grandparents and godparents can plan (with several months’ notice) a visit at one of five occasions, if they can do so for weddings and graduation exercises.  

" Many of us clergy hesitate to use the traditional term for children’s baptisms—"christening"—because of the unfortunate connotations it has acquired. The word literally means "en-Christing," which is precisely what is done in Baptism. But it has come to mean, or at least symbolize, many of the corruptions of baptism practice which the present Book of Common Prayer attempts to correct. It brings to mind the image of a small group of family members and very close friends gathered around the font on Saturday afternoon for a short, "sweet" service, followed by a party for the adults and a nap for the baby. Hardly what the Prayer Book intends! Moreover, "christening" describes the launching of a new ship more frequently than a new life in Christ.  

" Don’t misunderstand me, dear reader, joy and celebration are entirely appropriate on the occasion of God’s claiming a new child. But the sacrament of Holy Baptism unites one with Christ in his death and Resurrection; its significance (though not its validity) can be eviscerated by sentimentalizing and privatizing the event. The celebration—both in the liturgical and in the social sense—appropriately expresses the joy of the whole Family of God into which the child has been "born." Therefore, it should not be restricted to the "natural" family.  

 " Perhaps it becomes apparent now why priests do not simply or routinely schedule baptisms "on demand." First, it should be determined whether a particular Community of Faith (congregation) is the one in which the parents intend to bring up the child “in the knowledge and love of the Lord.” This means, of course, that it is rarely appropriate for the child to be taken to the grandparents’ parish to be "done" by its mother’s childhood rector. And it might mean that the child should not be baptized yet, if the parents have not made their own mature commitments to their responsibilities as members of Christ’s Church."

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