Scrapping infant baptism?

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Blogging at Lord, Open Thou Our Lips, the Rev. Chris Arnold says the pre-General Convention conversation about sacramental issues such as the nature of confirmation and the practice of offering Communion to people who have not yet been baptized has got him rethinking the question of infant baptism. He writes:

In the Episcopal Church, we claim that baptism is “full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body the Church.” But given the current trajectory of our sacramental and ritual theology, for what reason should babies be given this initiation? If we only baptize people who are old enough to ask for it, then we don’t actually need what confirmation has become: “mature public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their Baptism.” (The language of the prayer book actually says that even those baptized as adults ought to receive the laying-on of hands from the bishop, but this doesn’t in any way complete or fix or finish the work of baptism). We won’t need to be concerned with whether lay leaders have demonstrated commitment and fidelity to the church they are leading. And perhaps, actually, dropping the confirmation requirement for leadership in the church based on the notion that baptism is all-sufficient is a way to open the door to Sydney-style Lay Presidency.

But don’t misunderstand him:

Now, to be absolutely clear, I personally don’t think we should do this. I am too catholic in my religion to do away with a practice that is as old, at least, as St. Augustine. I am one of those Episcopalians who thinks that something does happen, both in confirmation and baptism. But neither is this post tongue-in-cheek. If our theology and practice are heading this direction, adapting and modifying our sacramental theology in such radical ways, then isn’t this a logical next step?

Thoughts?

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tgflux
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tgflux

This whole thread feels like Hyperbolic Hypothesizing and Slippery-Slope Slalom. With GC just weeks away, matters at hand please.

JC Fisher

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Bill Dilworth
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Bill Dilworth

Chris, I daresay that there are questions of sacramental theology at the heart of the discussion, but aren't they questions (especially the first one) that Anglican Christianity has answered pretty decisively in the past?

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Jason Ballard
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See helpful post at Haligweorc here: http://haligweorc.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/briefly-on-confirmation/

Sometimes this feels like a race to see how much of given & received Christianity we can huck overboard.

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Prknz
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Prknz

I too appreciate Chris raising this issue, and believe he raises an important point regarding the trajectory of liturgical change in TEC. I am not convinced, or perhaps am too naive to admit, that some liturgical changes are consistent with professed theology. For me, Chris' reflections raise the question of, "have we become theologically lazy," practicing habits of developing liturgical change and then searching for theological meaning to support the practice. Eisegesis instead of exegesis comes to mind...if praying shapes believing, this should be a matter of great importance for anyone claiming the Anglican tradition.

Prknz - please sign your name with commenting - thanks ~ed.

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Jim Naughton
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Jim Naughton

I appreciated Chris raising this issue, and saying that while he didn't want to scrap infant baptism, he could feel that certain arguments taking place in the church right now might lead in that direction. I am also intrigued that this item hasn't gotten nearly the kind of response that the postings on Communion Without Before Regardless of Baptism (CWBRB) have. I think that tells us something, but I am not quite sure what.

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