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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C. Wingate
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C. Wingate

Since everything is being reconsidered, I would like to suggest that the point has been reached where the reconsiderers need to think about taking it elsewhere and establishing their own institutions, rather than continuing to try to co-opt this one. If you're going to reconsider infant baptism, then perhaps it is time to found your own liberal Baptist church. Those of us for whom "Anglican" has some meaning would prefer that it continue to have that meaning, instead of coming to signify a sort of anti-sacramental liturgical dilettancy devoid of theological integrity.

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John D. Andrews
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John D. Andrews

I think scrapping infant baptism is a bad idea, but I will offer a little more than "ridiculous," which was offered by another poster. This is not a trivial matter. Thus, it requires some thoughtful discussion. I was once troubled by this practice, but I am now able to accept it as a bow to tradition, and as an event that can have meaning for those who witness it. I have more concerns about confirmation. For me, and I suppose for many others, confirmation is just something you do. For me there wasn't a lot of spirituality to it, nor was there much focus, if any, to a commitment to God. I would like to see more emphasis in the years leading up to confirmation on what happens when one is confirmed and the expectations that come following confirmation. What is needed cannot be done in a confirmation class, it is something that has to be infused into the Sunday School curriculum. So, doing away with infant baptism is not a "ridiculous" idea, but probably not a good one.

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John Robison
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John Robison

Why Baptize at all? After all, we have at least one Diocese that doesn't think it's important enough for admission to the Eucharist.

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Clint Davis
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Clint Davis

When I was confirmed it wasn't that confusing. You go before the bishop for the kind of blessing that a bishop alone can give to one who wishes to deepen their commitment to the Church. If you've already been confirmed, then be received into this Church, or renew your vows if God has begun such a work in you. In my mind, confirmation has to do with service, commitment, and a real personal identification that the historic episcopate is something essential to one's faith experience, which is, after all, a distinguishing mark of an Episcopalian. Why would you be an Episcopalian if the ministry of a Bishop isn't important enough to look one in the eye at least once in your life for Confirmation?

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Bill Dilworth
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Bill Dilworth

I'm agin' it. Lay presidency, too.

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