Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Absolutely null and utterly void

Recent publicity has been given to John Hunt who has publicly declared himself to be unbaptised.

It is an interesting sort of issue. In the Anglican Church we baptise infants on the basis of a decision that parents make about what they believe is in the best interests for their child. I am pleased that my parents did this for me and felt this was the appropriate thing to do for my own children. I baptise 20 or 30 kids in this way each year.
It does raise questions for me pastorally as it becomes apparent sometimes that there are questions about whether a parent or godparent is a serious believer.
Indeed some baptisms seem to have more to do with social custom, tribalism and even good old "any excuse for a party". This doesn't particularly bother me, I have always taken care to strengthen the opportunity that presents itself .
This is because I believe it is essentially a Godly event. Our intention will always be less than perfect, so I am glad it does not rely on parents and Godparents being perfect, or on the priest being spotless (PTL).
In the eyes of the Church (which appears to be the position of the Church of England) though an individual may reject the gift from God, this doesn't alter the fact that God has given it. Even when the recipient denies the exsitence of the giver!!
So I am interested to see Mr Hunt's certificate says
I hereby publicly revoke any implications of that Rite

with all due respect to Mr Hunt, he cannot revoke something which is not his to revoke. He can deny that it has any meaning, and does. He can exclude himself from any alleged privilege it confers, and does. And indeed he will not agree that this rite is a gracious gift of God.
But should he, for example, recant (which doesn't seem likely) the church will not and indeed cannot require him to be baptised again.

Personally I am always glad when people give this serious thought, and even when they decide not to go along with it. I have had at least a couple of Godparents decide that they could not commit in the way that was being asked. For each of them there are twenty more who will just say anything.
There are of course those who grow a little through the experience, as I hope I did. And those for whom it has been the opportunity for deeper spiritual relationship with God

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