debaptised in just one week
HUNDRED people paid to be `debaptised' last week alone, as a new trend
threatens to undermine the Church.
National Secular Society (NSS) has provided a 'certificate of debaptism'
on its website for five years which has been downloaded by more than
100,000 people. They have recently introduced a new parchment copy for
£3 which has proved incredibly popular, but the Church is refusing to
recognize a need for the procedure.
recipient of the certificate declares they "reject all [the
Church's] Creeds and all other such superstition in particular, the
perfidious belief that any baby needs to be cleansed by Baptism of
alleged Original Sin, and the evil power of supposed demons."
continues: "I wish to be excluded henceforth from enhanced claims
of church membership numbers based on past baptismal statistics used,
for example, for the purpose of securing legislative privilege."
NSS have asked the Church if they will follow the Catholic example and
provide an official procedure for undoing baptism.
letter from the Church's legal adviser Stephen Slack to NSS president
Terry Sanderson said: "The Church of England has no reason from its
point of view for maintaining a formal record of those who have
renounced their baptism: it is content simply to accept that those who
have explicitly repudiated their baptism and take no part in the life of
the Church should not be regarded as members of it in the more general
Church insists that it only collects data on attendance; the number of
those who have been baptised in the Church of England in the year in
question; and the number of people whose names are entered on the
electoral rolls maintained by its parishes.
a recent investigation by the Times revealed that the number of
Anglicans baptised in
was used by the Wakeham Commission in reform of the House of Lords. The
26 Lords Spiritual could now have their position undermined as the
number of people being debaptised grows.
Sanderson has been "astonished" by the popularity of the
certificate. He said: "It could have political repercussions if a
sufficient number of people became involved. I can't see that happening
though. It mainly shows that the resurgence of religion that we're
seeing at the moment is unsettling a lot of people."
certificate has in fact angered groups on the other side of the debate.
Mr Sanderson said: "There's been a lot of criticism even from
atheists about it, saying 'what are You bothering with this for, if you
don't believe it, what difference does it make doing away with it,.,,
certificate was designed by former NSS president Barbara Smoker, who
once considered becoming a nun. Mr Sanderson sees how the popularity of
the certificate demonstrates the need for the sacramental.
always in the background, everybody has still got that residual echo of
religion in their heads even if they rejected it intellectually”
Response (from Roger Godin) published in full 3rd April:
doubt we need to be much worried about “1500 de-baptised in just
one,,” (isolated)” week”. Based on the CofE statistics
nearly 3,000 are baptized every week, so even last week we “made” a
net gain of 1500!
statistics mean little against the sad stories on the NSS web site. As
you read the “case studies”, you see that many of the
misunderstandings arise from the failure of the Church to explain not
only the meaning of baptism, but also the heart of the gospel. The
renunciation of “the perfidious belief that any baby needs to be
cleansed by Baptism of alleged ORIGINAL SIN” (sic,
capitalisation from the certificate) reveals that many people have not
heard the full story of what baptism is all about. We don't
believe baptism by itself cleans a baby from original sin nor banishes
demons, do we, for the benefits of baptism are only appropriated by
faith. We need to reproach ourselves on this, not the
BI we have ourselves discussed the alleged “human rights” issue, and
one of the reasons we recommend Thanksgivings rather than baptisms for
parents who appear to have no faith is because we want to respect the
human rights of a baby not to be "opted in" before s/he has
should also keep in mind that, parallel to de-baptism there is actually
a demand for “re-baptism”! That is largely from the growing number
of Christian teenagers and adults converted, who regret that they were
christened in infancy and, sadly, often seek baptism (usually by
immersion) in another denomination.
it is worth mentioning that the Common Worship Affirmation of
Baptismal Faith opens up for a person baptised in infancy the
possibility of renewing, affirming, and renewing his or her baptism, by
walking through a baptismal pool and immersing himself or herself
(Common Worship: Christian Initiation, pages 349f). This may not be the
same as believers’ baptism (indeed, it must be clear that it is not),
but it does give the opportunity for the vivid outward and visible
testimony often sought by enquirers to our website (www.baptism.org.uk).
It can be a happy complement to those who want the reverse
Perry also responded to the article as follows;I
The heart of the de-baptisers' complaint
is that they were baptised in infancy before
they could give any informed consent.
that we live in a society in which our education system encourages
children and young people to think for themselves and constantly make
choices, it may behove the churches to "go with the flow"
and put the emphasis on the baptism of instructed believers. By
doing that, they would restore the baptismal experience of
(he of 'original sin' fame). He was
made a catechumen (ie a yet to be baptised
church member) at birth, was nearly but not baptised in childhood
when he fell seriously
ill and came to baptism as a mature adult under the instruction
of the wonderful St Ambrose.
withering away of infant baptism would
delight many Anglican clergy who have refrained from having their own
baptised in infancy. It would also make space for the widespread
use of the Service
of Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child which is at present an
David's letter provoked the following somewhat complex response
David Perry (Letters, April 9) seeks to engage
with those advocating De-Baptism by alleging the justice of their
case and urging
us to adopt Believer's baptism. However
both he and they misunderstand Baptism
when it is said to depend upon us or be our declaration of our
can neither understand nor vocalise such assent we must look elsewhere
for the Church's rationale for infant baptism.
we look to Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress we
are surprised to find he comes to the Cross
and his burden of sin rolls away long after
Pilgrim has passed through the Wicket Gate and struggled over
the trials of the long journey to the Cross. All this time Pilgrim
is called Christian, even though we are later informed that
before becoming Christian
he had once been called Graceless. This reflects an older idea
that in baptism we take on the name and duties of discipleship
long before coming to the cross and finding the burden of our sin taken
Matthew 28 we have the Great Commission with its emphasis of
converting the nations
to discipleship, and of course nations
include babes and children, and when
their parents are converted they too are
included in this discipleship programme. This is because their
children are commanded
to be brought up in nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph.
6:4), and that
means as disciples. On being converted to discipleship, all
these new disciples, babes and children included are to be baptised
and brought to observe all that Christ instructed the Apostles
myself, the Reformed position even more draws together the rich tapestry
Baptism, like other Covenant Signs, is a seal on what God has
promised. When God promises never again to destroy the
earth with a Flood he gives the sign of the rainbow (Gen.
9:11-16). This is everything to do with God's Promise and nothing dependent
upon our response. Similarly, the Covenant with Abraham to be the
Saviour God to Abraham and his seed is sealed with circumcision (Gen.
9:7). It was this promise that led David to believe his child had
preceded him to heaven
(2 Sam. 12:23). The perceptive readers of the New Testament will
realise this is foundational
to the New Covenant (Rom. 4:16,
Gal. 3:16) which displaces the Mosaic, not the Abrahamic Covenant (Gal.
3:17, Jer. 31:31-32). So it does not surprise us when our
Saviour assures us that from such babes and infants of God's
people would come the
(Lk 18:16 etc.) and
if theirs is the Kingdom, then theirs also
is its sign and citizenship. Again we are not
surprised when on the day of Pentecost, Peter assures the
repentant Jewish believer that the enhanced New Covenant blessing is to
them, the believer, their children
and those from outside that God adds to his people (Acts 2:39).
become even clearer when we shed
the idea that to baptise is to immerse. Baptism
in Hebrews 9:10 clearly refers to the sprinklings with blood,
ashes and water in
the Old Testament. In the New Covenant, God promises to sprinkle
clean water upon his people (Ezek. 36:25) and when
John is found doing this, he is asked to explain himself (John
1:19). Again, the pouring
out of the Holy Spirit (e.g. Acts 10:45) is called baptism (Acts
1:5 etc.) and as
already pointed out, Peter particularly says
this Baptism of the Spirit is promised to
the repentant believer and his children, and to those whom it is
promised is also to be given water baptism as the sign and seal of this
promise, and this includes the children with their believing parents.
reforms are necessary? At least a re-emphasise that Baptism is more than
a naming ceremony, and that it implies this commitment
to discipleship. What do I make of de-baptism? Well those who
apostatise from discipleship can never be in the same
position as those who have never been
disciples, they can never undo the past.
However, in the parable of the Prodigal we have no classic
but we do have the hope that those who renounce their Christian
heritage may come
to a sound mind and return to take their place as sons of our
Heavenly Father. Do I worry that the Gospel net may capture bad
as well as good fish (Matt 13:47), or that wheat and tares grow
together in the Church
(Matt 13:30)? Since our Lord warned us that this would be so, it
is no reason to set aside the clear teaching of Scripture that
disciples are to be freely received and baptised.
Bartley, BSc, ARCS.
response was as follows:
Alan Bartley (letters
16 April) ends with the words “Disciples are to be freely received and
What is “freely”
about? Who are disciples? In the early centuries disciples were those
actually learning the faith. As they did so they would go forward for
baptism when they and their mentors felt they were ready.
Few people are aware of
the 12th Canon of Neo-Caesarea of 314 AD. It states “If
anyone were baptised in illness he cannot be made a presbyter: for his
faith is not from spontaneous resolve (sua
sponte), but from necessity; unless perchance he show his
suitability by his subsequent zeal and faith, and there be a shortage of
Here two forms of
baptism are contrasted. There is the baptism that arises when someone
comes forward willingly (Alan’s “freely”) to embrace the faith and
there is the baptism “of necessity”, i.e. clinical or emergency
baptism. It is clear that the latter is regarded as second best.
Jeremias in his Infant
Baptism in the first four centuries spent all his energy
hunting for wisps of evidence that babies were being baptised. He gave
no thought to material which would indicate that the baptism of healthy
infants was nowhere in the frame.
This Canon shows that
the norm from NT times that baptism was for the believing instructed is
still going strong nearly 300 years later. How the Church departed from
that norm can be discovered in the subsequent Christendom centuries when
the freedom of the ordinary individual was eclipsed by norms of social
obedience (e.g. cuius region eius religio) and baptism turned into a
compulsory rite for infants.
In a paper read to
North Holderness Deanery Chapter in 1976 I made the following
prediction: Just as the recovery of the Eucharist in every denomination
has been heavily dependent on the model provided by the pre-Christendom
Church, so will renewal in mission and unity be dependent on the
rediscovery of baptism in its original context of the Catechumenate.
David W Perry
To which Alan has
responded (1st May)
Sir, Had David Perry (Letters,
April 24) read
my letter carefully, he would have realised
I was referring to the attitude of the Church when I said
"disciples are to be freely
received and baptised", and that infant
disciples are included in this welcome.
He prefers to argue from
the apparent poverty of evidence for infant baptism from the time after the Apostles rather than engage with Scriptural
arguments, but regarding the lack of evidence he is again mistaken.
Aland (Did the
Baptise Infants?) says "For if we find infant baptism in Africa c. 250 (Cyprian),
and its observance in
c. 230/250 (Origin), why should it not have existed in
, say c. 220?" The latter refers
to the evidence of the alleged Church Order of Hyppolytus which
says "First the little ones should be baptised, All who can
speak for themselves should speak. For
those however who can not speak for themselves their parents or another
... should speak." David Perry quotes
Jeremias (Infant Baptism in the First
Four Centuries) but he is
actually very positive saying
"For the first century we have no special evidence for the
baptism of Christian children. In the second it is taken for
granted. We shall see how unambiguous the testimony of Origin,
four times repeated, that it is the
custom of the Church to baptise children in the very earliest
course there are two problems for those who want evidence in the writings of these
Fathers. First the use of the word baptise
is scarce and its use in the context of infants scarcer, and
secondly, these examples come from manuscripts many centuries later than
the time of these early Fathers.
Given this, we soon come to debate whether this evidence for
infant baptism is genuine or interpolated by later writers.
fortunately, in the early Fathers is much more evidence than first appears as the Church Fathers
use other phrases to confirm infant baptism. To give but one example
among many from W Wall (The History of Infant Baptism). He says
Irenaeus (130-200) refers to infant baptism when he says: "For he
came to save all persons by himself:
all, I mean, who by him are
regenerated unto God; infants, little ones, and children -ands
youths and elder persons." He says: "The reader will also see
in almost all the passages I shall have occasion to produce, the same
use of the word constantly observed:
that to say regenerated is
with them as much as to say baptised."
However, if we reject this understanding of
regenerated, we are faced with numerous claims of infant
regeneration in some way other than as a euphemism for baptism and I
suspect that will cause evangelicals even
more problems than understanding them as infant baptism.
In closing, we have no choice in inheriting Original
Sin from our parents, but we are blessed indeed if with Timothy “from
infancy [we] have known the holy Scriptures (2 Tim.3:15) and we can sing
with Charles Wesley: “With thanks I rejoice, in Your fatherly choice,
of my state and condition below; if of parents I came, who honoured Your
name, ’twas Your wisdom appointed it so”
there be another exciting instalment in this saga? We await with
bated breath (??) - though in the same edition Rev Andrew Robinson
think the exchange of letters from David Perry and Alan Bartley about
de-baptism is taking us in a direction which could distract us from the
wider debate with secularism. This is a great pity, because Christians
should see this as a challenge and opportunity for us to present a case
for Christianity in the public sphere.