Daily Telegraph 26 April 2000
Marry or I can't baptise your child, says rector
By Sally Pook
A RECTOR has warned unmarried couples that he may
refuse to baptise their children because they are "living in
The Rev Donald Allister has issued a leaflet to
parishioners explaining that if unmarried parents wished to have their
son or daughter baptised, he will suggest that they marry first. Some
parents are now boycotting services at St Mary's Parish Church in
Cheadle, Greater Manchester, annoyed that they are being singled out
while baptisms are being permitted for the children of single parents.
The church leaflet says: "When a single parent
is bringing a child up alone we are willing to baptise. When the
parents are living together as man and wife but unmarried we cannot
baptise the baby (the Bible says such a relationship is sinful and
baptism involves turning away from sin). When the parents are together
but unmarried we will suggest a wedding then the baptism."
Yesterday, one parishioner, who asked not be named,
vowed to boycott church services. He said: "This will make
unmarried couples feel like lepers. Marriage is not an easy step to
take and some just don't want to do it anymore. How the Church can
shun people just because they are not officially man and wife is
ridiculous. They should be pleased that children are being introduced
to the Church at a young age."
Mr Allister was not available to comment yesterday,
but in an interview with a local newspaper pointed out that an
alternative "thanksgiving after birth" ceremony was
available for unmarried couples. He said his church had, on at least
one occasion, "broken the rules" to baptise the baby of a
mother who wanted to get married but whose boyfriend refused.
He said: "The promises they have to make in the
service are that they are basically living in accordance with
Christian beliefs and practices Living together as a married couple
without being married doesn't enable them to make those promises.
"If people choose to have children when they
are not married they are putting themselves outside the tradition of
Christian patterns of behaviour. I am not in the condemning business
at all but the Church and Christianity has not changed its view that
children should be born and brought up in marriage and not outside
On allowing single parents to have their babies
baptised, Mr Allister said many were not single parents by choice and
they could not be penalised. He said: "You can't penalise a
mother because the father has run off. If someone is trying to bring
up a baby on their own, we will encourage them. All we are doing is
trying to stick to Church of England and Bible teachings."
David Marshall, a spokesman for the Church of
England Chester diocese, said every child living within a Church of
England parish had the basic right to be baptised but parochial church
councils could also decide their own policies.
Parents had a right to present their child for
baptism, but what happened after that was a matter for the priest. Dr
William Beaver, spokesman for the Church of England, said it was
"unusual" for a priest to refuse to baptise a child. He
said: "The vicar has the final say, but the Church finds it much
better to be welcoming and inclusive rather than exclusive."