(Church of England) Top 10 facts about Christenings

The Church of England carries out more than 10,000 christenings per month each year for babies and infants. This figure is made up of approximately 7,000 christenings per month for babies under one year old, and 3000 christenings per month for children aged 1 – 12 years. Everyone is welcome to have a christening in their parish church.

Here is a list of the most frequently asked questions about getting your baby or child christened.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Baptism, Children, Church of England (CoE), Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sacramental Theology, Theology

13 comments on “(Church of England) Top 10 facts about Christenings

  1. Peter dH says:

    A very liberal interpretation of baptism which completely fails to respect the scriptural and orthodox view. Reading this, you’d think there’s little difference between baptism and a thanksgiving service.

    Also, in its enthusiasm to sell baptism – sorry, christening – as a low-threshold commitment-free consumer service, it completely omits any mention of baptism preparation, and conveniently ignores canons B21 (baptism normatively takes place at Sunday worship, it’s not a consumer option) and B23.4 (godparents must be confirmed, and it’s the minister who may waive that at their discretion, not the Communications Office, thank you very much).

  2. New Reformation Advocate says:

    PeterfH (#1),

    Are you British? Because your response seems very understated to me. As an American, I’ll be more candid and forthright. This is absolute rubbish. It’s putrid. It makes me feel like vomiting!

    The worst part I thought was the Answer to Question Five, which asks, “[i]Who is allowed to have a christening service?[/i]”

    The official answer, and this is on the official CoE website, is one of absolute inclusivity with no limits at all. It reads:
    “[i]The (CoE) welcomes all babies, children and families–whatever shape that family takes.[/i]” Pause: I guess that now includes gay civil partnerships that adopt children. But it gets worse, much worse. It goes on, “[i]You do not have to be married to ask for a christening for your child.[/i]” That’s bad enough, but now it gets totally sickening:
    “[b]You do not have to be an active churchgoer–as parents, you do not even have to be christened yourselves.[/b]”

    Note that not a word is said about being actual believers in Christ, much less committed followers of Christ, as a pre-requisite. That is completely glossed over and implicitly treated as unimportant.”

    And the final line sums up it in terms of the standard, predictable (False) Gospel of Boudary-less Inclusivity”: “[i]Everyone is welcome at their local church[/i].”

    Yeah, no matter whether you’re a Christian or not.

    Yuck. This is why I absolutely HATE state churches. This is the kind of total nonsense, and disastrous nonsense, that caused Soren Kierkegaard to write his scathing [b]Attack on Christendom[/b] (not on Christianity, of course, but on established churches as a betrayal of authentic Christianity). Alas, the CoE in 2013 doesn’t seem much different from the (Lutheran) Church of Denmark in the 1850’s. Or to cite another, more moderate and convincing critic of state church religion, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, this inane trash on the official CoE website is a blatant and inexcusable example of “cheap grace.”

    Oh, +Colin Buchanan, whatever happened to your fervent campaign for baptismal reform? It looks as if it’s made no dent at all in the hideous and intolerable practice of what is usually called (euphemistically) “indiscriminate baptism.” Or what, as a brash American, I call “promiscuous baptism.”

    And sacramental promiscuity is just as bad as sexual promiscuity.

    Shame, Shame on the CoE!!

    David Handy+

  3. Peter dH says:

    David (#2), there was indeed an element of British understatement.

    There’s a strong liberal line of thought in the CofE which promotes, as you aptly put it, sacramental promiscuity. Canon law is anyway firmly rooted in Christendom. It obliges the minister to baptise any infant offered without undue delay, whatever the faith or lifestyle of the parents. Failure to do so will sooner or later earn you a stern visit from the archdeacon. Speaking from experience here.

  4. LfxN says:

    I wonder what the medieval church went through as their stability and structures were over run by invading pagans? In many ways our current context is similar. The Roman Catholics are struggling with compromise regarding their rules about baptism as well (speaking to my local RC priest), unique to their canonical starting point. There will, I think, be all sorts of chaos and confusion before the western church comes to terms with its ‘post-christian’ context.

  5. Charles52 says:

    In fact, Mr. Nowen, the Canon Law of the Catholic Church is very clear:

    Can. 868 §1. For an infant to be baptized licitly:
    1/ the parents or at least one of them or the person who legitimately takes their place must consent;
    2/ there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion; if such hope is altogether lacking, the baptism is to be delayed according to the prescripts of particular law after the parents have been advised about the reason.


    I suppose there is a variety of pastoral practice. My parish, for example, requires parents to be members of our parish and godparents to be practicing Catholics. Part of that is because of the hispanic influence in the parish. We get a lot of folks looking for a pretty building (ours is classic) and lots of padrinos and madrinos are needed to pay for the party. That’s the sort of thing we try to discourage.

    There was a thing when Pope Francis came in, because he was known, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, to allow children of unwed mothers to be baptized, other things being equal. I assume from that edict that some places will not baptize such children.

  6. Cennydd13 says:

    2. Amen, David+! The very [i]thought[/i] of this leaves me with a queasy stomach.

  7. New Reformation Advocate says:

    PeterdH (#3),

    Thanks for clarifying your background and giving us a hint of your own experience. I’m well aware that, in former times anyway, CoE canon law stipulated that any incumbent who refused to baptize a child, for whatever reason, was not only subject to an unpleasant visit from the archdeacon, as you noted, but the parents could appeal to the bishop who would invariably reverse and overturn the vicar’s decision. Moreover, such a “rigorist” priest could be suspended for six weeks for such an offense. Is that still true?

    One silver lining in the gloomy decline of the CoE in what is now an aggressively secular society that seems to be bent on what I like to call the A-B-C stance (Anything But Christianity), a paradoxical blessing, if you will, is that there are FAR fewer instances of people unconnected to the church seeking baptism for their children (or grandchildren!). In the early-mid 20th century the baptismal rate peaked at around 70%, i.e., about 7 out of 10 the babies born in England were baptized in the CoE. Now I believe the national ration is about 20%, and in some of the major cities only around 10%. Correct me, if I’m wrong, PeterdH.

    I remember +Colin Buchanan writing somewhere that when he started out as a priest, bishops still would routinely charge priests, when instituting them to a parochial cure, to seek out any unbaptized children in the village and make sure their parents brought them to be baptized!! I don’t think that happens anymore, but it indicates how much English society has changed in half a century.

    One of my hero figures is the great Anglo-Catholic missionary Roland Allen (author of [b]Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours?[/b], and SPG missionary in China and then Africa). One detail about his colorful life that is often forgotten is that he chose to resign his parish post way back in 1907 when he tried to protest against the obligation to baptize any and all children presented, even by parents who made no pretension of being Christians themselves. He got nowhere, and because he couldn’t comply in good conscience with the customary practice and canon law, he chose to go overseas instead!

    David Handy+

  8. New Reformation Advocate says:

    A few final responses to earlier comments.

    Thanks #6, Cennydd13. I appreciate the support, especially after I expressed myself so intemperately.

    #4, Rev. Lars Nowen. Yes, I agree that there will doubtless be a long period of chaos and confusion before we really come to terms with our new minority status in the “post-Christian” (as you put it) or at least post-Christendom western world. But that long struggle begins by coming out of denial about the reality of our situation. Yes, we are being overrun by a new wave of paganism, but it’s not coming from the outside, by Vikings or other marauding invaders from barbarian lands (as in the days of the Venerable Bede, say). No, instead, this neo-paganism is springing up from within, as disillusioned ex-Christians (or children and grandchildren of ex-Christians) turn their backs on whatever they think Christians believe and stand for (which is often wildly inaccurate).

    #52, Charles52, thanks for chiming in and citing the appropriate principle in canon law. Yes, there must be a reasonable chance that the child will actually be raised as a Christian or the baptism is to be “delayed.” Of course, what constitutes a well-founded hope for a Christian upbringing is subject to wide interpretation.

    I’ll just add that Roman Catholics have at least begun to grasp the nettle and come to terms with some of the underlying theological and pastoral problems surrounding the automatic baptism of all infants. First, Catholics have led the way ecumenically in the restoration of the ancient catechumenate and by creating the RCIA (Rite for the Christian Initiation of Adults) and making adult initiation the THEOLOGICAL norm (even if far from the statistical norm, of course. Secondly, the Roman Church has also pioneered the creation of a separate rite specifically designed for use with children, thereby recognizing clearly that the baptism of infants and small children, however legitimate it is, is nonetheless quite different from that of adults. As far as I know, no Anglican province has seen fit to follow suit yet, which is unfortunate (IMHO).

    David Handy+

  9. Catholic Mom says:

    “The Roman Catholics are struggling with compromise regarding their rules about baptism as well ”

    If they are, I sure haven’t gotten the memo. Very strict requirements to get my kid baptized, and to be godmother to other people’s children. For example, anyone chosen to be a godparent who is not registered in the parish must get a letter from their home parish stating that they are a regularly attending Catholic in good standing.

    *Extremely* strict requirements for confirmation. Just as an example of a *couple* of the confirmation requirements: 1) For one year prior to confirmation the kid gets a special set of numbered offering envelopes registered to them which are to be dropped into the collection basket every Sundayn not with money in them but to prove how often they actually attend! 2) The kid is actually interviewed by the bishop prior to confirmation as to why he/she wishes to be confirmed as well as being subject a bit of an ad-lib examination on their knowledge of Catholic teaching. It’s no “come one come all” party, for sure.

  10. Catholic Mom says:

    BTW, I’m not sure why this FAQ on baptism was singled out. If you follow the link back to the main Church of England site and check out the FAQ on weddings, you’ll find the following, reproduced in its one-word entirety:

    [blockquote] “I’m not christened and I don’t go to church. Can I still have a church wedding?”

    Yes! [/blockquote]

  11. Peter dH says:

    David (#7), the visit from the archdeacon followed after a complaint to the bishop. I don’t know what the ultimate sanction is should the minister refuse a directive from the bishop to baptise; seeing how clergy promise canonical obedience, you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place at that point.

    Catholic Mom (#10), weddings are much less of a problem if you’re a Protestant since they’re not a dominical sacrament. If two people want to make their vows before God, they’re most welcome; I’ll take their faith as it comes and throw a bit of a gospel light on it all. But if they want to go through the motions of a faith commitment without faith (ie, baptism), we have a problem in my book.

  12. Charles52 says:

    Catholic Mom –

    I’ll have to pass the special envelopes idea on to our DRE. As it is, she sits at the back of the church before each Mass and checks the confirmation kids off as they arrive. I think she tried a chip thing where kids gave the chip to an usher, but we have 60-80 kids a year who get confirmed and the ushers don’t know them all. Our Religious Formation program underwent a major overhaul last year. After Terry found a senior who couldn’t answer basic questions about Jesus, she instituted pre- and post-testing. We also focused the program on parish kids. Our tuition is cheap and we were getting a lot of outside folks, so now they have to be registered parishioners. The program dropped from 900 to 500 kids, but it’s a quality vs. quantity thing.

  13. Catholic Mom says:

    We have four masses (counting the vigil mass) every Sunday, so one person can’t be there to monitor them all and they’d never be able to do it even if we only had 1 as there are typically 400+ people at each. Also, with the envelope thing, if you do go to mass at another parish (like during summer vacation) you’re supposed to note what church it was at on the envelope and get the local priest to sign it.

    Of course, you could pretend you were in Cape Cod for three months all summer and sign them yourself, but then it would undoubtedly turn out that someone involved in the confirmation program would say that they’ve been going to Cape Cod every summer for the last 20 years and they know Father Charlie at St. Patrick’s in Hyannisport very well and when did this new guy show up? Then you could kiss your confirmation goodbye. 🙂

    While they don’t require 100% attendance, the envelope thing also gives parents a bit of leverage: “You can stay home this Sunday if you insist that you’re too exhausted to get up on time, but if they call me up and say you’ve skipped too many masses and you can’t be confirmed this year, you’ll just have to do it all over again next year.” 🙂