Monday, February 13, 2006

Help! Polity Question!!

I'm really hoping an Episcopalian is reading right now. I'm working on a paper about baptism. Question: I know that a priest can do baptism when a bishop is not available. Can a priest also do Reaffirmation of baptismal vows, or can only a bishop do that (since it falls more in the category of confirmation)??

Thanks, guys! Just not finding exact directions in my BCP (this is where going to Epis seminary would help).

Since your interest may be piqued, I will share with you my assignment (but I'm not using your answers - well, not unless they are brilliant). I'll post my answer when I'm done, too.

Case Study: Baptism

John has been attending your church for two years since his wedding to Maria, which was in celebrated in your church. John and Maria became parents two months ago and now would like to have their child baptized. Maria has been a devout Christian since childhood. John was raised in the church, but never was firmly committed to the Christian faith. Since being married to Maria and becoming involved in your church, John has had a spiritual renaissance. John was baptized as an infant, but now would like to ritualize his newfound faith by being baptized again, along with his child.

Give your response to John and Maria. Defend your response using biblical, historical and theological sources. Please address at least the ecclesial and soteriological dimensions of your decision. Does your decision change if John was originally baptized as a believer rather than an infant?

[preview: I'm going to recommend John be reaffirmed at his infant's baptism - compromise, ya know?]

7 comments:

Karen said...

The rubric in the BCP states: "Those baptized as adults, unless baptized with laying on of hands by a bishop, are also expected to make a public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their Baptism in the presence of a bishop and to receive the laying on of hands."

Remember that the rubrics have the force of canon law when it comes to the liturgy, so for a reaffirmation rite a bishop's presence would be required.

Hugo said...

I don't know about "have to", but at All Saints all those who are reaffirmed do so at the same time as the confirmands are confirmed. WIth the bishop present.

Emily said...

Priests are fully authorized to baptize, the presence of the bishop isn't the issue. (In fact, I baptized a baby as a deacon, I have the photo in my office). If the bishop is present, of course, they get to do it.

In fact, all Christians have the authority to baptize in an emergency. Service/Rubrics for baptism and confirmation/reaffirmation begin on p. 296, I believe.

And yes, reaffirmation has to be done in the presnce of the bishop, if one wants to do it officially and publicly. That's different from "renewing the baptismal covenant" which is done at baptismal services by the entire congregation, or at the discretion of the celebrant on appropriate occasions, like All Saints', even if there isn't a baptism.

Good luck with the paper).

Emily said...

Hm, if John was baptized in the church (the Episcopal church) the appropriate next step would be confirmation, actually. Reaffirmation of baptismal vows is really for those who have been confirmed but would like to make a public reaffirmation of those vows.

(I'm posting all this w/o a BCP nearby, and after a two and a half hour vestry meeting--caveat lector).

The Feminarian said...

I guess I phrased my question funny b/c everyone is writing that a priest can baptize. I know that. My question was only about the Confirmation rites (Conf, Reaff, and Receive) and whether they required bishop participation.

Regardless, it sounds like bishop needs to do Reaff, which I'll just note in a footnote. That would follow historically from the original splitting of the initiation rites.

I think I'm sticking with Reaff, and I'll just assume John did Conf earlier in life. Only have 3 pages, so can't really get into the what if's. In a real-life situation, obviously, we'd figure out whether John had been confirmed or only baptized.

Oh, shoot. If he'd had a believer baptism then the chances are good he did some kind of confirmation process. That would actually put a distinction between whether he'd had infant or believer baptism. Crap. I had the paper done. Maybe I should go back and include that.

Then again, maybe not. It's only like 10 or 20 percent of my grade.

Anyway, thanks for all the advice. I'd like to be done now. :)

Chris Jones said...

Well, I'm a Lutheran, not an Episcopalian (although I used to be one, for 30 years), but I can offer an opinion on your case study if I may.

John cannot be re-baptized, and to re-baptize him "to ritualize his new-found faith" would be a serious misunderstanding of the purpose and effect of baptism.

The theological source here is the Nicene Creed: I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. There are two points in this simple sentence. First, there is only one baptism. Baptism brings about our incorporation into Christ (As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ), and once you have been incorporated into Christ, you can't get in Christ more by being baptized over and over again.

Second, baptism is "for the remission of sins". That is its purpose. It is not something that we do to show forth or witness to our faith; it is something God does (through the instrumentality of His Church) to bestow upon us the free, unmerited gift of forgiveness of sins and new life in Christ. For John to insist on being baptized again is, in effect, to say to God that the gift of forgiveness of sins in his first baptism was somehow not good enough, or not effective.

John will be standing with his wife and his child's godparents around the font. He will share in the confession of the Creed when the godparents make the baptismal vows in his child's name. And he, along with his wife and the godparents, will commit himself to raise the child in the fear and the nurture of the Lord, to ensure that the child is properly catechized, and to bring the child to confirmation and to communion in the holy mysteries. All of these things are solemn undertakings for a Christian, and constitute a public confession and testimony of his Christian faith. He needs no further ritual to make his faith known.

Jake said...

I'm probably too late in responding to be of any help, but I'd suggest using "The Renewal of Baptismal Vows", p. 292 of the BCP; part of the Easter Vigil. It avoids the "affirmation" word, which the rubrics do not allow without a bishop, yet accomplishes the same thing, and is actually recommended in the rubric on p. 312 to be used on the four days especially appropriate for baptism if there is not to be one.