Comments: Vicar declines to baptise child of unmarried parents

"At no point has he refused to baptise the child"
"if they would rather not be married, then St John’s church, Dukinfield, will still be happy to offer them a service of thanksgiving"

So he has refused to baptise the child.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 29 May 2015 at 2:52pm BST

What utter tosh from the Chester Diocese. This priest is breaking the law by refusing to baptise a child in his parish. Pure and simple. Yet again, this is a prime example of evangelical sectarianism which says you have to be in a 'culturally acceptable' lifestyle to receive the sacraments of the Church. I'll wager a fiver that if a gay couple turned up in St John's, Dukinfield, and asked for their adopted child to be baptised, the response would be the same.

Come on, Chester Diocese. Reality check, please.

I don't suppose the Area Bishop, Libby Lane, has attempted to restate the orthodox position as outlined in the Book of Common Prayer and the Canons on baptism, has she?

Posted by James A at Friday, 29 May 2015 at 2:56pm BST

"I don't suppose the Area Bishop, Libby Lane, has attempted to restate the orthodox position as outlined in the Book of Common Prayer and the Canons on baptism, has she?"

I'm sure Lane is far too busy explaining why discriminating against LGB people is, like, totally different from discriminating against her to trouble herself with such minutiae. A true bishop, no doubt.

Time for the parents to make a complaint, I think: this should be an open-and-shut case.

Posted by James Byron at Friday, 29 May 2015 at 3:30pm BST

"Tosh" is a lot more polite than the words I have just uttered.

"To emphasise the weight he places on marriage, the vicar said that if money was the problem he would offer couples a wedding ceremony for free."

Notice - "couples" plural.

So the PCC agrees to waive its fees?
Will he make sure that he pays the proper amounts over to the DBF or will he let the Diocese suffer the loss?

Posted by John Roch at Friday, 29 May 2015 at 3:37pm BST

"This priest is breaking the law by refusing to baptise a child in his parish."

Couldn't have put it better myself.

What good is an established church if it doesn't offer the sacraments it's supposed to?

I hope some MPs will ask questions.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 29 May 2015 at 5:14pm BST

B 22 Of the baptism of infants

1. Due notice, normally of at least a week, shall be given before a child is brought to the church to be baptized.

2. If the minister shall refuse or unduly delay to baptize any such infant, the parents or guardians may apply to the bishop of the diocese, who shall, after consultation with the minister, give such directions as he thinks fit.

3. The minister shall instruct the parents or guardians of an infant to be admitted to Holy Baptism that the same responsibilities rest on them as are in the service of Holy Baptism required of the godparents.

4. No minister shall refuse or, save for the purpose of preparing or instructing the parents or guardians or godparents, delay to baptize any infant within his cure that is brought to the church to be baptized, provided that due notice has been given and the provisions relating to godparents in these Canons are observed.

So under the Canons the fact that the parents are unmarried is not a reason to delay Baptism, and this is certainly a delay given that due notice has been given. The parents can apply to the Bishop for directions.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Friday, 29 May 2015 at 5:28pm BST

I always thought the Anglican view was of unlimited grace, so the incumbent cannot decide and must do it. Unitarians, incidentally, have a similar view of theistic grace or an anthropological one, that is, by having a service of meaning to the parents, the effect is to bind themselves symbolically to the child and all to the wider community. That's why parents can decide and design the structure of the service. And round there such 'nonconformist' alternatives exist aplenty.

Posted by Pluralist at Friday, 29 May 2015 at 5:55pm BST

Thanks Mark, have copied the canon into the main article to make sure it gets noticed by our readers.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 29 May 2015 at 6:07pm BST

I notice that in one of the photograph in the Daily Mail the priest is preaching not wearing any ecclesiastical robes, is he breaking Canon Law by delivering his homily under dressed? Personally in 38 years of ministry I have never once refused to baptise a child but always rejoice when parents ( married or unmarried ) seek the Grace of God through the sacrament of baptism upon the infant.

Posted by Father David at Friday, 29 May 2015 at 6:46pm BST

As a conservative evangelical I have never refused to baptise a child because the service makes clear that the Lord is adding to his number those whom he is calling. Therefore the Lord choses who he calls not me and I only provide an invitation, actually a distinctly Calvinist position that I'm sure TA would love! My only slight sympathy lies in the little hint about school places being perhaps the motivating factor, but then I think I make the most of the opportunity regardless of motives.


Posted by Paul at Friday, 29 May 2015 at 7:04pm BST

Wow - Canon B.22 would definitely be the nail in the coffin of any idea I might have of ever being a priest in the Church of England.

In the Diocese of Edmonton our canons say 'No member of the clergy shall be compelled to administer a sacrament to a particular individual when it is against the conscience of the member of the clergy to do so.' I make no hard and fast rule about common law couples, but when couples who are not part of our worshipping community ask to have a child baptized, I ask them to get into the habit of worshipping with us first.

Our policy at St. Margaret's is here:

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Friday, 29 May 2015 at 7:27pm BST

I believe St. John the Baptist baptised anyone who showed up at John's spot along the (Jordan?) riverside.
I can understand a priest refusing baptism if the priests believes the baptismal request is for reasons of fraud. But, other than that, I'd say baptise everyone who requests it, and let God decide whether it sticks.

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Friday, 29 May 2015 at 8:03pm BST

Couldn't agree more with Fr. David. Baptise and trust God that he is working his purpose out, and stop being so 'liberal,' in interpreting canon law.

Posted by Andrew Lightbown at Friday, 29 May 2015 at 8:21pm BST

Interesting Crockfords entry. Doesn't include a training institution. Daily Mail has him studying theology and political science at (an unnamed) university. Sounds as if the theology trumped the politics. Bishop Michael Baughen would have ordained him.

HAYES, Timothy James. b 62. d 89 p 90. C Lache cum Saltney Ches 89-94; P-in-c Dukinfield St Jo 94-99; V from 99...

While the announcement is nuanced and is trying to state that baptism hasn't been refused, the reality seems to be that conditions have been imposed. The only thing the bishop can do (if he is approached by the parents) is to find another priest. The parents clearly want their child baptised at Dukinfield which by all accounts (per the website) is otherwise doing all the right things, pulling 200 each week, Alpha etc. By the way, no problem with waiving fees for the wedding. That is within the discretion of the vicar. How crass and yet another 'own goal' by the Church of England at a time when it can ill afford 'own goals.' Perhaps a question in the House of Commons to the new Second Church Estates Commissioner?

Posted by Anthony Archer at Friday, 29 May 2015 at 8:41pm BST

Very glad you're still here with us, Father David. So often (not always, mind!), your sentiments are truly exemplary even for 'liberal' Anglicans. Pax tecum.

Posted by John at Friday, 29 May 2015 at 8:44pm BST

What is going on out there? How in the world does a Christian minister refuse baptism to a child because of the parents? Very sad story.

Posted by Josh L at Friday, 29 May 2015 at 9:38pm BST

I think that you will find that the wedding and Banns fees are statutory, and as such the vicar has no right to waive them.

Posted by SimonE at Friday, 29 May 2015 at 11:04pm BST

The Book of Common Prayer, in the fine words that follow the reading from S.Mark 10 in the service for infant baptism, links the latter with our Lord's welcoming and blessing of children and saying of them "of such is the kingdom of God". These words, unlike the "Matthean commission" to baptise, I think all would accept as authentic. Our Lord's practice and thoughts about baptism itself are not clear. However, on that occasion Jesus didn't offer a "Thanksgiving" as an alternative or insist on blessing the children ONLY fairly early on a Sabbath morning and in the main synagogue service, or require attendance at the Synagogue for six Sabbaths beforehand, or completion of a course of instruction before taking children up in his arms. S.Paul's points about Baptism do have their place, but our Lord's words and example surely always for us should have priority - the warm welcoming and beneficial blessing of the children of God. For the last 56 years I hope that has always been in my mind when enjoying the privilege of baptising - or to use the equally fine word, christening, the young and the old.

Posted by John Bunyan at Friday, 29 May 2015 at 11:42pm BST

So in the Diocese of Chester moral if not actual blackmail is the official policy

Posted by Confused Sussex at Saturday, 30 May 2015 at 12:28am BST

Well, what else can one expect, in this, the Year of Our Lord 1915? [I do have the year right, don't I?]

Posted by JCF at Saturday, 30 May 2015 at 3:58am BST

The Fourth International Anglican Liturgical Consultation of 1991 advocated against what it calls "indiscriminate baptism." It advised proceeding with the baptism of an infant only if there is "a reasonable expectation that the child will in fact be nurtured within the community of faith." Of course, that does not require that the parents be married! Interestingly, English canon law would seem to be firmly in the "indiscriminate baptism" camp (to use the terminology of the IALC).

Posted by Darren Miner at Saturday, 30 May 2015 at 4:40am BST

the precedent of history is that baptism has been open to illegitimate children. However parents currently living together in a non married situation is in my mind legitimate grounds for refusal.

Baptism must never be reduced to a cultural rite of passage. However on the other hand you must also watch the evangelicals ( many of whom are crypto baptists) who sneaked in child blessings, which are now diverting thousands from baptism.

Posted by robert ian Williams at Saturday, 30 May 2015 at 8:00am BST

I never thought I would ever go on to the Daily Mail website, but I have contacted the journalist to suggest he advises the parents to make a CDM complaint against the incumbent. This is a flagrant breach of Canon and therefore illegal. It's about time Timothy Hayes and the many other clergy like him who are turning our Church into a sectarian ghetto confronted the realities of the Church of England's ecclesiology.

Hayes' stance is an example of a tendency that is alienating our Church from the majority of the population and is undermining its mission. If we got the basics right, and stopped ploughing iniquitous sums into mini MBAs, we might find we are able to reconnect with society in a credible way. It's hardly rocket science.

Posted by Will Richards at Saturday, 30 May 2015 at 8:14am BST

I've done plenty of baptisms and never said 'no' on the basis of whether or not the parents are married. But I wonder if this points up what a dogs breakfast we're making of baptism.

- 'in my eyes...': telling phrase, I'm not for people simply accepting the 'authority of the church' without question, but neither should parents individual interpretations of Christianity be free from question either. Part of preparation for baptism is helping people to understand what the commitment involves. When people bring a consumer mentality to baptism, 'the customer is always right', then you'll get situations like this, because baptism isn't a consumer product.

- 'Having the christening and having the holy water is not a ticket into heaven'. Correct. Neither is it a ticket into your preferred school. If this is what baptism has become, then shouldn't the church at least question that, rather than going along with it?

Infant baptism in the CofE is a legacy of Christendom, when we assumed that most families were Christians. Now that most families aren't, we carry on with the same policy but look for a different rationale (welcome, mission, etc.). More than ever there seems to be a case for clause 4 of the canon - preparing and instructing parents and godparents - but what if the parents and godparents don't want to be 'prepared and instructed'?

We've seen people come to faith through an 'open' baptism policy, but there are still some deep questions to ask about the integrity of doing things this way.

Posted by David Keen at Saturday, 30 May 2015 at 8:43am BST

Just to clarify the situation regarding "waiving of fees" - official CofE guidance (as stated in paragraphs 14-17 of "A Guide to Church of England Fees", published in January 2015) does state that an incumbent/priest has the right to waive both the DBF and PCC fees "in a particular case."

It is very clear that this should only happen in cases of clear financial hardship, and in accordance with Diocesan guidelines, and the incumbent (or PCC) has to be able to give a clear account for a particular decision to waive a fee.

So, for example, in my Diocese, the DBF fees can only be waived with written consent from the Diocesan Office.

(I only know this because, as a new incumbent, I went on some Diocesan training about weddings a few weeks ago, where the question of fees was obviously one of the topics discussed!)

Posted by Chris Routledge at Saturday, 30 May 2015 at 8:57am BST

This very afternoon I look forward to marrying a young couple who have been together for several years, which seems to be the norm nowadays rather than the exception, immediately after I have tied the knot we shall sing "The Lord of the dance" and proceed to the font to baptise their son. Hopefully that arrangement would prove to be acceptable in the diocese of Chester. Hasn't the crusty old C of E recognised such an arrangement by producing a liturgy whereby the baptism of children can follow on immediately after the wedding ceremony?

Posted by Father David at Saturday, 30 May 2015 at 9:06am BST

In 'Anglican formation' classes at my (evangelical) vicar school I remember many of us were initially outraged when we learnt that we basically have to baptise anyone in our parish, subject to preparation. I think I've learnt to take a different view - it's quite releasing not to be the gatekeeper. In the preparation sessions I spell out the vows as well as I can, the commitment they're making, and let the parents make the ultimate decision. Sometimes I have been surprised and delighted when some families, who I'd been a little cynical about, 'stick' and become part of our church community.

My question about this story is - 'why is this news NOW? Yes he's probably being stricter than Canon Law allows, but anecdotally there are many churches (not just evangelical) who have the same sort of criteria. Presumably the Rev'd Tim Hayes, who's been in post for 20-odd years, has been saying the same thing to unmarried couples for decades. Is it, as commenters above have suggested, something to do with school admissions? Have the governors recently changed the admissions policy to require pupils to be baptised? A lot of clergy oppose those sorts of admissions criteria - on principle, and also because the resulting flood of baptisms can be unmanageable.

Posted by Peter K+ at Saturday, 30 May 2015 at 9:45am BST

Waiving fees. The legal position is that any incumbent may waive any fee due to the diocese and (after consultation with the Churchwardens) any fee due to the parish, but he or she would be expected to have a particular compelling reason for doing so in any individual case.

Cost of wedding. If this couple intends to marry but does not feel it can yet afford to do so, the church fees are very unlikely to be the barrier; they will be saving up to meet the much more massive costs involved in everything from the dress to the reception.

Other factors. There are so many of these that throwing a few remarks about in a comments column like this may not be as illuminating as we might think: to name but four - there is the position of a national church which has operated within a Christian society, there is the apparent requirement for formal association with that a national church to obtain school places, there is the wrestling by some with a fear of providing 'cheap grace' in a rapidly secularising society, and there is the massive shift in quiet a short time in the proportion of children born to unmarried parents who live together.

Canon Law. There is very widespread assumption among many clergy that they should operate on the basis of what they hope Canon Law will come to say one day - changes being made at the moment to allow Christian funerals for those who have taken their own lives and for clergy not to wear robes when conducting worship will confirm for them in their own minds the wisdom of this approach.

Posted by Peter Mullins at Saturday, 30 May 2015 at 9:50am BST

Well this is very bad publicity - though I for one do not assume it has all been accurately reported. But responding more generally to some of the responses on this thread... If baptism is just about the baby why does the service ask parents and the wider community to make such searching promises and commitments to Christian faith? And isn't the the responsibility of the minister to help the couple be more aware of how serious these promises are and what a life of discipleship might look like? Anyone in ministry knows how difficult it is to do this without risking being accused of 'refusing baptism' or laying down conditions. The Canons allow for delaying baptism 'for the purpose of preparing or instructing the parents or guardians or godparents' but show little awareness of what a sensitive process this can be. Do you agree a date before or after preparation? Experience shows that once the date is fixed some just stop listening. But if you delay fixing the date until, with genuine pastoral concern, there has been an opportunity to think it through that they may to have had before, are you 'refusing' to baptise?

Posted by David Runcorn at Saturday, 30 May 2015 at 9:55am BST

My parents adopted 3 children just before and during the 2nd WW. I was born at the end of the 2nd WW. I have in my possession carbon copies of the letters my mother wrote to her Vicar and the replies she received from him, when she wished to have the sister nearest to me in age baptised with me. The Vicar refused to baptise my sister on the grounds that she was illegitimate. My mother's correspondence was robust and pointed out that Jesus wanted children to go to him. My sister was baptised. But on the baptism certificate the Vicar crossed out 'daughter of' and wrote 'adopted daughter of' and inserted the words illegitimate.

Posted by Anne Lee at Saturday, 30 May 2015 at 9:57am BST

"The vicar would be happy to help the couple be married and then to baptise their child at no financial cost to them – SO THAT THE BEST OUTCOME CAN BE ACHIEVED."

It is not the vicar's place to require a couple to be married. The couple themselves will decide what the 'best outcome' is for their personal relationship.

Furthermore, since the Church of England refuses to marry gay or lesbian couples, does that mean that in those csses, all their children must remain unbaptised?

Or, as our Lord suggested, should we be saying "Let the little children come to me"?

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 30 May 2015 at 10:04am BST

Does this story mean that the vicar would be happy to baptise a child of a married same-sex couple?

Posted by robert at Saturday, 30 May 2015 at 10:46am BST

In response to Simon E - the guidelines for Parochial Fees 2015 - here state

Waiving parochial fees
14. From time to time a situation may arise where an incumbent/priest in charge
or parochial church council feels that a fee should be waived. The 1986 Measure, as
amended, gives the incumbent/priest in charge a right to waive the DBF’s part of the
fee “in a particular case” if he or she so chooses. The PCC has always had the right to
waive its part of the fee.
15. In deciding what to do the following need to be borne in mind:-
(a) Parochial fees have been approved by the General Synod and Parliament; they
are legally payable;
(b) If an incumbent/priest in charge waives the DBF fee the diocese will in most
cases have to find additional funds for stipends. Ultimately these extra funds will have
to be provided by the parishes;
(c) The incumbent/priest in charge has a right to waive the DBF fee “in a
particular case”. That means that the incumbent/priest in charge cannot issue a
general, blanket waiver of fees in the parish. There is not a statutory requirement for
the incumbent/priest in charge to consult before waiving the DBF fee, but, if an
incumbent/priest in charge or PCC is considering whether to waive or reduce a fee,
regard should be had to any guidelines laid down by the diocese. The
incumbent/priest in charge should be able to account for a particular decision to waive
a fee.
16. The incumbent/priest in charge also has a right, after consulting the
churchwardens of the parish, to waive any fee payable to the PCC “in a particular
17. The Archbishops’ Council’s advice is that the power to waive fees should only
be exercised in cases of clear financial hardship. It is understandable that some clergy
have been known to waive fees for those who are long-standing members of the
congregation. The Council believes, however, that this practice should not be

Posted by Anne at Saturday, 30 May 2015 at 11:03am BST

May I add an answer to "Pluralist"? Unitarians in the UK and the US include unitarian Christians. The unitarian Christian church of which I have long been a member (as well as a priest of the Anglican Church of Australia), the historic, originally Episcopalian, King's Chapel, Boston, in its Book of Common Prayer continues to use S.Matthew 28.19 at the baptising of children and adults. (A variant is allowed though not printed in the liturgy - "I baptize you in the name of the Father whose child you are, in the name of Jesus who loved little children, and in the name of the holy Spirit that is promised to you.") Some unitarian Christian ministers may baptise simply "in the name of Jesus".

Posted by John Bunyan at Saturday, 30 May 2015 at 12:24pm BST

We no longer live in Christendom, but we live in post Christendom which isn't the same as a secular society or virgin mission territory. The problem in this situation is marrying theological principle and sociological reality.Like most clergy I have sometimes been sorely tried by some couples asking for baptism but the sociological evidence suggests that refusal often cuts off the remaining link a family has with the church and reverberates around neighbourhood and family.Work has been done on this...I no longer have the references to hand but the easiest is perhaps the study by Geoff Ahern in his book with Grace Davie called I think " Everyday God".....

Posted by Perry Butler at Saturday, 30 May 2015 at 12:37pm BST

"... in my Diocese, the DBF fees can only be waived with written consent from the Diocesan Office. (I only know this because, as a new incumbent, I went on some Diocesan training about weddings a few weeks ago, where the question of fees was obviously one of the topics discussed!)..."

Your diocese had misled you. It can strongly request you keep it informed of the rare circumstances in which you chose to act in this way (indeed it has the right to issue suggested guidance), but it can't insist on itself becoming a party to the decision (which is what the word 'consent' implies).

A small point, but an interesting straw in the wind of how some dioceses would like to think clergy can be directed.

Posted by Peter Mullins at Saturday, 30 May 2015 at 1:45pm BST

Here comes the bride...... Eventually. The vintage Roller broke down and she was 30 minutes late. Still, we calmed her down and told her to be happy on her wedding day and thereafter the ceremony proceeded calmly, followed immediately by the baptism. Alas the groom trod on the bridal gown and ripped it! It didn't really help matters when he said - "It's only a dress"!
I think Robert makes an interesting point when he asks if the vicar in the Chester diocese would be willing to baptise the child of a same sex couple who had previously been married in a Civil ceremony.
While I don't agree with a clergyman refusing to baptise, I do hope that the vicar of St. John's is receiving some pastoral care from the hierarchy in the Chester diocese and also that the parents of the unbaptised child are also being supported following this most unhappy turn of events for all concerned.

Posted by Father David at Saturday, 30 May 2015 at 2:59pm BST

In response to David Runcorn, a couple of issues arise. The first is that in an emergency, baptism can be conducted without anyone making any promises - see page 102 of Common Worship Initiation Services, though the provision that the remainder of the Baptism service is completed if the emergency passes is there in the notes.

The Book of Common Prayer Baptism service is very different from the modern one. The question is asked of Godfathers and Godmothers (not of parents, unless they also stand as Godparents) "Dost thou, in the name of this Child, renounce the devil and all his works ... " and the non-optional question "Wilt thou be baptised in this faith?" This gives substance to what I was taught, that the godparents are standing as proxies for the child, answering in their own name as if they were the child.

The modern service takes a wholly different view of the occasion from the Book of Common Prayer, and the Baptism service is, in modern liturgy, probably more radically changed than the communion service. The Book of Common Prayer is, of course, one of the normative texts for the Church of England. The omission of parents from the main affirmations meant that the baptism of the child depended only on the willingness of the parents to bring the child for baptism - which was encouraged - and their ability to find suitable godparents.

Just to complete the picture, Canon 68 of the 1603/4 code reads "Ministers not to refuse to Christen or Bury. No Minister shall refuse or delay to christen any child, according to the form of the Book of Common Prayer, that is brought to the Church to him upon Sundays or Holy-days to be christened, or to bury any corpse that is brought into his Church or Churchyard, convenient warning being given him thereof before, in such manner as is prescribed in the said Book of Common Prayer. And if he shall refuse to christen the one, or bury the other [[except an excommunicated party deceased who has not repented]] he shall be suspended by the Bishop of the Diocese fro his ministry by the space of three months."

The BCP baptism rubric contains the original of the text about no delay save to prepare parents and godparents. Canon 69 of the old code says there shall be no delay in Christening if the child be in danger. The new code came into force 1964/69. So we have texts pulling in different directions with radically different understandings.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Saturday, 30 May 2015 at 7:19pm BST

In a recent case in the Diocese of Central Florida the bishop stepped in (where the clergy had hesitated) and decided that the child of a same sex couple can be baptized. At the time we heard comments from those in the CoE of that in the CoE there never would have been a question, the baby would be baptized because there was a canon that guaranteed it. (Elsewhere I hear that denial of baptism in CoE is depressingly common.)

I see you have a canon forbidding denial of baptism. But it appears meaningless if the bishop supports the clergyperson denying baptism.

Does the canon have teeth or not?

Here's some of the Central Florida backstory:

Posted by John B. Chilton at Saturday, 30 May 2015 at 7:56pm BST

Thank you, David Keen (at 8.43 am) for a more thoughtful response to what may well be, if not an incorrectly reported, then a partially reported story by the Press, some sections of which are always on the lookout to sensationalise stories about the C of E. It will be interesting to see whether the Diocese of Chester publishes any formal comment on its website: meanwhile the jibes on this blog against +Libby Lane seem wholly unmerited and unchristian.

Posted by David Lamming at Saturday, 30 May 2015 at 10:09pm BST

May I respond to Peter Mullins comment about fees? The Church Commissioners Table of Fees makes no specific charge for the administration of Holy Baptism. When parents ask how much a baptism will cost they are always pleasantly surprised when I tell them that it is free but that a donation to the church would be welcome. Similarly there is no specific charge made to receive Holy Communion. If the two Divinic sacraments are free then why do we charge a fee for what many in the Church regard as the other sacraments, for example marriage? Personally I find it awkward, to say the least, when couples have to hand over a shed load of cash in order to be married in church. Having spiritually prepared the couple for marriage it is rather unseemly to then tell them the not inconsiderable cost of the church wedding. I know that what the church actually charges is peanuts compared with all the other associated costs - Wedding Breakfast, Photographers, "the Dress", the unreliable Rolls Royce that breaks down on the way to the church, the wedding cake etc. I'm only too pleased that I have a verger to deal with that side of things when it comes to paying the required church fees. However, surely one way of increasing the declining number of church weddings and winning back marriages from Town Halls, Stately Homes and Hot Air Balloon Companies is to rescind any fee for the Solemnisation of Holy Matrimony and make weddings free of charge on a par with the sacrament of Holy Baptism.

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 31 May 2015 at 5:54am BST

On a broader note, this does show, yet again, the wrongheadedness of the Church of England's terror of confrontation, cute when it's doddering old rectors who can't stand up to the Mothers' Union, less so when it allows abuses to go unchecked.

Even where a vicar openly flouts canon law, his diocese wrings its hands and seeks compromise, where it should be starting the disciplinary process. A voluntary law is no law.

Posted by James Byron at Sunday, 31 May 2015 at 10:21am BST

If the bishop doesn't get the decision reversed pdq then he/she should also be the subject of a CDM complaint. Similarly the archdeacon. Since the vicar prima facie is in breach of canon law, if the diocese colluded then those in relevant positions of authority are also. Is it only the couple who have locus standi to make a complaint? Since the victim in this case is the child, is there any process whereby someone else can make a complaint?

Posted by Turbulent Priest at Sunday, 31 May 2015 at 7:46pm BST

Just to note that under the Canon the parents or guardians of the child may apply to the Bishop of the Diocese. This is not the same as a CDM complaint, and to apply under the CDM without using the canonical route would invite the response "use the procedure under the Canon".

Second, it is interesting that the Canon explicitly envisages the possibility of a disagreement (and the earlier Canon from 1603/4 which I quoted in an earlier comment does too) and it does give the Bishop wide discretion as to the handling of the case - the Canon does not say that the Bishop must ensure that the child gets baptised. So it could be quite hard to succeed in a CDM complaint against the Bishop on the grounds on non-compliance with the Canon.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Monday, 1 June 2015 at 7:28am BST

but presumably, the bishop would have to make her decision based on the Canon.
According to the reports, the couple in question identify as Christians and although they mention schools, there is no indication that admission to school is their only motivation for asking for Baptism. Nor is the priest's refusal apparently based on a poor understanding of Baptism or on unacceptable reasons for asking for Baptism.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 1 June 2015 at 10:33am BST

This argument is as old as the hills. At the Savoy Conference one of the Presbyterian 'objections' was as follows:
'There being divers learned [...]ministers, who not only judge it unlawful to baptise children whose parents both of them are atheists, infidels, heretics or unbaptized, but also such whose parents are excommunicate persons, fornicators, or otherwise notorious and scandalous sinners; we desire they may not be obliged to baptise the children of such, until they have made due profession of their repentance.'
To which the bishops replied: 'We think this to be very hard and uncharitable and giving too arbitrary a power to the minister.'
On the other hand there seems nothing wrong with the minister urging the couple to marry, provided the baptism is not made conditional on their doing so. Discussion here has concentrated on the minister's behaviour - but isn't the parents' attitude rather odd?

Posted by John Scrivener at Monday, 1 June 2015 at 12:33pm BST

Canon B22 is permissive, allowing a course of action, rather than requiring a course of action (applying to the bishop). Other courses of action are available though a defence under the CDM could be that the complaint was about a doctrinal matter and so inadmissible, with the only alternative course of action being through the EJM 1963.
Of course there are almost certainly clergy in the diocese who would do what they can to repair the damage done by this attitude and requirement i.e. do the baptism.

Posted by Adrian Judd at Monday, 1 June 2015 at 4:19pm BST

I would have thought that the only moral objection of the Church to proceeding with the Baptism of an infant, would be the inability of the parents and Godparents to agree to 'renounce evil' and to bring up the child in the nurture of the Church.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 2 June 2015 at 1:13am BST

Erica - the Canons say "the bishop of the diocese", which would be the diocesan bishop. There could be cases - e.g. a dispute between parents of different faiths about how their child was to be brought up, as one example, where the Bishop might support the parish priest in saying "no baptism".

Posted by Mark Bennet at Tuesday, 2 June 2015 at 7:48am BST

"I would have thought that the only moral objection of the Church to proceeding with the Baptism of an infant, would be the inability of the parents and Godparents to agree to 'renounce evil' and to bring up the child in the nurture of the Church."

Yes, thanks for that reminder. Had forgotten that having children out of wedlock is sinful, even evil. How silly of me.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Tuesday, 2 June 2015 at 9:17am BST

If we go down this road, next thing the child of divorced parents might become the Archbishop of Canterbury!

Posted by Turbulent Priest at Tuesday, 2 June 2015 at 1:09pm BST

Am I alone in disagreeing with the apparent assertion, that 'having children out of wedlock is sinful, even evil' ?

Very few UK citizens or even church-goers would accept this narrow view-point, and quaint terminology, imho.

Silly me ?

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Tuesday, 2 June 2015 at 6:58pm BST

"If we go down this road, next thing the child of divorced parents might become the Archbishop of Canterbury!"

...and a child born far too soon after his parent's marriage might be declared to be the Son of God.

Posted by Anne at Tuesday, 2 June 2015 at 7:14pm BST

Laurence, you are most certainly not alone in your disagreement with Anthony's ridiculous and hurtfully cruel assertion. In wedlock or out of wedlock, every child born into this world is a Child of God and I am sure that s/he loves them all equally.

Posted by Father David at Wednesday, 3 June 2015 at 1:08pm BST

I must say that I read Anthony Archer's comment as ironic. This is partly due to my regular reading of his posts here which are levelheaded and his use of 'even evil' and 'silly me' which surely are a means of framing his comment and showing how absurd this point of view is. Perhaps he might enlighten us.

Posted by Daniel Lamont at Wednesday, 3 June 2015 at 8:34pm BST

Excellent legal opinion by Philip Jones on this case. He is clear that an incumbent's refusal to baptise is unlikely to constitute disciplinary misconduct, depending on the bishop's directions. Given that a bishop (if approached for the purpose) is likely to suggest that another clergyperson officiate instead (out of delicacy to the scruples of the refuser) there will be no misconduct. But of course the damage has been done. My rant against Father David had nothing to do with the child (clearly a child of God - and indeed in this case born and being raised by loving parents) but the judgmental assertion of the inability of the parents and godparents to agree to 'renounce evil' and to bring up the child in the nurture of the Church on account of the state of the union between the parents. Go down that path and there will be even fewer baptisms by the CofE. Indeed in this case it appears that the family are clearly already part of the church family. As Jones makes clear, 'having godly living parents is not a pre-condition of a child's baptism. (It is after all the child that is being baptised not the parents.)' The Diocese of Chester has form in this area. Perhaps this case and the publicity it has generated might cause come incumbents to review their policy which, given the state of the CofE currently, would be a step in the right direction.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Wednesday, 3 June 2015 at 10:19pm BST

"Yes, thanks for that reminder. Had forgotten that having children out of wedlock is sinful, even evil. How silly of me." - Anthony Archer -

Oh Dear! And do we still need to call the child of such parents a bastard, I wonder?" We left that unkind archaism behind years ago in ACANZP.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 4 June 2015 at 12:25pm BST
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