Dangling the Carrot of Baptism
An Anglican priest has stopped baptizing the babies of unwed parents. Will this push cohabiting couples down the aisle?
BY: Merlene Davis
In England, there is a vicar of the Church of England who announced last week that he would no longer baptize the children of unmarried couples who are living together.
I know. I know. It sounds like blasphemy, but I wholeheartedly agree.
The vicar, Donald Allister, is not trying to punish the children for their parents' actions. He's simply saying that if you are going to live together and produce children, then you should get married if you want the blessings of the church.
The official wording of the new policy is: "When the parents are living together as man and wife but unmarried, we cannot baptize the baby (the Bible says that 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 a baptism."
What is wrong with that? If the relationship is still viable, what is holding back the wedding? A fear of commitment? Uncertainty? Well, the commitment is there if the union has produced a child. Period. Mother and father have a responsibility to that child for the rest of their lives. You can't get much more committed than that.
Uncertainty? If there is one thing for certain, it is that we all have to start acting like adults if we plan on rearing children. And adults understand that the teachings of the church are supposed to change us. We are not supposed to change the teachings of the church.
There are cohabiting adults throughout this city who cringe when I walk by. I am forever telling them to stop "living in sin" and get married. Yes, it's old, foggy thinking and well out of step with society. But I don't understand why it is OK to share every other aspect of married life but the legal one.
"The Church has not changed its view that children should be born and brought up in marriage and not outside it," Allister told a London newspaper. "We are not going to stand up and say it's right to have children outside marriage, because we don't think it is."
Allister, who is vicar of St. Mary's Parish Church in Cheadle, northern England, is not excluding every child born outside marriage from baptism. Not all single parents are unmarried by choice. Their children will be baptized. He only wants to push cohabiting couples down the aisle.
Needless to say, this move is not being well-received. Some have begun a boycott of the services at St. Mary's. And, of course, when there is controversy, some denomination officials run for cover. A Church of England spokesman said refusing to baptize a child was an unusual move on the part of a priest. However, "the vicar has the final say, but the Church finds it much better to be welcoming and inclusive rather than exclusive."
Translation: We need all the people we can get, regardless of how we get them, in order for our coffers to remain full. We don't have the slightest concern for their souls or for our responsibility to teach what's right.
I lived with my husband for four months before we got married, and I thought I would go nuts. We did it because we both came back to Lexington from other cities and knew it would be just a short time before we made it permanent.
But it was not worth it. I couldn't tell my parents. I didn't want my daughter thinking a man and woman living together was the same as marriage. And I just didn't like the way it made me feel.
I wasn't about to ignore those feelings just because society said our living together was OK. Neither will the vicar. For those who want their children baptized at St. Mary's, they must either get married or find another church with lower expectations.