People have been urging me to watch this week’s video by the Archbishop of Canterbury. And to post it.
So I went to look for it. And indeed, as you see, it is a lovely video, beautifully edited, with very thoughtful content. And then suddenly, without any warning, in an otherwise exemplary, laudable presentation, there comes a moment so grating that I could not believe what I had just observed.
In dulcet tones the Archbishop of Canterbury has been saying
…baptism is at its heart about the gift of God…
…being baptised meant you joined the family of the church and that’s what it means today…
people… might say…is it just for special people? And of course the great good news is that God doesn’t care. It’s for adults and children. And there may be people wondering, “I wonder if that’s at all possible?”…And the answer is that it’s not just possible, it’s extremely easy. God’s love is offered without qualification, without price, without cost to all people in all circumstances always.
And at that very moment – I get a shock. I go back and look again, and more carefully again, to check that what I observed is correct.
This intensely, carefully edited video, with its clearly intentional inclusive images of ages, and ethnicity and gender here, at the very centre of the video, shows up the inconsistency of the Church of England’s baptismal position and does so in a way that underscores it is so blind to its own inconsistency it did not even notice the way it so blatantly declares it.
The images is developed of people arriving to celebrate Eucharist together, old, young, black, white, ordained, lay, religious sister, secular – all led by a woman priest. And at the exact moment that the Archbishop says “God’s love is offered without qualification to all people in all circumstances” the image (3:23) is of the Church of England practice of a priest refusing a baptised person communion and giving a blessing instead.
The words are one thing. The image, and the reality, is quite another. This young person who is told they are included by God in God’s family, with brothers and sisters all over the world, not because of anything they have done or not done, even when they did not know it – this young person gathers at God’s table – and when it appears to be their turn to be nourished at God’s family table they are refused God’s food and drink and have their head measured instead.
Obviously sola scriptura leads to adult-only, believers-only baptism – and that has its own integrity. But if you baptise all, adults and children and infants – then feed all. What family waits until they are “old enough” before they start nourishing a baby? What parents say, “but he doesn’t understand what he is doing when he is drinking”, “she doesn’t know her food groups”, “they haven’t passed the test on the digestive system yet”?
The Archbishop concludes,
The most important thing that I say to the child are some words that the Church of Scotland use
“For you Jesus Christ came into the world. For you he lived and showed God’s love. For you he suffered the darkness of Calvary and cried at the last, ‘It is accomplished.’ For you he triumphed over death and rose to new life. For you he reigns at God’s right hand. All this he did for you, though you do not know it yet.”
All this is just as true as we offer God’s nourishment to all, whatever their age, whom God has welcomed into God’s church through baptism. To do otherwise is to excommunicate one whom God in fact welcomes. Communion is the duty and the right of all the baptised.