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CofE baptism inconsistency

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.

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74 thoughts on “CofE baptism inconsistency”

  1. I am afraid I think you may be wrong here.

    First of all how do you know that the person receiving the blessing has not asked for it (could be Roman Catholic) ….. I am assuming that they have indicated so.

    Secondly communion (at least in the Catholic tradition) is not a right – if someone is in a state of grave sin, maybe even excommunicated latae sententiae, they are excluded from communion. In fact the priest has a duty to withhold communion from a notorious and public sinner. I had a discussion on these lines with the Archbishop of Harare about giving communion to Robert Mugabe. A weekly mass goer.

    1. Thanks, Tim. If you suggest that the Church of England has changed its position, and now offers communion to all the baptised whatever their age (who are not in a state of grave sin, excommunicated latae sententiae, or indicating they do not wish to receive for an unspecified reason) then, yes, I acknowledge the primary point of my post is wrong. Otherwise, I stand by my primary point. Blessings.

    2. The Rev Dr.Robert D. Askren

      I worry about people who “assume” they know what is going on in a person’s life.
      The young person could be a Roman Catholic
      who is doing what his priest told him to do, to receive a blessing rather than take the sacrament. Also, the young person may have parents who want him to wait for Confirmation before receiving communion. Some people still follow the old custom.
      The main point is we simply don’t know what the young person’s choice for a blessing means. The main thing is he is present and participating in worship.

      1. Thanks, Robert.

        I am quite content that you assume a different main thing than I.

        For me the main thing in this post is to encourage reflection on the connection between baptism and communion and whether that means we give communion to baptised babies, infants, and children. I am quite content as over 7,000 people have participated in the discussion here so far.

        You and I both assume that this is the filming of an actual Eucharist. For others, the main thing is questioning that. For yet others the main thing was the baptism being private. For yet others the main thing was the financial cost of the baptism. And so on.


  2. Fr Michael Smith

    I think you’ll find it’s a PRIEST (pointless word in ‘woman’ – if it were a man presiding, would you say a ‘male priest’?) and not refusing; but offering a blessing. Your language is very negative. We, of course, do not know what happened and whether the person at the Altar rail came wanting a blessing or otherwise. I would suggest that on looking at the video, there was no request to receive communion, so it wasn’t refused. A blessing was given. What’s your issue?

    1. Thanks, Fr Michael.

      Since you are critiquing the use of my language rather than the primary point I am making, I also notice you use “it” for a woman priest, rather than “she”, and speak of “Altar rail” when there is none.

      Since the Church of England theologically-inconsistently allows women to be ordained to two orders, but not to a third, episcopacy, yes, I think that noticing the gender of the presider is not pointless in the context of noticing the other carefully included images of inclusivity – when the exclusion of many baptised is the primary point of my post. So yes, in some other contexts I would point out that it was a man presiding.

      “What’s your issue?” That the Church of England does not allow all the baptised to receive communion. Ie. Baptised babies, infants, children.


  3. You may be reading too much into the very, very brief scene in this video that depicts the Eucharist. Abp. Welby is addressing his comments to the wider audience that witnessed the baptism of Prince George, most of whom probably are not baptized Christians. It is unclear from the picture whether the parishioner has received the Eucharist or why she is getting a blessing. The video is not about open communion; we can assume that the parishioner did not ask for the sacraments and there is no reason to think that they were not offered. The focus of the video is to encourage people outside the Church to better understand the meaning of baptism and to move them to investigate it for themselves. In that it succeeds very well.

    1. All true, thanks Bruce. Nor am I arguing, as you are suggesting, for “open communion”. I am pointing out the inconsistency of a church which baptises infants but does not give them communion. Mine is not a systematic review of this video which, I repeat myself, “is a lovely video, beautifully edited, with very thoughtful content… an exemplary, laudable presentation”. Mine is a blog post noting that the church so takes for granted its position that in its very careful editing it has not noticed its presupposition. Blessings.

  4. We do know that our Eastern orthodox brethren give communion to the newly baptized, even if infants. They also chrismate the newly initiated. No need to wait for the right age for the 3 initiatory sacraments to be bestowed. It is odd for the Western Church to have made have moved away from the practice.

    I agree with your statements, Bosco, that if they are baptized, then nourishment must be given. Being in the state of grave sin might interfere with that nourishment, but the thought then makes the Eucharist a reward for behavior, rather than medicine for the soul that might be quite ill. Even the very ill near death may be offered some nourishment, if even just water. Someone coming to communion is saying “I’m hungry.” Those words are my cue to feed.

    1. Robert, not all of the Western Church has moved away from the practice you suggest, or rather some have moved back. The Episcopal Church in the US both offers communion and chrismation to the newly baptized, no matter what age (at least since 1979) as does the ELCA.

  5. Revd Dr Peter Thompson

    Thank you Bosco, your penultimate paragraph makes the point very well. Is it, at least in part, a problem of not having a theology of confirmation, and thus making it the rite of first communion to give it a validity. If we have a confidence in what confirmation is about we might separate it from communion, and allow all the baptised to receive. Or course, practice on the ground doesn’t always match canon law

    1. My understanding, Peter, and I am happy to be corrected, is that in some (many?) places the CofE now has a rite of “admission to communion” separate from confirmation. Yes, confirmation is a rite in search of a theology. But this new development is further theological confusion. As I understand it baptism is the rite of admission to communion. Blessings.

  6. I have no theoretical problem with the CofE practice of insisting that people are confirmed before they are offered communion.
    It starts from the same basis as those denominations who insist on adult baptism, ie that those taking the eucharist need to have some idea of what they are doing.

    However, I do think there is a considerable, and growing, practical difficulty. Every year in our small parish church we must have twenty baptisms. But there are considerably fewer confirmations – the great majority of those baptised in infancy never, it seems, make it to confirmation.

    So, while the parish communion movement has resulted in a demand for ever more eucharistic services (as opposed to services of the word), there are going to be fewer and fewer people eligible to receive communion.

    When an irresistible force meets an immovable object, something’s gotta give?

    1. Thanks, Laura. Correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that the CofE does not insist “that people are confirmed before they are offered communion” but in many places has a rite of “admission to communion”.

      Your second sentence underscores my very point. The insistence “that those taking the eucharist need to have some idea of what they are doing” consistently results in the same for baptism – as you say you have “the same basis as those denominations who insist on adult baptism”.

      So the CofE is inconsistent. Either stop baptising infants, or start communicating them.

      Then the rest of your problems disappear as the morning dew.


      1. I’m in no position to correct you, Bosco!

        So I imagine what you say [[the CofE does not insist “that people are confirmed before they are offered communion” but in many places has a rite of “admission to communion”]] must be correct.

        However, in practice, I have always found that confirmation is required in churches where I have worshipped before allowing people to take communion. Having said that, no one ever asked to see my certificate of confirmation (not sure I still have it).

        What is offered instead is a blessing – your ‘head-measuring’- which perhaps quarter of those going up receive?

        1. There is a lot in what you write, thanks Laura, to think through here. What would it mean to be invited to (present at) a family meal and be invited to receive, and a quarter present did, a handshake instead of food from the table? Blessings.

          1. Might it not be better, Laura, to press, as I am doing here, for the sort of equality so shockingly exemplified in Jesus’ own inclusive meal ministry? For Jehovah’s witnesses the number who can receive communion is so low that in most congregations there is no one to receive the elements at the celebration which is only once a year.


  7. As a new Anglican, I was under the impression that a person can ask for a blessing at any time and for any reason. Actually I refused communion for myself just this past Wednesday because I was dealing with my own sin and didn’t feel it right to take until I dealt with my own sin. It was my choice. If my priest knows of sin and the persons lack of repentance he will deny communion til confession. He takes leading his flock very seriously , not judging but keeping child of God out of a place of judgement. I actually respect and love him for that. He has our back even when it is hard.
    Our priest refuses children before being confirmed, though I agree with paedocommunion, I defer to his leadership and convictions. So unless you hear the priest refuse communion, there are valid reasons the person is receiving the blessing.

    1. Thanks, Tracy. My understanding is that God gives us communion “for the forgiveness of sin”. If a child has not known a Sunday without being fed at God’s table and visits your church and is refused communion I would be sorely perturbed. Blessings.

      1. If you are a child that receives Communion before Confirmation in your own church you or your parents should inform the priest in a CoE church you are visiting and s/he is obliged to give you Communion even if that is not the usual practice in their own church.
        At least that was the rule when my children were young and no priest has ever refused them.

  8. But how do you know whether the person was baptised? Maybe they weren’t?
    As baptism is for everyone, not just infants…
    I also wouldn’t generalise, as there are priests who invite all the baptised to communion, regardless of age.

    1. Thanks, Hannah. My understanding is that in the CofE “priests who invite all the baptised to communion, regardless of age” are breaking the church’s rules and can be disciplined. Have I got that wrong? It is a fascinating (other) discussion at which point priests should break their church’s rules on a matter that they have come to a strong position on. Blessings.

  9. Yes the Church of England does have a practice of admitting baptised children to communion before confirmation. One of the problems is that there is no consistent policy throughout the church – it depends on individual bishops what is allowed in each diocese – and then within each diocese each parish can admit children within those limits. So for example some dioceses still have an age limit (e.g. 8 or 6) while others have none (which is in line with the national guidelines.) This means that children moving house may find themselves as the only children able to receive communion in their new church – and their younger siblings may not be admitted. If children have been admitted to communion, no one is (in theory) allowed to refuse them, whatever their own beliefs. I was once present at an Easter Day service with a group of 4 and 5 year olds who watched intently as the priest consecrated the bread and wine. At the invitation they all turned to me (the children’s minister) and asked, “Is it for us?” I’m not sure what message the answer “no” gave to these children.

      1. Hi Bosco, the link is here: http://tinyurl.com/pa9gwzm and open The Children and Holy Communion Regulations. It includes the role of the bishops and also that there is no right of refusal for children who have been admitted to communion. I think the earlier version may have specified the age of the child but in this one it is left to individual bishops/clergy.

  10. Fr Gareth Powell

    I think Canon B15a makes this very clear. Those who have been confirmed are encouraged to communicate, those from other Christian traditions who are baptised are welcome to. Where a baptised child wishes to communicate but does not feel ready for confirmation their parish priest myay petition their bishop to allow this (see 190-192 in the Canons of the C of E).

    This position (aside from the petitioning of the bishop for children) has not changed since the reformation and confirmation has been seen as a sacrament in its own right separate from baptism, though I wish we did follow the East in this regard and baptise and confirm at the same time. However, this doesn’t detract from very clear canons on this.

    So the person in the video may a) not be confirmed b) not have been petitioned to receive c) in mortal sin d) already been to mass that day e) been Roman Catholic or Orthodox (or not even a Christian!). I guess it reinforces the point that God welcomes and desires to bless all, yet we must also be willing to receive Christ in good conscience and with good faith.

    1. Thanks, Fr Gareth.

      I have found the canons mentioned, for those looking for them:
      That points to new regulations
      I cannot see what “190-192 in the Canons of the C of E” refers to.

      Yes, some (many) see confirmation “as a sacrament in its own right separate from baptism”. I think identifying the chrismation part of baptism in Eastern Christianity with the Western practice of confirmation (which regularly involves no chrism whatsoever!) may become a theological/liturgical flight of fancy. I have always used episcopally-consecrated oil at every baptism I have administered, and I would be surprised if you have not also.


  11. I’ve now watching this a couple of times, read your post a couple of times, and then went *back* to look at the scene you’ve referenced. And I’m still not getting the point you’re trying to make or, more accurately, how the frame with that blessing makes it.

    Both as someone distributing Eucharist and as someone receiving, I’ve been in situations where the person has made it clear she/he wants a blessing and is not wishing to receive Communion. In my case, it’s usually when I know I won’t be able to receive a gluten-free host and as someone in recovery, I go nowhere near that wine!

    IF your point is all baptized should be welcome at the table, then I agree. In fact, I receive (if it’s gluten free or a teensy piece) in any and every church I visit, regardless of denomination!

    Pax max…

  12. The official CofE position is here

    Essentially, a parish may apply for episcopal permission to share bread and wine with children. Some bishops will permit it – but normally require the parish to put in place a policy specifying a minimum age, how parental consent will be obtained, suitable preparation for the children, a service to mark the occasion of first communion, and an expectation that the children will present themselves for confirmation in due course. My parishes are in the process of putting this in place at the moment.

    My personal preference would be to offer bread and wine to all baptized people, regardless of age – but that is a major culture change for most of the CofE (even getting this far has been quite a journey for my congregations) so this is perhaps a good step on the way. And it does serve to give confirmation more meaning, as an act of adult commitment.

    1. Thanks, Mark. The NZ Anglican Church was in the position you describe forty years ago, and moved (back) to the position of baptism for all the baptised two and a half decades ago. Not only does the cultural shift you describe give integrity to our theology, but it transforms baptism from a cute naming ceremony done also to boats, to admission to communion, church membership, and all the sense of commitment inherited from our confirmation-culture past. Blessings.

  13. “God’s love is offered without qualification, without price, without cost to all people in all circumstances always.”

    How true. But, we humans have been very quick to place qualifications and restrictions and costs. Religion unfortunately tends to be like that.

    It’s useful to reflect on what the gospels tell us about whom Jesus admitted to the last supper – Judas who he knew had already agreed to betray him, Peter whom he knew was about to publicly deny him 3 times, and the others who were all arguing among themselves as to who would be the leader after Jesus.

    ‘Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus’ puts it well.


    Kudos to the Anglicans who feed all the baptised hungry.

    God Bless

  14. Ok So I’m an ex-Australian Uniting Churchie now serving as clergy in the United Methodist Church in the USA – so I really don’t have a dog in the CofE race (but I did preach in 2012 at Westminster Abbey’s Good Friday service…!!). Anyway, all points about sacramental theology aside, I wanted to share one of the most amazing things I am experiencing around the table where I serve (I am very high on the old sacramental candle btw…). Upon appointment, I changed the method of distribution and receiving here from one of the ‘little cups’ and small pre-cut pieces of unleavened bread to sharing from a common loaf and common cup (using intinction). When my kids come around the table, I break off the biggest piece of the loaf I can – sometimes enough to eat from for the rest of the service. To see the roundness of their eyes at such a gift, and the smiles on the faces of those gathering around the table is amazing. I usually make the point that if we can’t visibly see that God is generous around the table, then how can we preach and believe that God is generous in all other things. Sure – some my fault me on the theological correctness of such, but it’s such a positive and affirming experience for my kids… and one I am sure they will remember all the way through adulthood.

  15. I think while it “could” be the case that the person in the scene has requested a blessing, the circumstances suggest otherwise. The person being blessed seems to be a youth or child, and in my experience the only reason a child or youth isn’t communed is because they are waiting for confirmation… at the ill advised direction of a well meaning, but incorrect adult.

    Lutheran ecclesiology is different than Anglican, in that the parish pastor holds the highest teaching office in the congregation, and not the bishop. And therefore, pastors (priests) and not bishops do all the confirmations in parishes.

    As Lutherans in North America dealt with the issue of communion of the baptized, the argument was made by some (often lay people) that children should be confirmed, so that they have been properly instructed and “understand” communion. What I find laughable is that most Lutheran pastors have trouble “correctly” articulating Lutheran doctrine on Christ’s presence in the Eucharist.

    Nevertheless, in the Lutheran rite for baptism, the water baptism is followed by the laying on of hands in prayer and the marking of the sign of the cross in oil. This is technically baptism AND confirmation.

    So as communion of the baptized was being debated by church conventions (synods), pastors were already practicing it by insisting that anyone who had been baptized Lutheran was also, technically, confirmed and therefore eligible to receive communion.

    To be honest… I find it surprising that the CofE doesn’t practice communion of the baptized.

  16. I like and respect Justin Welby, but I was not really impressed with this video – for a very different reason than the one you give here, Bosco. Since I consider myself to be a rather clumsy liturgist and a much better evangelist (not something I’m boasting about, I hasten to add), my reservations are on the rather tenuous connection between the Gospel and what the Archbishop has to say about baptism. I’ve outlined my views on my own blog.


  17. Some people choose to get a blessing instead of receiving the Eucharist.

    In my previous parish, we had a paid singer who was Roman Catholic and did not want to receive but went up to the altar rail for a blessing to keep the procession of choir members running smoothly.

  18. Micah 6:3

    Why are ‘God’s people’ so hell-bent on finding every opportunity to emphasise division and separation?

    Love one another.

    With love.

    1. Not quite sure how your comment all fits together, Jason. Are you criticising the church for separating children, and encouraging the church to allow children to receive communion, or are you criticising people for pointing out that there is an issue worth discussing, and suggesting that we should always leave things uncritically just the way we find them? Blessings.

  19. I cannot believe that anyone going to the altar rail & holding out their hands would be refused communion – do we have to take our baptism & confirmation certificates along to church now?
    And in fact the two mandatory sacraments are baptism & communion.
    Our children in the SEC are given communion from a young age if they wish it – they are admitted to communion by the bishop – confirmation is not necessary & usually happens when the child is older.
    To refuse a sinner communion is in my opinion a sin – we are all sinners & many are blind to their sin. If sinners cannot receive the sacrament then no-one should be at the altar rail.
    This kind of nonsense is why I would not rejoin the Church of England if I moved south of the border again – the table is the table, not of man, but of God – it is His invitation to EVERYONE who wishes to be fed.

    1. The CofE has a way to go – agreed.
      But if you moved south of the border, your children would be welcome to receive: the rules are clear that once a child has been admitted to HC in one parish (which would include the SEC), they may not be refused in another parish. And a communicant member of any church ‘which subscribes to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity’ is welcome to receive communion in any CofE church,regardless of age.

  20. I don’t need to labour the point and say what others have said about blessing bit I’d like to share what it’s like in my CofE parish church. We welcome baptised children to receive Communion when they and their parents feel they are ready. We don’t have a “formal” process but if a child and parents comes and the child expresses why they’d like to receive Communion then they are welcomed with joy. My own daughter received at the age of three. Without asking me she was in Church when the Bishop was there and she marched up and said “I love Jesus and Jesus loves me. Why can’t I have Communion? ” she received an hour later in the service.

  21. Baptism signifies entry into the worldwide church of Christ. Confirmation effectively confers membership of a given denomination. So CofE baptism is recognised by Roman Catholics and vice versa, but confirmation is into the RC *or* CofE church, not both. Members of the church share communion, and members of other churches that are in communion with the CofE are welcome to join as well. Some children share communion before being confirmed – it varies by Diocese. Age isn’t the issue here. People baptised as adults in the CofE are expected to be confirmed as soon as possible afterwards. With your knowledge of church history I’m reluctant to go into explanations about how/why the original rite of passage was split…

    I *don’t* ask people whether they have been confirmed/are in a state of grace etc etc. I *do* invite those who do not wish to receive communion to come forwards for a blessing, and to indicate this at the point of distribution.

    1. This is a fascinating comment, “HG”.

      Where are you getting this idea that “confirmation is into the RC *or* CofE church, not both”? Where would you find such a suggestion in the rites? It appears to abandon the idea that the CofE is the Church of England. And similarly with the self-understanding of Roman Catholicism. It turns both these churches into sects with separate membership. I would be very surprised to discover that the CofE would confirm (again) someone who was episcopally confirmed in the RC church – could you provide evidence of such a suggestion?

      Please, it is the practice of this site to just use your ordinary name [which is visible to me in your email address].

      Looking forward to continuing this discussion with you.


      1. Confirmation is Confirmation. The CofE makes no distinction between RC and CofE confirmation. There is a rite of Reception into the Communion of the CofE which may be used, when pastorally desirable, but it is emphatically not confirmation, and does not involve laying-on of hands.

  22. It looks as if I’ve misunderstood the RC view of Confirmation; I apologise. It is most definitely *not* my intention to create division, but I am trying to acknowledge the real differences that we encounter. In practice I’ve experienced mixed responses to the invitation to share communion by my RC friends – some will receive, some will come forward for a blessing, some will not, depending on what their local priest has taught them.
    As far as I know people are not *re-confirmed* any more than they are re-baptised (I’m excluding ‘believers baptism’ of adults who were baptised as children etc here for the sake of simplicity), but the ‘reception’ rite does suggest a ‘transfer of membership’ for those who have been confirmed in a different tradition.
    Regarding children, we do have Diocesan guidelines for receiving children into communion, but there is often pastoral flexibility. Legally, if a child has been in the practice of receiving in one church and moves into my parish then they may continue to receive.
    I agree it is a bit of a muddle at times.

    1. Thanks, Helen.

      I think the solution to the muddle is to (re)accept, and formally, that baptism is admission to communion, and that receiving communion completes the sacrament of initiation. That has been the primary thrust of my bringing this all up.


  23. Your position has the advantage of being simple, and easy to understand, but it also creates some difficulties.
    At the heart of the problem is the issue of infant baptism, which is a problem for many, and not an easy one to fix while still keeping the church as ‘open’ as possible for all. There is now a service of ‘Thanksgiving for the gift of a child’ which, in theory, avoids the need to make promises that might be difficult to speak with integrity, but in practice I find most people still want a ‘proper christening’, with water. Given that the memory of this service goes back to the Middle Ages I don’t think we’ll solve it in one generation. And I’m not sure that your solution will fix the problem, because we will then have the very situation that people who only recognise believers baptism, are trying to address. There is an interesting tension here between ideas of ‘prevenient grace’, and of the ‘community of believers’.
    Now for me that raises another question – do we need boundaries to define who is and who is not part of that community or do we follow a universalist argument? If you take the argument forwards to include those with limited capacity etc… it remains, a bit of a muddle.

    1. Thanks, Helen.

      I’m not sure how my position creates the difficulties you describe. It is the position of my province and has been, as I’ve noted, for two and a half decades. It is the position of a number of other Anglican provinces without difficulties, and has been the practice of much of the Christian Church (as has also been noted several times in this thread) uninterrupted since Jesus.

      We, too, have Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child. It has no connection with baptism, and is no solution to those who accept only adult baptism as far as I can see. Those “people who only recognise believers baptism” is not an Anglican position.

      I am not sure what you mean by “those with limited capacity etc” and how this connects.

      I appreciate the discussion.


  24. Hi Bosco,

    Sorry if I’ve missed this above (couldn’t face reading everything in the end!), but at the risk of repeating: great point, well made.

    How dare we refuse to feed those baptised. Like planting a seed and not watering it.

    Thanks, great post.
    With joy,


  25. With regard to the comments about confirmation in RC and CofE – the CofE wouldn’t reconfirm an episcopally confirmed RC, but would do so in the case of a Roman Catholic who was confirmed by a priest. Confirmation is one of those things we Anglicans insist on wheeling a bishop out for!

    And to reiterate a point made above – can we get away from this idea that people have to understand communion in order to receive it? How on earth would you gauge the level of understanding required? How would we allow for different understandings of the Eucharist? Isn’t this the whole point of it being a “holy mystery”?

  26. I have mixed feelings about whether very young children should be admitted to communion, and am certainly glad to have been confirmed when I was old enough to give informed consent. While God’s love is offered to all, being a disciple of Christ crucified is certainly not a cost-free, always-happy experience: it involves a willingness to die to self – and in some cases actually to die – and to affirm an allegiance that overrides obedience to the state or any other institution.

  27. A blessing is a gift…and the person may have asked for it, if they were Roman Catholic it may have been their request. Still, while I understand the sense it smacks of inclusion, a blessing is not a lesser gift…

    1. Thanks, June, for bringing this up – quite a different point.

      I don’t think anyone here has suggested that a blessing is “a lesser gift”. I don’t think anyone here has been ranking gifts. It is a different gift.

      You are a child in a family, and every time at the family meal you don’t get fed, but a parent gives you a CD. Every time. The other family members are fed – you get a CD. It’s not a lesser gift – it’s a different gift!

      And often in church ritual more fuss is made over the blessing of a person at communion time than over the person receiving communion – it takes longer, has more focus, more intentionality… Just like some are comfortable to have more focus and intentionality and complex rituals surrounding the money collected than they would ever dream of putting around Jesus’ command to use bread and wine…


  28. Who should receive communion? Let us not forget that Judas was included when Jesus first blessed and offered bread and wine at the Last Supper. (That should answer the question about the state of soul and the reception of the Lord’s Body and Blood.)

    How do we know if a communicant has been baptized? When I was young, I was taught how to Baptize (this was at age 7) and also that there was something called “Baptism of Desire.” This bears on “state of soul” as mentioned above.

    I am in total agreement that tiny babies merit “feeding” at the Table of the Lord. Interestingly, babies in the Orthodox tradition are baptized at around 3 months of age. This is precisely when babies are already very alert and attentive to what is going on. Babies, to my mind, are Icons of God. Through them we see the Glory of God already visible.

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention, Bosco.

  29. I have followed this this discussion with interest, and can add little, but to ask about Adolescent Rites of Commitment and the connection of Confirmation to Eucharist and and a later step Ministry. Commitment seems to be a core issue – how many backsides-on-seats of the baptised and those who have recieved first eucharist, contribute to the worship of God, the collection plate, or the reality of the Gospel each week? How many backside on seats regardless of theological questions? Are the poor fed, the homeless housed, or do we count angels on pin-heads? (Also many a Roman Catholic would happily recieve Eucharist at an Anglican table. A theology of conscience is a wonderful thing.)

    1. Good points, thanks Phillip. I am all in favour of the development of such rites – aged sevenish, early teenage (starting secondary), late teenage (leaving secondary) all seem opportunities when many young people are seeking to commit. Blessings.

  30. Just a quick reply.

    I used ‘limited capacity’ because that is the term I am familiar with – for babies, dementia sufferers, the brain-injured, people with other forms of limitation to their ability to understand the world.
    We’re not going to reach agreement here because my tradition asks people to have some understanding of what they are doing when they take communion – in effect it is an act of commitment made by a consenting adult (with confirmation as that right of passge into the world of adults), rather like marriage. So we are starting from different positions.
    I enact the requirement to accept children for communion, and I wouldn’t preach or advise against it, but I am unfomfortable with the concept.
    I am fully aware that ‘believers baptism’ isn’t the position of the Church of England, but many peope who come to our churches, open as they are to all, have different denominational backgrounds, and the age and competence of the person to undergo baptism remains a live discussion topic. In some cases people who only accept adult baptism will accept a service of Thanksgiving (or as they often call it, dedication) as an interim welcome to their child.

    1. Thanks for opening this discussion, Helen,

      The position I am starting from (that you say is different for you) is the Anglican position of baptism available for all, set in this thread in the frame of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s teaching given here, eg. “God’s love is offered without qualification, without price, without cost to all people in all circumstances always.” This is Christian teaching from the earliest. And seeking a consistency from that position.

      There is a consistency with those who insist on baptism for believers only demanding the same for communion, as the language about communion often, in scripture and tradition, parallels the language of baptism. You will acknowledge, of course, that there are many who accept believers-only baptism who offer communion to the unbaptised.

      What we have is a cafeteria Christianity, picking and mixing what beliefs to choose. You will know some who hold your position on baptism and communion but do not accept that you, as a woman, have a right to preach or advise in the presence of men.

      What is the threshold for being allowed to receive communion in your tradition? Is there an academic test one needs to pass? Or does each person need to have reached the limit of their understanding possible for their particular IQ which is measured independently? If the latter, some of your congregation would not be allowed to receive communion until they had published their PhD on the topic, while what you call those of limited capacity would be able to receive communion. If the former, please let us know what the teaching is that the communicant must be able to articulate.

      I am, of course, wondering what one does with the practice and teaching of Jesus in relation to children, babies, dementia sufferers, the brain-injured, people with other forms of limitation to their ability to understand the world, and passages such as Ἕξελθε ταχέως εἰς τὰς πλατείας καὶ ῥύμας τῆς πόλεως καὶ τοὺς πτωχοὺς καὶ ἀναπήρους καὶ χωλοὺς καὶ τυφλοὺς εἰσάγαγε ὧδε?


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