Holy Baptism, Confirmation, Reception, and Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows
The Liturgical Commission of the Episcopal Diocese of New York has prepared a comprehensive document on Holy Baptism, Confirmation, Reception, and the Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows, titled Concerning Baptism. This guideline is a digest of the longer document.
See also Beliefs and Practices: Baptism and Confirmation
Holy Baptism is full initiation into Christ’s Body, the church. Baptism creates a bond which is indissoluble and unrepeatable.
Adults being prepared for Baptism should be prepared by using the guidelines for catechumenate in The Book of Occasional Services.
Children being prepared for Baptism should be prepared by using the guidelines for Baptism of Children in The Book of Occasional Services.
Infants and children should be baptized only when their families have demonstrated an active and supportive commitment to the Episcopal Church and to the congregation in which they are seeking Baptism. It is often appropriate to refuse to baptize a child when such commitment is clearly not intended. Such refusal should always be done sensitively, pastorally, and with a view toward the further growth of the pastoral relationship. In a case where Baptism is not appropriate, it may be suitable to celebrate the birth or adoption of a child using the rite in The Book of Common Prayer on page 439.
All Baptisms, except emergency Baptism, are to be ‘…administered within the Eucharist as the chief service on a Sunday or other feast’ (The Book of Common Prayer, page 298). The Book of Common Prayer, page 312, first paragraph, indicates that the Easter Vigil, the Day of Pentecost, All Saints’ Day, and the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ are especially appropriate days, as is a day of the bishop’s visitation.
Each adult candidate is to have at least one sponsor who is an active member of the congregation in which the candidate is to be baptized.
Each infant or younger child is to have at least one sponsor, called a godparent, who will make the baptismal vows on behalf of the child. Such a godparent must, therefore, be a member of the Episcopal Church and of the congregation that the candidate will be joining. In each of these two cases, other persons whose presence is desired by the family or by the candidate can be witnesses to the baptism, even if they are not members of this church.
A deacon may not preside at a Baptism, except as indicated in the next paragraph, but may pour the water over the candidate and may assist in other ways appropriate to that order.
Any baptized Christian may baptize in the case of an immediate impending death. Such emergency Baptisms must be reported to the parish of which the baptizer is a member, and should the newly baptized recover, the Baptism should be recognized at a public celebration of Holy Baptism as The Book of Common Prayer prescribes on page 314.
Our church recognizes all baptism performed with water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Under absolutely no circumstances may a valid Baptism be repeated.
Those who are baptized are thereby admitted to Holy Communion. Baptized infants should receive Holy Communion regularly.
No unbaptized person may receive Holy Communion.
Confirmation is the renewal of baptismal vows for those baptized at an early age who desire to make their first adult affirmation of faith. It is a sacrament of mature adulthood.
Baptism, not Confirmation, admits a person to Holy Communion.
With the bishop’s permission, congregations are encouraged to develop their own rites for adolescents should such rites seem pastorally required.
Reception is a renewal of baptismal vows for those who have made a mature affirmation of faith in any other Christian church and who now wish to join the Episcopal Church.
Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows is a renewal of baptismal vows for those who were baptized as adults without laying on of hands by a bishop, for those who have made a mature affirmation of faith but have returned from a lapse of Christian practice, for those concluding a period of personal or pastoral crisis, and for those who are experiencing a new call from God to grow in faith or to begin a new ministry.
Chrism should not be used at Confirmation, Reception and Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows.
Confirmation, Reception and Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows are all performed with laying on of hands.
The Book of Occasional Services provides an outline of the manner in which persons can be prepared for Confirmation, Reception and Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows.
The longer document, Concerning Baptism, contains many suggestions about how to implement these standards and adapt them to local needs.