Saturday, April 21, 2018

Baptism of Respect. . .

The Sunday Times reported on the then pending baptism (christening) and confirmation of Meghan Markle at Kensington Palace by Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury. According to the paper, the baptism will see Meghan – who was raised Protestant - join the Church of England.  Ms Markle has made it clear that she is becoming an Anglican out of respect for the Queen, her future grandmother-in-law, and her role as Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
It is certainly nice that she has such great respect for the Queen and wishes to prevent any disrespect for her and her role as head of the Church of England.  It would be even nicer if she were to follow the example of the Queen in faith and piety.  And it would be the nicest thing if she had the same deep and profound respect for what baptism is and what it bestows.

I have nothing against her and would not wish her any harm.  That said, it is less than salutary to be baptized for the sake of the feelings, approval, or respect of a person without intent to live out the new life bestowed in baptism.  I know.  It happens all the time.  Grandpa or Grandma or some other relative is on the case of the parent until finally the unbelieving or unobservant parent relents and brings the kid to the font.  I know.  You do not have to marry into the royal family in order to encounter the tension between respect for and the expectations of in-laws with respect to religion.  But none of this makes it good, right, and salutary and baptism is made into something cheap and meaningless when it is offered not for the sake of receiving what Christ offers but satisfying some sort of duty or respect to an individual or even a family.  The same is true of confirmation.  I know.  It happens all the time.  Youth are made to attend the catechism classes and before they know it are perched at the rail to confess that they will suffer death rather than fall away from the faith -- even though they have no realistic idea of what they are promising.  But Meghan is an adult.  Unless she desires to keep the promises inherent in her confirmation, it is a cheap and rather tawdry thing to confirm her.  Even for the sake of Grandma.

She will certainly join the Church of England -- at least in the sense of having her name recorded in the records of the C of E and her name appearing on a membership list.  But will she join the Church?  Well, therein lies the problem.  Baptism incorporates her into the Body of Christ and her confirmation locates her within that jurisdiction so, whether she intends to fulfill the promises or not, she is a member.  Hopefully she will not become a delinquent member. . . too soon.

That is the same path so many have trod.  They become members without the intention to fulfill membership.  The calling of the Church is to prepare the person for what baptism bestows and what confirmation promises mean.  That is what every parish pastor (worth his salt) does.  Hopefully Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, has accorded his very famous baptismal candidate and confirmand as well.


William Tighe said...

That Ms. Markle has been previously married, and then divorced, is evidently a mere bagatelle - perhaps because she was not baptized at the time?

Padre Dave Poedel said...

Let us not disparage the Sacraments of the Church and those who administer them; rather let us trust the God who reached out to this imperfect, indeed sinfully unworthy candidate, whatever her fame or commonality. Let us instead give thanks to God for His Church and those of us who He has Called and Ordained to administer those Sacraments to other unworthy candidates.