With same-sex marriage a reality, something like this was bound to come up.
And it did in of all places, the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida and two partnered men have a baby and want the baby to have the rite of Holy Baptism.
Here you maybe surprised but on the surface I do not see the problem.
But of course there is a problem with it, right?!
It all started when Rich McCaffrey posted on Facebook that he and his partner were interested in raising their adopted son, Jack, in the church as a Christian. According to the article, they did some research and looked at their local Episcopal church, the Cathedral church of St. Luke, the seat of the Central Florida diocese. The couple met with the dean of the cathedral, dean being essentially the rector of the church, and the Rt. Rev. Dean Anthony Clark agreed to perform the rite. Dean Clark suggested a service held on Sunday evening as that is a more "open-minded" group of parishioners.
That should have been a clue to the couple that there might be some resistance to this move.
But everything was moving along and the parents and baby were attending services and taking the required classes.
And then, well then is when bad news came to the parents.
Dean Clark contacted Mr. McCaffrey and his partner, Eric, and told them that they could not have the baptism at all. Not at the evening service, Sunday morning, not ever at that church. According to the article, Dean Clark said that there was an "internal debate" at the church and that some parishioners voiced opposition to having the service.
After all, Jack has two daddies and if they allowed the baptism to take place, wouldn't they in fact and indeed indirectly endorse the fact that the daddies are married.
I do not look at this at the level of being a full participant at a same-sex wedding. That should be a matter of conscience and it is quite different than baptizing a child in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
Some of the opposition is based of the part of the Episcopal baptism service where the parents and Godparents are asked some questions. Here they are, with the answers all are to provide:
Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces
of wickedness that rebel against God?
Answer I renounce them.
Question Do you renounce the evil powers of this world
which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?Answer I renounce them.
Question Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you
from the love of God?Answer I renounce them.
See, if one does not recognize the religious validity of the couple putting the child up for baptism, then wouldn't they be accepting the three questions in general and the third question especially? If you think the sexual act the is homosexuality is a sinful desire, well that is a valid point.
But how many parents and or Godparents are not living virtuous lives in answering any of the questions? How many could be having affairs? Unmarried? Addicts?
You get my point.
So, I have another, more theological quandary.
I became a Christian as an adult. When I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior, I made a conscious choice to join an Episcopal church. I was eventually baptised and confirmed in the Episcopal Church.
But I did so as an adult after making a decision for Christ.
I vacillate constantly about infant vs. adult baptism. In this case I think a dedication is appropriate. Or the parents could have had a private baptism. Or they could wait until Jack is of age to make his decision. Still take him to church and Sunday school and the like.
But as I think of all of this, including the valid arguments on both sides, I think that grace more than anything is needed for Jack's sake. There is a great book on the subject of grace in the Christian context, What's So Amazing About Grace by Phillip Yancey. It has helped me in those situations where grace is the only answer.
Sometimes when all else fails, grace is the only answer.
I commend the parents wanting to raise Jack in the Christian faith. Even if I don't get the fact that they are a married same-sex couple. They went to a church that they believed and were led to believe at the very least they would be able to have their son baptized. Some people in and out of leadership did not want it to happen for valid reasons. There was an impasse.
But the diocesan bishop, the Rt. Rev. Bishop Gregory Brewer, stepped in and personally reached out to Mr. McCaffrey and Eric and met with them personally. In the statement from the diocesan website, the Rt. Rev. Bishop Brewer said that the three had an open and frank discussion and eventually, Jack will be baptized later this year and the Rt. Rev. Bishop Brewer will perform the baptism himself.
This was and is a moment of grace.
The Rt. Rev. Bishop Brewer is a supporter of traditional marriage and thus had to exhibit a great deal of grace by showing himself to be open enough to performing the baptism of a child of two men that he does not believe is biblical correct.
It is for me to deal with this issue is to use grace and while maybe not being down with same-sex parents, that the child that will be baptised will be raised in the Christian faith and in the Episcopal tradition. And grace does not mean one is selling out serious belief. It means one is looking at a bigger picture.
So to answer the question from the headline, yes I think it is important not to deny the most important sacrament of the church to a child who cannot help his own upbringing and the baptism should be done.