As is the case in other Sacraments or sacramental rites, the question of fitness for reception is addressed first. (The question of if the children have already been baptized is in all the classical Prayer Books too, though typically in a rubric before the start of the liturgy itself.) In this case, the twin realities of not having been baptized before, and desiring to be baptized now, are the immediate concerns. Those who are baptized in infancy or childhood, are not raised in the faith, and later come to believe in Christ, do not need a repeat Baptism. Indeed, as the Acclamation from Ephesians 4 already affirmed, there is indeed only one Baptism for the Christian. That being true, this does not mean that the church may indiscriminately baptize every child she comes across. When parents (with godparents, or sponsors) present children for Holy Baptism, they are expected to be ready to undertake the work of raising a Christian child.
The celebrant’s follow-up words (provided below) to the presentation of infants and younger children by parents and godparents is a speech that is new to the Prayer Book tradition. This is largely due to the decrease in understanding by the average church-goer regarding the solemn biblical meaning of Baptism, as well as a decreased normalcy in being baptized at all in Western culture at large. This innovation is not without precedent, however, as the American Prayer Book of 1928 contains a similar introductory speech to the parents and godparents before proceeding to the Promises, or Examination, or Profession of Faith.
Today, on behalf of this child, you shall make vows to renounce the devil and all his works, to trust God wholeheartedly, and to serve him faithfully. It is your task to see that this child is taught, as soon as he is able to learn, the meaning of all these vows, and of the Faith that you will profess as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. He must come to put his faith in Jesus Christ, and learn the Creeds, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and all other things that a Christian ought to know, believe, and do for the welfare of his soul. When he has embraced all these, he is to come to the Bishop to be confirmed, that he may publicly claim the Faith for his own and be further strengthened by the Holy Spirit to serve Christ and his kingdom.
As you can see, the Celebrant’s response to the presentation of a child or infant for Baptism is a carefully presented speech. The parents and godparents are responsible for:
- Making renunciations and vows on behalf of the child
- Seeing that the child is taught the meaning of these vows and the biblical faith
- Seeing that the child learns the Creeds, Lord’s Prayer, and Ten Commandments such that (s)he may put his/her faith in Jesus
- Bringing the child to Confirmation once (s)he has embraced the above on his/her own.