Baptism is a sacrament of the Anglican church. For many Anglicans it is the first sacrament they receive because they are baptized as infants, but that doesn't mean adults can't be baptized. The doctrine of baptism is set out in the Church's Thirty-nine Articles of Religion and the liturgy of baptism is in the Book of Common Prayer.

The Articles of Religion

The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, written by Archbishop Cranmer during the reign of Edward VI (1537 - 1553) was published by the Church of England in 1571 during the reign of Elizabeth I and is still used today. Article 27 sets out the Church's doctrine on baptism and Article 25 states the doctrinal belief about the purpose of all the sacraments. It states that the sacraments, including baptism, are not just symbolic acts of faith: God works invisibly through the sacrament to stimulate and strengthen a person's faith. Only two of the Church's sacraments are ordained by Jesus in the Bible: Baptism and Holy Communion.

The Doctrine of Baptism

Article 27 states that baptism differentiates the baptized from those who are not baptized. Baptism confers a state of being Christian on the person, and those who are not baptized are not Christian. It is a profession of faith and parents who have their infants christened are displaying their faith. A baby can't make a choice, but the Anglican doctrine encourages infant baptism because it represents the possibility of salvation and rebirth. It also blesses the infant with divine grace and Church protection. However, unlike the Roman Catholic church, the Anglican baptismal doctrine doesn't insist that babies must be baptized, it merely states that infant baptism is "wise" and "agreeable." It is not a guarantee of salvation, but in the words of the Book of Common Prayer, it is "an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace."

The Liturgy

The Church of England uses two baptismal services: the original one found in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and a more modern version. The introduction to the service expresses the doctrine clearly: mankind is born in sin and can only enter the kingdom of God through being born again. The ceremony of baptism by water and the Holy Spirit assists in attaining this state of grace and makes the child a member of "Christ's holy Church." Most of the baptismal service consists of prayers and instruction about the Christian life.

The Role of Godparents

A child's parents select godparents to represent the child at baptism. The Church expects that when the child is old enough he will make a statement of faith and repent his sins at the sacrament of confirmation. In the meantime, godparents make promises on the child's behalf. A godparent is supposed to act as a spiritual and moral guide for the godchild, according to the Church of England website. During the christening service, the godparents make a declaration of faith for the child by reciting the Apostles' Creed. The godparents are asked to make a series of responses about faith in Christ, belief in the resurrection, and the renunciation of the Devil and his works. The minister recites prayers relating to death and rebirth before baptizing the child in the name of the Trinity and making the sign of the cross on his forehead.