rite of baptism

Anglican Bishop makes case for children’s church, gives insight on Baptism @ Synod  

by Church Times

The Bishop of the Diocese of Lagos Mainland, Anglican Communion, The Rt. Revd Akinpelu Johnson has provided a detailed theological explanation on the rite of Baptism as carried out by the Church.

 Bishop Johnson gave the insight while delivering his charge at the first session of the 6th Synod of the Diocese which took place at All Saints Church, Yaba on Friday, May 27.

 He also made a strong case for Sunday School, also known as Children’s Church; appealing to stakeholders in the church to invest more in that aspect of the church.

 The well-researched paper also touched on the socio-political situation in the country. It put a searchlight on the security situation in Nigeria, the war in Ukraine, and a wide range of other issues.

From Left to Right: Assistant Registrar of the Diocese, Barrister Bayo Fakunle, Registrar, Lady Chikwue Ochiagha, Wife of Lagos State Governor, Mrs. Ibijoke Sanwoolu, Bishop Akinpelu Johnson, and his wife, Olabo at the Synod.

Rite of Baptism

Dwelling on the theme of the Synod, “Let the Children Come to me” the Anglican Bishop stressed in the course of his presentation that there is a need to examine the rite of Baptism as it is being done in the church which he said was one major difference between the Anglican Church and other churches.

 Bishop Johnson observed that despite the investment in the youth in the church, there has not been a commensurate impact. He then suggested that the church has to begin to pay keen attention to the children and invest more in them.

 He said, “The youths by nature are restless and would often wonder, but it is our belief that if we get the Sunday school stage right, we will not have to struggle as we do now to get the youths and retain them within the Anglican Church.”

 The Bishop noted that the Anglican Church has a large army of healthy children.

Children not handled well

He however submitted that “Very often, we find that children are not being taught in conducive environments and that in very many places, the number of children present, and the space allocated to them do not make for effective teaching.

 “Too often, children did not have individual copies of the Sunday school manual and therefore could not really benefit from it. It seems for some churches, there is simply no means of making this readily available to each child, and perhaps for others, it is a case of not seeing the need for the investment in the Sunday school.

 “At the Diocesan headquarters, we are aware of the many delays before payment for and collection of materials by Vicars. Is this merely down to a lack of funds? We don’t think so; there surely is an element of a lack of concern for the Sunday School by some vicars”

Deadlier issue confronting the church

Beyond investing in young people, Bishop Johnson stated that a deadlier issue confronting the church has to do with the content of what is being taught in the children’s Sunday School.

 He noted that one of the issues that have come under pressure in the Anglican Church has to do with Baptism and the church’s understanding of it.

 While noting that Baptism is an outward sign of an experienced inner grace, he said some churches including  some Anglicans disagree and hold the view that “baptism of infants and children cannot be considered as legitimate as infants and young children cannot express faith in Christ.”

 He then said, “in discussing our Sunday School we must try to come to some understanding as to why the Anglican Church upholds infant baptism, the role of the Sunday school (which is usually the first port of call for infant children in our churches), in preparing them till they are ready for Confirmation as youths or adults, in the hope that they would take their place as adults in the church”

Rite of Baptism

Bishop Johnson sttessing a point at the Synod

Paul’s statement on Baptism

 Bishop Johnson then went on to give a detailed insight on the Baptism rite and the different theological leanings of the church from the third century.

 He noted for instance that Paul in the Bible had some other interpretation of Baptism.

According to him, “In Galatians (3:27), Paul speaks of baptism as being clothed in a new garment, since he describes the baptized as having ‘put on Christ’; and both Colossians 3:9-10 and Ephesians 4:22-24 speak of putting off the old nature putting on the new.

 “This imagery of ‘putting off and putting on’ is like the eschatological scene in 2Cor. 5:2-3, which expresses the desire ‘to put on our heavenly dwelling, so that … we may not be found naked.

 “This expression may in turn have arisen because of candidates for baptism taking off their clothes and entering the water for baptism and dressing up after. There might also have been a reference to the passage in Revelation 7:9-14, which describes the countless multitude wearing robes washed white in the blood of the Lamb.”

Christian Baptism is different from other forms of Baptism

 Drawing heavily from the scripture,  Bishop Johnson stressed that the Christian Baptism is different from other forms of Baptism including John’s baptism.

 He submits, “The death and resurrection of Christ, therefore, differentiates Christian baptism from other baptisms and for Paul, Christian baptism is the means by which the baptised person is joined to Christ; hence it is our initiation into the Church, which is ‘the Body of Christ’. It might be fair to say that the New Testament knows no other way by which one can become part of Christ apart from baptism.”

 In the over 100-page presentation, Bishop Johnson examined the issue of baptism to a great length. He traced the genesis of the dispute over infant baptism to some church fathers in the third century.

 He states, “The earliest undisputed reference to the practice was in the early third century from Tertullian in North Africa, in his treatise ‘De Baptismo’ in which he argues against the practice.

 “Some scholars however suggest that the tradition of infant baptism probably goes back to the first century based on how one interpreted New Testament references to the baptism of a ‘household’ (Acts 16:15; 1 Cor. 1:16) should be understood. Did the ‘household’ include very young children or not?

 “At the same time too, if infant baptism went back to the first century, then it did not quickly replace adult baptism as the norm everywhere. Unlike Tertullian, Cyprian in third-century North Africa argued in favour of the practice and left to him, this could take place even before the eighth day.

 “At this time too, it was also common for even adults to delay baptism for as long as possible, sometimes even until their death bed. The problem of the need to profess faith in Christ in the practice of infant baptism was solved by allowing others to speak for them. It was in the writings of Augustine of Hippo that a theological justification for the practice was first put forward.

 “He argued that faith was not a prerequisite for baptism as in the case of an adult, but that faith was bestowed on the child through the faith of others in the celebration of the rite itself.”

 Threat to peace in Lagos State

 While thanking God for the relative peace in Lagos State and the leadership provided by the governor of the State, Mr. Babajide Sanwooolu, Bishop Johnson expressed worry over the recent news that over 250,000 cutlasses were discovered by the Nigeria Customs Service in a container.

 He said, “It is more probable than not, that various other offensive weapons might have already come into the country to be unleashed on innocent Nigerians during the electoral process next year. The situation of things in the country, calls not only for prayers but also for vigilance; not only on the part of our security agencies but also by every well-meaning citizen.

 “For instance, we must not take our eyes off the ever-increasing numbers of ‘okada’ riders, who will never obey traffic laws, and are aggressive in riding and behaviour. The rising cases of violence in their dealings with law enforcement officers and other road users are further emboldening them. Their number alone is a security risk factor.”

 Bishop Johnson however commended governor Sanwoolu for the increasing investment in infrastructure in the state. This according to him has to some extent ameliorated the plight of residents of the State.

The Bishop bemoaned the economic situation of the country, the rising inflation, and the general insecurity in the country.



Related Posts

Leave a Comment