Baptism was not refused, diocese of Chester says

05 June 2015

A PRIEST in Manchester has denied refusing to baptise the nine-month-old child of an unmarried couple.

The mother, Heather Lawrence, told her local newspaper, the Manchester Evening News, that the Vicar of St John's, Dukinfeld, in Manchester, the Revd Tim Hayes, had told her and her partner that getting baptised was not a "ticket to heaven".

She was reported as saying: "In my eyes, if you are not baptised you can't be bought into the church, and you're not one of God's children." Ms Lawrence also said that baptism was a criteria for three of the schools in her area.

Mr Hayes told the newspaper that this had always been the policy at his church. "I believe marriage is God's way . . . [but] it's not so much about what I think, it's about what Jesus thinks," he said.

The couple had said they were saving up to get married, and could not yet afford the wedding. Mr Hayes said that if this was the case, he would offer the wedding ceremony for free to help them.

In ecclesiastical law, Canon Law B22 says that no minister should refuse to baptise a child or delay a baptism unnecessarily. If it does happen, then the parents are directed to approach the bishop of the diocese.

The Church of England website tells parents: "You do not have to be married to ask for a christening for your child. You do not have to have been a regular churchgoer - as parents, you do not even have to have been christened yourselves. Everyone is welcome at their local church."

A spokesman for the diocese of Chester said that Mr Hayes had not refused to baptise the couple's baby, Roman. "The Vicar, the Revd Tim Hayes, would very much like to encourage the couple to take the Christian initiation of baptism very seriously," he said. "At no point has he refused to baptise the child. . .

"The Vicar would be happy to help the couple be married, and then to baptise their child at no financial cost to them, so that the best outcome can be achieved. We hope the family will receive this offer warmly."

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