What Shall We Do with Heretical Bishops, Priests, Deacons, and Laity in the Church of England, and with Baptism?

Nov 21, 2023 by

By Rollin Grams, Bible and Mission. (Editor’s note: Prof Grams asks some important questions around the recognition of baptism and holy orders performed in dioceses under revisionist bishops and looks at the decisions of early Church Councils)


The question of what to do with heretical bishops, priests, deacons, and laity in the Church of England is now front and centre.  This past week, the General Synod met and backed blessings for same-sex couples.  The vote showed a strong majority for bishops and slim majorities for priests and laity.[1]  Three issues that come immediately to mind for orthodox Christians should be: ‘Should the ordinations of heretical clergy be received?’ and ‘Should baptism performed by heretical clergy in a now apostate Church of England be received by the orthodox, true believers?’  While many think the pressing question is whether there might be an orthodox diocese within the Church of England for orthodox clergy and churches, matters like ordination and baptism show that there can be no such arrangement.  The third issue is, ‘What do we do with repentant heretics in the Church in regard to ordination and baptism?’

Let’s explore the issue some on the matter of baptism.  Ask yourself which of the following groups you would affirm as Christian and offering true baptism?

  • Orthodox Church
  • Roman Catholic
  • Anglican
  • Presbyterian
  • Baptist
  • Assemblies of God

All of these denominations affirm an orthodox statement of faith.  The Baptists and Assemblies of God would not, however, accept infant baptism.  Anyone coming to those denominations who had been baptised as an infant would be given believer’s baptism.  The Roman Church holds to a view of the Church that would require baptism–they would not accept the baptism of the other denominations.  They say that salvation is in the Church, and by ‘Church’ they mean the Roman Catholic Church.  Nor do they permit those outside the Roman Catholic Church to partake of the Eucharist.

In the discussion of accepting another group’s baptism, the problem is greatly increased when some group holds to a view or views that are outside orthodox Christianity.  Recall, for instance, that Jews practiced proselyte baptism.  But what Christian Church would say, ‘Oh, great, baptism!  We can go with that.  We won’t rebaptise you if you join us.’  Hardly.  We are talking about Christian baptism.  Frankly, we are talking about Trinitarian baptism (Matthew 28.19).  (I recently attended a baptism in a Baptist Church in which several ministers baptised people.  Some baptised in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and some simply in the name of Jesus.  The theological confusion was painful to bear, even though this was a Trinitarian, orthodox church.)

Or what about unorthodox groups claiming to be Christian?  What about the Mormons, for example?  How about the Jehovah’s Witness?  Christians have seen such groups as outside the Christian faith even though they claim to be Christian.  Converts from such groups would be given Christian baptism: they would not simply be joining another denomination but converting to Christianity.

Read here.

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