A vicar who refused to baptise an 11-month-old baby, on the basis that his parents were not yet married, has received stern criticism from the family and from media outlets.
According to reports, Rev. Tim Hayes, vicar at St John’s in Dunkinfield, Manchester, for the past 21 years, said that this had always been the policy at his church. However, unmarried Heather Lawrence and her partner Jonathan criticised the vicar after he told them he could only offer a blessing service and not a baptism for their son. The couple were cohabiting and had been in a relationship for four years.
Quoted in The Daily Mail, Mr Hayes said, ‘I believe marriage is God’s way, but it is not so much about what I think, it is about what Jesus thinks. Baptism is a massive deal. We have lost the meaning of what baptism is all about. When it comes to baptism there is a small print. It is not a naming ceremony.
‘If I am standing up and saying, “I want to follow God’s way”, and God’s way is marriage, it will always be part of that. I will always hold up marriage as God’s way of doing relationships’.
He added that the church should not ‘blindly accept’ what everyone else in UK culture was saying.
However, according to The Daily Mail, Ms Lawrence said the only reason the couple were not married was because they could not afford a wedding, but had hoped to have a baby.
Mr Hayes said that if money were the only problem, he would offer the couple a wedding ceremony for free, as he did not want parents to underestimate the importance of the baptism service.
In a statement, a spokesman for the Church of England (CofE) Diocese of Chester said, ‘Rev. Hayes would like to encourage the couple to take the Christian initiation of baptism very seriously. At no point has he refused to baptise the child. The CofE believes that the best place for a child to grow is within marriage. ‘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’.