The title comes (adapted) from the blog formerly known as ” What does the Prayer Really Say” which concludes that this is the reason the Church of England is dying.
The obvious response to the request from the two young women who wanted their baby baptized, given a sensible incumbent, would be “Yes of course. The baptism register is a bit rubbish for these circumstances, however – so we’ll have to write your names small. And as for a baptism certificate – let’s knock up one suitable for the occasion”. The C of E baptizes babies whose parents are in all sorts of odd situations, and never carries out DNA testing on the person claiming to be the father. So it’s not like there’s a strict “heterosexual, biological parents living in a married relationship at the same house” rule as it is. And the baptism register isn’t like a marriage register (or even a birth certificate). I seriously doubt that John the Baptist, having carried out this most beautiful of sacraments for Our Lord, handed him a candle at the end. And he probably didn’t kick up a fuss about the uncertainty over who to put in the box marked “Father”. And when Jesus had to fill in the initial form, what on earth did he give as the “Father’s occupation”?
What has happened here is that the irresistible force of God’s grace has come up against the immovable object of an Anglican “interregnum”. The (retired) priest, standing in during a vacancy, has considered the situation and panicked a bit. Can you redesign a baptism certificate during an Interregnum? What precedent is set by writing two names in the “mother” box? Canon law isn’t always that clear. Would the priest be leaving the parish in the situation where they insisted that every baby had to have two mothers and no fathers? They’ve been known to do odder things in following precedent.
The correct response at this point is to consult with the Archdeacon – archdeacons being, in my experience, people of great flexibility and common sense. As was proved here.
If you strip away the possibility of political grandstanding, the confusion of the priest, smug shouting from the sidelines and even the question of whether you think active lesbians are committing a sin – what’s left is a baby, and the format of a legally pretty meaningless piece of paper. One is of eternal worth, and one is a piece of paper. That is all.