I recently came upon a document published by the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. I was interested as the Bishop of Chicago was one year ahead of me at Nashotah House, and someone who I liked and respected. I was also curious as the Diocese of Chicago was then and is now a bastion of revisionist theology. I was curious to see what sort of things were being taught under my friend’s watch. An aspect of their teaching on Baptism jumped out of me as a classic example of revisionist doctrinal strategy.
Baptism is the first sacrament a person ritually experiences when they become a Christian, because Baptism is the means by which we enter the household of God. It is not the Primary Sacrament, and has never been considered as such. Anglican Theology has classically recognized Baptism and Holy Communion as the two Great or Gospel Sacraments because Jesus instituted them. The first is a sacrament for beginning the journey into Christ, the latter is the sacrament for the journey. There are other sacraments as well. Lesser sacraments that are available to the baptized as members of the Household of God. This is how Christians have understood sacraments since the first century.
Contemporary revisionist theology is struggling to find ways to give credence to their innovations. One form this takes in the Episcopal Church is to elevate Baptism to the chief sacrament above all others. Instead of being the entry point into the Household of God and the beginning of a journey that might involve other sacraments, it becomes the Great Sacrament from which all others derive. Here then is a quote from the report from Chicago. Pay attention to the first sentence.
Baptism is the primary sacrament from which all other sacraments and all the rites of the Church flow. The standards for admission to the sacrament of Baptism should likewise apply to all other rites of the Church. With this in mind, no person should be disqualified from receiving any of the Church’s ministrations on the basis of who they are or how they are created. At baptism one is made a full member of the Body of Christ, the Church. If persons are not disqualified from baptism because of gender, age, race, sexual orientation, and so on, neither should they be denied the other rites of the Church.
Sorry. No. This is so wrong headed it is very sad. It is sad and regrettable on many levels. It is unhistorical in its understanding. It places Baptism in a place it was never intended to be. If it has a place in relationship to the other sacraments it is not above them, but below them. Baptism is the moment we ritually enter into a life of sanctification as we seek to grow into the likeness of Christ. By placing baptism above the other sacraments, the process of sanctification is effectively set aside. Perhaps this is why revisionist churches spend so little energy on discipleship.
Once can say with some truth that all sins are an expression of the great sin of Pride. One can say therefore that all sins flow from the sin of Pride. All sacraments are not an expression of Baptism. They are not subsets of Baptism. They are “outward and visible signs of an inward invisible grace”. They do not flow from Baptism. They are signs and means of God’s Grace. To limit them in this manner is to circumscribe God’s sovereignty.
The quote above is an excellent example of revisionist thinking that begins with a claim that differs from the doctrine of the church and then builds an argument based on a falsehood. Sorry my friend this is not good.