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🚨 URGENT: Mere Orthodoxy Needs YOUR Help

The Case for Baptist Anglicans

March 22nd, 2024 | 27 min read

By Matthew Joss

The rise in popularity of liturgical church has put new urgency to an old question.[1] Here’s a rather common scene; visitors arrive at a more liturgical church for their first visit and find a new experience, a new experience of an old, old way. It’s a bit different, but winsome and powerful nonetheless. After weeks or months of attending, the practices and power of the church sink into their bones and they’re hooked. They like the church, its ethos, what it stands for—but there is a problem, those high-church people baptize babies and that’s just not right. What happens then?

Rather than adjudicate what happens in every liturgical church, I’m just going to look at the implications this has in my context—that of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). The common practice of ACNA churches is to gently bring along those credobaptists (those who think that only confessing believers should be baptized) to understand and accept paedobaptism (i.e. infants as well as confessing believers should be baptized).[2] However sometimes this fails; some people just come to the conclusion that only those who confess faith in Jesus should be baptized. What happens then?

Well, there are a range of possibilities. Some decide that they cannot stay and move to another church. Others attend, but never become members (and hence cannot take leadership positions) because they feel it would be dishonest to identify with a group that rejects their belief about such an important doctrine. Still others do become members and simply reject the common Anglican position and wait to have their children baptized. In this case the church eventually gives up trying to change minds and simply quiesces; I’m not aware of anyone being disciplined or removed for lack of baptizing their infant. Even more difficult is the case of a credobaptist who feels called to ordination. Odds are such a person would face a hard choice, either stay Anglican or get ordained.[3] 

In each of these cases, the credobaptist is not in full communion. Either they are out of the church entirely, or excluded from certain positions, or they are directly contradicting the path of their priest/pastor. While never actually removed, they are redheaded stepchildren, allowed in the house, but never fully part of the family.

While the common practice of Anglicanism is against credobaptism, there is still a question about the doctrinal compatibility of credobaptism with Anglicanism. One suggestion is that Anglicans should affirm both paedobaptism and credobaptism, a position called dual-practice baptism.[4] The dual-practice position argues that both are legitimate though differing views of a secondary doctrine. This means that both should be fully accepted into the family, not merely tolerated. Indeed, this sort of position was recently argued for on the Anglican Compass.[5] The main problem? It was a guest post by a Baptist, making the case from a non-Anglican position.[6] Not that it is unheard of for an Anglican to support dual-practice baptism, just consider the case of Anglican professor Michael F. Bird.[7] 

However, my goal here is not to cite authorities or rehash general arguments for dual-practice baptism. Instead, I will argue from a distinctly Anglican perspective that dual-practice baptism should be accepted. How is that to be done? Generally speaking, the defining characteristics of Anglicanism are found in the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) and the 39 Articles of Religion. Since we are talking about the Anglican Church in North America, we will look particularly at its prayer book, the 2019 BCP. The claim here is simple, if the 39 Articles and the 2019 BCP point us to dual-practice baptism, then credobaptists don’t have to be the redheaded stepchildren of the Anglican world and ACNA should accept dual-practice baptism. Concisely put, the argument goes like this:

  1. Credobaptism is consistent with the 39 Articles
  2. Credobaptism is consistent with the 2019 BCP
  3. Paedobaptism exclusivism is not consistent with the 39 Articles
  4. Since credobaptism is consistent with Anglican distinctives, and baptism exclusivism is not consistent, then baptism tolerance (i.e., dual-practice baptism) should be the Anglican position.[8]

Credobaptism is consistent with Anglican theology

The 39 Articles

On Baptism

It is commonly thought that the 39 Articles deny the possibility of credobaptism for Anglicans. Doesn’t it say in Article 27 that “The Baptism of young Children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ”? Is this not sufficient?

Well… no. First, this statement could only rule out credobaptist onlyism—it does not rule out a dual-practice where paedobaptism is retained in the church, but room is made for credobaptism as well. Second, the proposition that young children should be baptized is actually a defining feature of one form of credobaptism. Believing that “the Baptism of young Children” is good is quite consistent with believing that everyone, including young children, should believe in Jesus before being baptized. Credobaptists cannot accept that infants or babies can have faith in Jesus, but they can accept that young children can.[9] The point here is that a credobaptist can honestly and straightforwardly accept Article 27 as written.

This is not some unheard of position for credobaptists. There are three main views, A) baptize only adults, B) baptize only older children and adults, and C) baptize any believing person—no matter the age.[10] In this last case all that is needed is an understanding of the gospel and a sincere belief in Jesus without any extra maturity restrictions. In this sense, a 39 Articles type of credobaptism would be the type C kind.

On Sacraments

Credobaptism is also consistent with what Anglicans affirm about the nature of the sacraments. Consider Article 25, “Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God’s good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.”

Note that there is nothing here that a credobaptist need take issue with. Believing that faith comes before baptism is completely consistent with it being an effectual sign of grace. If there were a conflict, there would be a consistency problem within Anglicanism already—all adults are required to believe before being baptized. But if “belief before baptism” does not entail that the practice is merely a badge / token / inert sign, then there is no conflict, and a credobaptist position is already consistent with an Anglican view of sacrament. Indeed, all the Anglican credobaptist thinks is that what is currently believed and done for adult baptisms is what is best for all baptisms.

The Book of Common Prayer

The Rites Themselves

The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) has a rite for infant baptism; does this militate against credobaptism? Again, if one were arguing for credobaptism onlyism then this would certainly be true—but that is not the position here. Dual-practice baptism holds that the church should accept a diversity of opinions accepting both credo and infant baptism. Given that the prayer book is supposed to help direct the practice of the church, then it is almost required that there be a service that directs how infants should be baptized. Consequently, there is no inconsistency with the presence of infant baptism rites in a dual-practice church. However, there should be a service for credobaptists as well—but this is something already present in the rite for adult baptism.

“Young Children”

The 2019 BCP does present a challenge with its use of the term “young children.” “Young children” are included within the section with “infants” while “older children” are lumped in with “adults.”[11] Hence it would seem that young children are included in the group that are not old enough to confess Christ for themselves—the reverse of what was stated above. So, what counts as a young child versus an older one?

Fortunately, the 2019 BCP already suggests the answer, describing adults and older children as “Candidates who are able to answer for themselves.”[12] Hence the natural understanding of “young child” here is that it refers to any person older than an infant but before they reach the age of confession (to give one possible age range, between 1 year old and 3 or 4 years old). But if this is the case there is no actual conflict with the dual-practice position laid out above. The problem is a merely semantic—“young child” can refer both to any young juvenile, and also more specifically to the subclass of young juveniles that cannot yet confess Christ.

To see how this works practically, take the situation of two four-year-olds, one of whom is precocious and can answer for himself but the other cannot. According to common parlance, most people would agree that both are young children. But what sort of baptism would each receive?[13] The precocious young child, because he can answer for himself, is placed in the category the 2019 BCP would call “older children” and hence would be unproblematic for a credobaptist. Contrastingly, the non-precocious child who cannot answer for himself gets put into what the 2019 BCP calls “young children” and his baptism would be a paedobaptism.

Deferring Baptism

Like the 39 Articles, the general theology of sacraments and baptism in the prayer book poses no particular problem for dual-practice baptism. However, there is one statement in the 2019 BCP  that at first glance might well seem at odds with it: “The minister shall encourage parents not to defer the Baptism of their children.” While this might seem an endorsement of paedobaptism exclusivism, even in its most strict sense it only provides that the minister should “encourage” the non-deferring of baptism. This would require a sort of institutional preference for paedobaptism that could still accommodate a dual-practice credobaptism, but it would create tension. The specter of the credobaptist redheaded stepchild would again rear its head.

However, this preferential reading is not needed. This sentence does not refer simply to infants but to all children, both older and younger. Hence parents even of older children should not defer their baptism. As noted, the 39 Articles is fully compatible with the credobaptist position (option C above) of baptizing anyone, regardless of age, who confesses Christ. For Anglican (dual-practice) credobaptists, this affirmation of the BCP is fitting and perhaps required. They accept that when their children confess the Lord Jesus, they shouldn’t “defer the Baptism of their children.” Regardless of whether parents are paedobaptist or credobaptist, both should baptize their children at the earliest fitting time.[14]


Consequently, what we find—shockingly to many—is that a credobaptist Anglican (who accepts dual-practice) can actually affirm the 39 Articles and the 2019 Book of Common Prayer as they are written. Consequently, it seems they can be in full communion with the Anglican Church in North America. However, simply because such dual-practice is consistent with Anglican distinctives, does not of itself constitute a positive case that it should be accepted by Anglicans. The next section takes this next step, arguing on Anglican grounds that Anglicans should accept dual-practice baptism.

Paedobaptism exclusivism is not supported by Anglican theology.

Article 6 and What Can Be Required

Anglicans are rather famous for being open to a broad range of theologies and practices. Charismatic or high-church, evangelical or Anglo-catholic, all have found a home in Anglicanism. A formal principle for this institutional broadness is found in Article 6 of the 39 Articles, “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” Article 6 demands there be a high bar to require the acceptance of a doctrine as an article of the faith. A doctrine must be found either directly in the words of Scripture or be proven from the words of Scripture.

Some doctrines are considered proven (e.g. the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus, etc.), while others (e.g. millennialism, unlimited atonement, etc.) are considered unproven and hence open to personal opinion. The difficulty is in trying to determine what exactly constitutes “proven from scripture.” Rather than directly answer this question, I suggest a comparative approach. We take a doctrine that is commonly accepted as not proven and not required. Then if another doctrine has even less biblical evidence than the first, then a maiore ad minus, it is not biblically proven either.

The reference doctrine that I suggest is that of atonement, whether it is unlimited or limited, i.e., whether Jesus died for every human, or just for the elect. Both views are open to Anglicans (often found in the Calvinism vs Arminianism debate). In particular, I’ll compare paedobaptism to unlimited atonement, a doctrine that has such biblical support as 1 Tim. 2:5-6, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all,” and 1 John 2:2 “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Anglicanism does not accept that these verses, or the broader scriptural witness, show that unlimited atonement can be “read therein” nor even “proved thereby” the Holy Scriptures. Hence for a doctrine to be counted as proven by Scripture and requiring assent, it must have more biblical evidence for it than for unlimited atonement. So, can infant baptism be read off or proved from Scripture? Does it have more biblical support than unlimited atonement?

Paedobaptism and Scripture

It is widely accepted that paedobaptism cannot simply be read off the pages of Scripture. Paedobaptist Scot McKnight’s view is representative, “Right up front I admit there is no text in the New Testament that explicitly reveals the practice of infant baptism in the apostolic church…. Infant baptism may not be explicit, but it is implicit.”[15] 

Since paedobaptism cannot be simply read off Scripture it needs to be proved from other comments in Scripture. Now obviously, a short article cannot completely encapsulate a debate that has been raging for centuries. As representative of the discussion, we’ll examine three of the main arguments given for paedobaptism and briefly evaluate them, namely i) the baptism of entire households in the New Testament, ii) the parallels with circumcision in the Old Testament, and iii) the case of 1 Cor. 7:14. We’ll consider each in turn.

The Baptism of Households

In the NT entire households were baptized at the same time. Since households include both the entire family and the entire slave / servant population in the house, it is very unlikely that there were no children present in any of the households. The argument? Since we have NT examples of non-credobaptism at work, then credobaptism must be wrong (remember, credobaptism is the position that only confessing believers should be baptized).

While this argument is quite forceful against type A credobaptism, and maybe type B, it does nothing against type C. We can agree that it is unlikely that only adults were in households, and possibly unlikely that only mature children were in those households. However, we can’t say much about whether it was more likely that households had infants or only young children. In this case the baptism of households cannot support paedobaptism over type C credobaptism. If they are equally likely, then this cannot rise to the level of proof of paedobaptism over credobaptism.

And here we ask our comparative question, if “he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2) does not count as proof that Jesus died for everyone in the world, can the baptism of households count as proof of paedobaptism?

The Parallel with Circumcision

The argument from circumcision in the Old Testament goes like this: since entry into the covenant people in the OT (Israel) was via ritual circumcision, which was done to babies, so also entry into the new covenant people (the church) happens by a ritual that applies to babies—namely baptism.

Can infant circumcision in the OT make infant baptism in the NT highly likely? The answer, I think, must be no. The reason is, if we had only the information available before Jesus came, it would be much more likely that circumcision remain the means of covenant entry than that it would be replaced. All types of baptism as replacements of circumcision would be unlikely. In order for replacement to happen something cataclysmic must happen, something that would up-end the millennia old pattern. The problem is that when earthshaking events happen, it is hard to predict what part of the old world will continue and which will fall away.

What can we conclude? While infant circumcision doesn’t make infant baptism likely, it might well make it more likely than credobaptism. However, it is hard to say how much more likely because of the cataclysmic change that must happen for either of them to become the new norm. In effect, infant circumcision might act as a tiebreaker between credobaptism and paedobaptism, all other things being equal, but not much more.[16]

Again, back to our comparison, is such an Old Testament parallel better evidence for paedobaptism than 1 Tim. 2:5-6 is for unlimited atonement, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all”?

The Case of 1 Cor. 7:14

In 1 Cor. 7 Paul is discussing marriage and divorce. The command: if your spouse is content to stay, do not divorce him / her. Verse 14 gives an explanation for this, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.” Notice that the children are made holy / clean by means of the parents, not by means of their own action or acceptance. This shows that children can be sanctified without their own profession. How is this? The paedobaptist argument says this is most likely by means of baptism.

However, as a “proof” for paedobaptism, there is an immediate problem—baptism isn’t even mentioned! However, if we read baptism into this passage, even greater challenges emerge. The passage states that not only children, but also unbelieving adults are made holy by means of a believing spouse. If we think holiness follows from baptism here (e.g. the child is holy because he is baptized), then the holiness of the unbelieving spouse would also stem from baptism. But this would mean that an unbelieving adult was baptized into Christ. But no orthodox Anglican accepts that unbelieving adults should be baptized!

If it is not baptism that sanctifies, but the mere presence of a believing adult that somehow renders the house holy, this explains why both the children and unbelieving spouse are holy. And if this is correct, the passage here does nothing to support infant baptism.[17] 

Here again we are left with the comparative question. Is this a stronger proof for paedobaptism than Heb. 2:9 is for Jesus’ death being for everyone, “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone”?


In sum we find that: i) baptizing households cannot favor paedobaptism over a credobaptism that accepts the baptism of young children; ii) OT infant circumcision leans towards NT infant baptism but is not determinative; and iii) if anything, 1 Cor. 7:14 provides more support for credobaptism that paedobaptism. Now of course there are other biblical arguments out there, but those who have read on the topic will recognize that I’ve not cherry-picked weak examples. I think that an unbiased trial here would recognize that these three arguments for paedobaptism are weaker than even these three unexplained verses given in favor of unlimited atonement. But even beyond this, a full accounting of the biblical evidence for both doctrines would weigh even more heavily in favor of unlimited atonement. But if this is true then paedobaptism does not meet Article 6’s standard and cannot be required of Anglicans.


At this point I have made my case. Since credobaptism is consistent with the 39 Articles and the 2019 prayer book it should not be ruled out by ACNA Anglicans. This has cleared the way for a dual-practice view. Since the 39 Articles prohibit requiring acceptance of any doctrine that cannot be proved from Scripture and paedobaptism cannot be proved from Scripture then paedobaptism cannot be required of Anglicans. Since paedobaptism exclusivism should not be required and credobaptism is consistent with Anglicanism, we can have both and live together peacefully in dual-practice harmony. Note well that the argument is not that most Anglicans are dual-baptist, nor that the writers of the BCP or 39 Articles were dual-baptists. Indeed not! Instead, it is that the propositions and principles written in the text of the documents do not rule out dual-practice baptism and indeed, via Article 6, actually support it.

Now there is always more that could be said about the biblical data and theological entailments. But here I’d like to close with a brief look at what the acceptance of dual-practice baptism would practically mean for Anglicans. First it would admit credobaptists to full fellowship within ACNA, rather than being merely tolerated stepchildren—a situation which would necessarily include freedom of conscience for clergy. If paedobaptism (or credobaptism) cannot “be required of any man,” then it cannot be required for ordination. Just as Article 6 would prevent clergy from being forced to accept either limited or unlimited atonement, it would prevent clergy from being forced into either paedo or credo baptism.

This is not as unworkable as one might think. ACNA already allows different positions on issues of great pragmatic importance, just take the case of women in ordained ministry. To a diocese that believes women should not be priests, a woman acting as a priest is acting in a way that is contrary to scripture—just as, say, a credobaptist thinks baptizing a baby is acting in a way contrary to scripture. However, ACNA has managed to include diverse opinions on women’s ordination. What has been the solution?

It is to accept that the doctrine is of secondary importance, that our faculties are frail, and to try and be as generous and loving as possible. We attempt to make space for the other without estranging anyone. Applied to baptism, this would mean that each minister and parishioner be allowed to decide for himself which practice he can participate in, but without belittling or estranging his brother or sister. A credobaptist minister might not be able to baptize an infant himself, but he would not belittle his parishioner. Instead, he’d find a priest to do the work in his place, rejoicing in the gift of a new child.

It would require stretching, but I believe it is well within our grasp for all of us, credo and paedobaptist alike, to dwell together in unity. Brothers and sisters of both theological races can find shelter together in the big tent of Anglicanism—it is large enough and resilient enough for us all. This is an opportunity to be an inviting light, a last homely house for those stumbling through the pervasive gloom of division and coerced uniformity, a darkness that threatens to overwhelm us all.

God grant us the light of life, the unity of the faith, so that building each other up in love, we may live undivided in Christ to the glory of God the Father. Amen.


[1] For information about the rise of liturgy see Winfield H. Bevins, Ever Ancient, Ever New: The Allure of Liturgy for a New Generation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2019).

[2] A great example of this is Scot McKnight, It Takes a Church to Baptize: What the Bible Says about Infant Baptism (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2018).

[3] Technically, ordination is up to the local bishop and hence it is possible that a bishop might go ahead and ordain a credobaptist. However, if we look at actual practice the odds are, statistically speaking, close to nil.

[4] See Anthony N. S. Lane’s sections in Sinclair B. Ferguson, A. N. S. Lane, and Bruce A. Ware, Baptism: Three Views, ed. David F. Wright (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2009).

[5] Andrew Messmer, “Anglicans and Baptism: A Baptist’s Opinion,” Anglican Compass, December 17, 2020,

[6] Paul Owen, “Should Anglicans Allow Space for Dual-Practice Baptism? A Response to Andrew Messmer,” Earth & Altar, December 23, 2020,

[7] Michael F Bird, Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction, Second edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Academic, 2020); Michael F Bird, “The Case for Dual Baptism - Part 1,” Euangelion (blog), August 17, 2011,; Michael F Bird, “The Case for Dual Baptism - Part 2,” Euangelion (blog), August 18, 2011,

[8] Since paedobaptism is the default view of Anglicans, here it is simply assumed without argument that paedobaptism is consistent with Anglicanism. For the same reason, it is simply assumed that credobaptism exclusivism is inconsistent with Anglicanism.

[9] The language here can be a bit difficult. Both “infant” and “baby” have retained basically the same meaning from 16th century to now. However, trying to nail down what “young children” refers to, particularly an age range, is hard whether in the 16th century or now. To take a couple examples, in Utopia (1516), “young children” seems associated with children under 5, but he includes all those who are waiting to be of marriageable age as “younger ones.” The KJV (1611) translates paidia, as young children, and paidia was associated with children under seven (see Philo, On Creation, XXXV).

[10] Tim Challies, “At What Age Should We Baptize?,” March 5, 2012,

[11] The 1662 Book of Common Prayer refers to these two groups as “infants” and those of “riper years”—a distinction which causes no problems for the position here. However, it should be noted that the 1662 BCP is less friendly to dual-practice than the 2019 BCP.

[12] 2019 BCP, 183

[13] Indeed, trying to discern which baptismal service should be used for a youngerish child is already a challenge—regardless of one’s views of dual-practice baptism.

[14] Obviously, “not defer” does not mean baptize at the earliest time possible. Not baptizing infants the moment they are born (or even in the womb) does not count as deferring a baptism. Similarly, not being baptized instantly upon confessing Christ, but waiting till Easter to be baptized does not count as deferment. The point is that (1) there is a fitting time for baptism, and (2) when that time comes the baptism should take place. What constitutes a fitting time is, in fact, the crux of the matter between paedobaptists and credobaptists. But interestingly, both can agree that the paedobaptist should be encouraged to baptize their children soon after birth, and the credobaptist should baptize their children soon after faith.

[15] McKnight, It Takes a Church to Baptize, 4.

[16] Of course, if we assume a specific theological framework (e.g. a specific flavor of covenant theology) then we could make a deductive argument that renders infant baptism necessary given the circumcision of babies in the OT. However, since Anglicanism doesn’t regard any such theological framework as biblically proven or required, then the entailments of that framework cannot be regarded as proven or required either.

[17] This holy presence view would also form a response to the paedobaptist concern about unbaptized children being the spawn of Satan. There is a middle category, according to this interpretation of Paul, between holy believers and unholy non-believers in families, that of holy non-believers. For an elaboration of the problem see Mark Jones, “Raising Children Well: Baptism as an Expression of Love,” May 15, 2023,

Matthew Joss

Matthew Joss lives in beautiful little Blacksburg, VA with his wife Sarah, and son Brannan, where he currently serves as the young adult and campus outreach coordinator for The River Anglican Church. He acquired a PhD in Theology from the University of St. Andrews and he’s the author of "Weighing Interpretations in Science, Biblical Studies, and Life."