Monday, January 6, 2014

Anglicans change baptismal service... again.

My favorite line: "The draft, drawn up by the Church’s Liturgy Commission, is intended as a response to fears that the existing wording could be off-putting to people who are not regular churchgoers."

(The Telegraph) - The Church of England is accused of "dumbing down" the christening service as it introduces a new wording so parents and godparents no longer have to "repent sins" and "reject the devil"

The Church of England is introducing a christening ceremony that removes the requirement on parents and godparents to “repent sins” and “reject the devil”.

Critics claimed the new wording, designed as an alternative to the current liturgy, “watered down” the concepts of sin and repentance.

The text, backed by the Most Rev Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is already being used in 1,000 parishes as part of a trial lasting until Easter, the Mail on Sunday reported.

In the current version, in use since 1998, vicars ask parents and godparents if they “reject the devil and all rebellion against God” and if they “repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour”.

However, the new text asks them instead to “reject evil, and all its many forms, and all its empty promises”, with no explicit mention of the devil or sin.

The draft, drawn up by the Church’s Liturgy Commission, is intended as a response to fears that the existing wording could be off-putting to people who are not regular churchgoers. Because it's a great idea to keep conforming to secular expectations. "And the greatest commandment is this, 'Be comfortable.'"

The Rt Rev Stephen Platten, the Bishop of Wakefield, who chairs the commission, said the new wording still implied a requirement for repentance, adding that the place of the devil in the text was “theologically problematic”. So problematic it has been in there since, you know, almost the very beginning - our first extant reference to it as part of this service (and not as part of the catechumenate process) coming from the third century.

However, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, warned against the adoption of the new wording, saying: “The need is not to eliminate crucial areas of teaching but to explain them”.

A Church of England spokesman said: "The baptism service currently used by the Church of England has been in use since Easter 1998. The wording of the service was amended by General Synod in 2000 and again in 2005.

"In 2011 a group of clergy from the Diocese of Liverpool brought forward a motion to the General Synod of the Church of England requesting materials to supplement the baptism service 'in culturally appropriate and accessible language'.

"Specifically the motion requested new additional materials which would not replace or revise the current baptsim service but would be available for use as alternatives to three parts of the service.

"The Liverpool motion was passed by General Synod and as a consequence the liturgical commission has brought forward some additional materials for discussion by the General Synod at a future date where they will be subject to final approval by the Synod."


  1. In the wake of Hollywood stereotypes of the devil (the occult) prevalent in modern western culture, I do think it is incumbent upon the Church to properly explain the full biblical realities referenced in the language of these rites to each new generation, especially as it pertains to the baptism of infants. OTOH, I suspect African and Asian Anglicans have very little problem with the traditional language!

    1. Of course! Which is why we have Godparents, catechetical programs, and the entire church body and community: to explain, instruct and answer questions.

      Cutting out and/or changing the language just takes makes these questions obsolete and leads to uneducated laity.

    2. I certainly don't disagree with your comment, Jared, and I am not in the least sympathetic with moves to change the language of our rites in this manner for the reason you have articulated. On the other hand, is it also your opinion that our Orthodox churches always implement the catechetical process as they should? I suspect not. Among other things, the loss of successive generations to surrounding cultural institutions (non-Orthodox religious traditions or purely secular mindsets) from Orthodox parishes established to serve Orthodox immigrants in this country suggests not. In my initial comment, I intended to underscore the challenges all those of more traditional Christian convictions face in modern Western culture.

  2. Good points. Perhaps the link is as simple as once you stop using the word "sin", mention of the devil becomes a problem mostly in that we begin to demonize others... our brothers and sisters... rather than helping Christ to free them.