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Tuesday
Feb252014

Church of England: ‘Dumbed-down’ Baptism

(Photo: www.shutterstock.com)

(Staff)  THE CHURCH of England is testing a new version of the baptism service in which parents and godparents are no longer asked to “repent of…sins” and “reject the devil.” In fact, sin is only mentioned once – in an optional prayer. And Christ is no longer called “Lord” and “Saviour” or “the way, the truth and the life.”

The new wording – which is being piloted in over 400 parishes until Easter – was devised to be more “culturally appropriate and accessible.”

In the older 1988 version, the minister asks: “Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?” prompting the reply: “I reject them.” Parents and godparents are then asked: “Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?” to which the expected reply is: “I repent of them.”

No mention of the devil or sin is made in the new version; parents and godparents are instead asked to “reject evil, and all its many forms, and all its empty promises.”

The new text also drops the word “submit” in the phrase “Do you submit to Christ as Lord?” because it is thought to have become “problematical,” especially among women who object to the idea of submission.

The draft was drawn up by the Church’s Liturgy Commission to make it more attractive for those who only go to church for baptisms, weddings or funerals. The new version is designed as an alternative to the wording in the Common Worship prayer book. However, insiders predict this draft will become the norm for the Church’s 150,000 christenings each year if, as expected, it is approved by General Synod.

Other changes do away with the cleric saying: “Do not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified,” to which the congregation replies: “Fight valiantly as a disciple of Christ against sin, the world and the devil, and remain faithful to Christ to the end of your life.”

The new version replaces this with: “Do not be ashamed of Christ. You are his for ever,” to which the congregation adds: “Stand bravely with him. Oppose the power of evil, and remain his faithful disciple to the end of your life.”

The Bishop of Wakefield, Stephen Platten, who chairs the commission, said repentance was implied in phrases urging people to “turn away from evil,” and defended the omission of the devil by saying it was “theologically problematic”’…. What we are concerned about is to make sure that people who are coming to baptism understand what is being said.”

But the new draft has angered many who feel it breaks vital links with baptisms as described in the Bible. One senior member of General Synod, who did not wish to be named, told the Daily Mail:

“This is more like a benediction from the Good Fairy than any church service. The trouble is that large parts of the Church of England don’t believe in hell, sin or repentance. They think you can just hold hands and smile and we will all go to Heaven. That is certainly not what Jesus thought. There is so much left out that one wonders why do it at all? If you exclude original sin and repentance there is very little substance left. It doesn’t just dumb the service down – it eviscerates it.…A humanist could say ‘I renounce evil.’ If you take out repentance you immediately strike at the heart of the whole idea of needing to be baptised. John the Baptist only baptised those who came and were repentant. This rite is saying to people you don’t need to be particularly repentant. Just come and join the club.”

The baptism liturgy in the Church of England had not been significantly altered for 400 years. It was changed in 1980 and 1988. This is the third revision.

In Canada both the Anglican Church of Canada and the Anglican Network in Canada hold the Canadian Book of Common Prayer of 1962, which closely follows the BCP of 1662, as their doctrinal standard. In 1980 a Book of Alternative Services (BAS) was introduced in which the baptismal liturgy speaks of sin but only mentions the devil once. But even the BAS speaks of Christ as “Lord” and “Saviour.”    TAP

    Main source: Daily Mail

 

On Jan. 5th Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester in England, published the following statement in the Daily Mail:

SINCE AT LEAST the 1970s there has been a fashion in the Church of England to minimise depth and mystery in its worship because of the alleged need to make its services ‘accessible.’ The new alternative service for baptism, which has been sent for trial, continues this trend. Instead of explaining what baptism means and what the various parts of the service signify, its solution is to do away with key elements of the service altogether!

From ancient times, the structure of the service has included the renunciation of sin, the world and the devil and the turning to Christ as Lord and Saviour. If a child is being baptised, it is on the basis of the faith of the parents and the godparents, as well as the faith of the community. There is, finally, a commission both to hear and to proclaim the Gospel.

In all of these aspects, the new service falls short of what has usually been required. At a time of high interest in supernatural evil, the traditional renunciation of the devil and all his works has been replaced with an anodyne rejection of evil in its ‘many forms.’

The very first baptisms of the Church took place after St Peter’s call at Pentecost to ‘repent and be baptised for the forgiveness of sins’ (Acts 2:38). The Church has always regarded repentance as necessary for beginning the Christian life and, for children, a cleansing, if not from actual sin, then certainly from the sinfulness of the whole race since the original sin.

Because of its anxiety to make everyone feel welcome and its desire not to offend anyone, the new service, almost entirely, does away with sin and the need to repent from its personal and social manifestations and consequences.

The whole thrust of the service of deliverance from sin, protection from the devil and regeneration by water and the Holy Spirit, based on the teaching of Jesus himself, has been set aside and replaced by a ‘welcome’ which seems to have no basis in the promises of God, the faith of the parents and godparents or of the Church as a whole. Indeed, there seems to be ambivalence about the Church itself with such circumlocutions as ‘God’s family’ being used.

We are not told anything about the Christ in whom we are to put our trust. There is no acknowledgement of him as Lord and Saviour. In general, there is a reluctance to declare that the Bible sees the world as having gone wrong and needing to be put right. This is done by the coming of Christ. Baptism is nothing less than taking part in this story of salvation, no part of which can be sold short.

Rather than the constant ‘dumbing down’ of Christian teaching, whether for baptism, marriage or death, we should be spending time preparing people for these great rites of passage. When it comes to the service itself, the need is not to eliminate crucial areas of teaching but to explain them. It is best to call a halt to this perhaps well-meant effort before it further reduces the fullness of the Church’s faith to easily swallowed sound bites.

On Jan. 5th Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester in England, published the following statement in the Daily Mail:

SINCE AT LEAST the 1970s there has been a fashion in the Church of England to minimise depth and mystery in its worship because of the alleged need to make its services ‘accessible.’ The new alternative service for baptism, which has been sent for trial, continues this trend. Instead of explaining what baptism means and what the various parts of the service signify, its solution is to do away with key elements of the service altogether!

From ancient times, the structure of the service has included the renunciation of sin, the world and the devil and the turning to Christ as Lord and Saviour. If a child is being baptised, it is on the basis of the faith of the parents and the godparents, as well as the faith of the community. There is, finally, a commission both to hear and to proclaim the Gospel.

In all of these aspects, the new service falls short of what has usually been required. At a time of high interest in supernatural evil, the traditional renunciation of the devil and all his works has been replaced with an anodyne rejection of evil in its ‘many forms.’

The very first baptisms of the Church took place after St Peter’s call at Pentecost to ‘repent and be baptised for the forgiveness of sins’ (Acts 2:38). The Church has always regarded repentance as necessary for beginning the Christian life and, for children, a cleansing, if not from actual sin, then certainly from the sinfulness of the whole race since the original sin.

Because of its anxiety to make everyone feel welcome and its desire not to offend anyone, the new service, almost entirely, does away with sin and the need to repent from its personal and social manifestations and consequences.

The whole thrust of the service of deliverance from sin, protection from the devil and regeneration by water and the Holy Spirit, based on the teaching of Jesus himself, has been set aside and replaced by a ‘welcome’ which seems to have no basis in the promises of God, the faith of the parents and godparents or of the Church as a whole. Indeed, there seems to be ambivalence about the Church itself with such circumlocutions as ‘God’s family’ being used.

We are not told anything about the Christ in whom we are to put our trust. There is no acknowledgement of him as Lord and Saviour. In general, there is a reluctance to declare that the Bible sees the world as having gone wrong and needing to be put right. This is done by the coming of Christ. Baptism is nothing less than taking part in this story of salvation, no part of which can be sold short.

Rather than the constant ‘dumbing down’ of Christian teaching, whether for baptism, marriage or death, we should be spending time preparing people for these great rites of passage. When it comes to the service itself, the need is not to eliminate crucial areas of teaching but to explain them. It is best to call a halt to this perhaps well-meant effort before it further reduces the fullness of the Church’s faith to easily swallowed sound bites.

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