(BBC) Church of England accused of 'dumbing down' baptism service

A Church of England spokesman said that the baptism service used would be decided by the priest, in consultation with the family.

He said the new wording was the third revision of the baptism service in 30 years.

He said the current service had been in use since Easter 1998 and the wording had been amended by general synod in 2000 and in 2005.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Baptism, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Sacramental Theology, Theology

4 comments on “(BBC) Church of England accused of 'dumbing down' baptism service

  1. Karen B. says:

    I read the compare & contrast of the old vs. new liturgies posted at Cranmer’s blog.


    The new liturgy indeed makes many changes to avoid mentioning sin, repentance, the devil, Christ crucified. It is also very poorly written / vague.

    Contrast the old:
    [blockquote]In baptism, God calls us out of darkness into his marvellous light. To follow Christ means dying to sin and rising to new life with him. Therefore I ask:

    Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?
    I reject them.

    Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil?
    I renounce them.

    Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?
    I repent of them.[/blockquote]

    Note the clear, punchy, specific verbs: reject, renounce, repent. Note also the clear objects of those verbs:
    reject the devil & reblellion
    renounce deceit & corruption
    repent of sins

    OK. Here’s the new:

    [blockquote]Vicar: In baptism, God calls us to new life. We die with Christ to all that destroys, and rise to live with him for ever, Therefore I ask: Do you reject evil?
    I reject evil

    And all its many forms?
    And all its many forms

    And all its empty promises?
    And all its empty promisess. [/blockquote]

    Gone is that threefold: I reject, I renounce, I repent.
    So now there is a generic promise to reject evil and its many forms and empty promises. Who’s to say what evil is? Gone is all mention of personal sin. Ugh. Who is going to remember what they promised with those declarations starting with “And…” instead of the vows I reject, I renounce, and I repent.

  2. New Reformation Advocate says:

    Methinks that the noble +Michael Nazir-Ali has actually understated the problems with this proposed alternative baptismal service. The real problem isn’t that the new service “dumbs down” the liturgy, but rather that it guts it and perverts it altogether. It prostitutes the whole idea of CHRISTIAN Initiation by removing almost everything that makes it distinctively Christian or even initiatory.

    The entire strategy behind this perverse service is totally wrong-headed. The idea is ludicrous that the CoE should remove everything that nonbelievers don’t understand, or that seems incomprehensibnle to non-practicing self-professed Christians who have never been properly catechized and taught even the basics of the Christian faith and life. Why? Well, obviously, because there is absolutely no reason why they should be bringing their children for christening anyway.

    I’m well aware of the historic position of the CoE, as mandated by Parliament as a national church established by law. That is, historically, every English citizen, indeed every inhabitant, has the legal RIGHT to be baptized themselves, or to have their children baptized. But that long-standing tradition is now patently absurd, obsolete, and counter-productive. It has to end.

    Even the Roman Catholic clergy, by canon law, are supposed to refrain from baptizing any children presented for baptism where there is no reasonable assurance that they will in fact receive spiritual formation, and thus there is a reasonable chance that they will indeed turn out to be real Christians when they are older.

    It was my esteemed mentor in liturgics at Yale Div. School, the RC Benedictine monk, Aidan Kavanagh, who coined an apt but controversial phrase for infant baptism in his classic study of the evolution and reform of the baptismal rites, [b]The Shape of Baptism[/b], when he called it, even under the best of circumstances, ‘[i]a benevolent anomaly.[/i]” That is, even when you have TWO dedicated, well informed Christian parents and a healthly, supportive congregation that models the Christian faith and life well, infant baptism still remains, even under those ideal circumstances, something exceptional, although tolerable. But in most circumstances, where there is only one believing parent, or especially when there is none at all, or the local congregation is woefully inadequate at modeling the Christian faith and life, then what is at best “a benevolent anomaly” becomes nothing less than, you guessed it, a malignant anomaly.

    The CoE must stop thinking of itself as a chaplaincy for the nation, as if the majority of the English people were lapsed Christians who just needed to be called back to a faith they have wandered away from. No, the situation is far more dire than that. England is now a mission field, and a neo-pagan land, filled with non-Christians who have NEVER been believers or ever adequately taught the basics of the Christian faith. That remains true even if many millions of those non-believers were baptized as children.

    It’s time to go back to the practice of the pre-Imperial Church before Constantine and Theodosius. Instead of continuing the spiritually dangerous practice of automatically baptizing every child presented for baptism, even if the parents make no pretense of being faithful Christians themselves, we should revert to the early patristic practice of enrolling such children as catechumens. Let them learn the Christian faith and life first, and then be baptized later, when they have been converted and know what they are doing.

    I’m well aware of how radical that idea is, and how disturbing it will seem to many readers of this blog. But such are the radical changes made necessary by the sea change in our culture, from being a majority Christian culture to a minority Christian one, and from being a pro-Christian culture to an increasingly anti-Christian one.

    Let’s stop casting our pearls before swine!

    David Handy+

  3. New Reformation Advocate says:

    P.S. In anticipation of a vehemently negative reaction by some readers here, I’ll just assure everyone that I’ve by no means forgotten the teaching of the historic Anglican formularies about the propriety, or even presumed necessity, of infant baptism. Nor am I a crypto-Baptist by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t for one moment cast aspersions on the practice of virtually the universal Christian Church for over a thousand years, from the late 5th century (after the influence of Augustine’s doctrine of original sin took hold and the Roman Empire was nominally Christianized) to the 16th century Reformation, when the Anabaptists began mounting a strong challange to that venerable tradition. Calling infant baptism at best a benevolent anomaly by no means implies that it is always wrong or unwise or unbiblical or invalid, or anything of the sort. It made sense in the Middle Ages when virtually all inhabitants of Europe at least professed to be Christians, and the Church had a monopoly on religion in the public square. Conversely, it also makes sense in Muslim lands or Communist lands, where to be baptized even as an infant commits you to being a part of a disadvantaged and marginalized social group, helping to preserve the integrity of the Church. But neither of those social contexts now exists in the Global North.

    This is the sort of radical reform that I believe is urgently necessary for Anglicanism everywhere in the industrialized Anglo lands, where we Christians are now a suspect and increasingly misunderstood and despised minority. We Anglicans desperately need the equivalent of Vatican II, to reform and update our beloved prayerbook tradition in ways that will allow us to be as fruiful in our time and cultural setting as our spiritual forbears were in theirs.

    It is in Christian Inititiation that we celebrate and teach ourselves and others what it means to be Christians in a non-Christian world. Reviving the anicent catechumenate, even for children, would be a tremendous step toward recovering the lost integrity of Christian inititation in our time.

    Now if that proposal were to be accepted by a significant number of orthodox Anglicans in the Global North, that would amount to, you guessed it, the beginnings of a New Reformation.

    David Handy+

  4. New Reformation Advocate says:

    Oops, let me correct a glaring error in my #2 above. The quotation from my beloved mentor in liturgical studies, Fr. Aidan Kavanagh, OSB, should’ve said that even under the best of circumstances, infant baptism is a “[b]benign[/b] anomaly,” rather than a benevolent one. And although such a view will doubtless strike many T19 readers as highly unusual, it’s actually not as rare as many might suppose. For example, the late, great Anglo-Catholic liturgical scholar Gregory Dix (also OSB) likewise is either famous or infamous for similarly calling the venerable custom of infant baptism a permissible “abnormality.”

    Red herrings aside, the point is that if large numbers of unchurched parents still approach the clergy of the CoE expecting the Church to do whatever it does in christening their new baby but they are completely ignorant of even the basic language and teachings of the Church, then they are obviously woefully unprepared to raise their child as a Christian, since they aren’t Christians themselves. People can’t be expected to give what they don’t have.

    It’s time to bite the bullet and renogociate the whole social contract between the increasingly pagan English population and the CoE. Dealing with people who almost never go to church isn’t a “pastoral” opportunity. It’s an evangelistic opportunity. Let the parents be converted first, and then let the kids be baptized.

    David Handy+