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Baptism liturgy under fire

Baptism liturgy under fire

The Church of England is trying new ways of wording the baptismal liturgy so it can be understood by people making the promises. Religion Dispatches reports some of the criticisms:

The Church of England has been accused of “dumbing down” the baptism service following the introduction of an alternative liturgy in which parents and godparents need not repent of their “sins” or reject “the devil.”

In the traditional version of the service, parents and godparents are asked: “Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?” and “Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbor?”

In the alternative version, now being tested in 400 churches, parents are instead asked to “reject evil and all its many forms and all its empty promises.”

Andrew Brown, writing in The Guardian says:

The story that the Church of England is abandoning sin is almost complete nonsense: an experimental rite of baptism is being tried out in some parishes which omits mention of the devil. But it is unlikely to gain permanent approval, and is in any case only one of many attempts since 1980 to pretty-up the granite face and jagged edges of the traditional rite.

The truth is that we are no longer puritans, but the Book of Common Prayer, which was for centuries the real constitution of the Church of England, is a deeply puritan or Calvinist document, suffused with the reality of sin and the danger of evil.

Few people now care about the details of the christening service – about 10% of babies in England are now baptised according to the rites of the Church of England. But the difficulties of sin and hell and the devil remain.

BBC has a discussion here:

The Church of England’s new version of the baptism takes out reference to the devil. Nicky asks: has the Devil had his day?

Bishop Alan Wilson has it all on his Facebook page and says about the Daily Mail story on the issue:

“One of the silliest non-stories in history. The ‘old traditional wording’ dates back to, er, 1998…”

…and his post has already produced 170 comments!

How do you explain those promises about the devil in the BCP? What wording do you think works?


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Gary Paul Gilbert

The old language at least was poetic though the mythology it expresses be outdated. We don’t live in a world full of demons. But demythologized versions could use some poetry. And modern translations may be just as mythological after their own fashion. A translation ought to invite other translations, each of them imperfect, as there is no way to get beyond the words to a pure, unmediated reality (the tempation of Babel). Words eventually fail and become empty signs after they have done their instrumental work. The leftover is what poets deal with, as Holderlin said.

In any case, the Church of England has not abandoned the old language but only provided another option.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Archaisms can be fun, as in the 1549:

N. Doest thou forsake the devill and all his workes?

Aunswere. I forsake them.

Minister. Doest thou forsake the vaine pompe, and glory of the worlde, with all the covetouse desyres of the same?

Aunswere. I forsake them.

Minister. Doest thou forsake the carnall desyres of the flesh, so that thou wilt not folowe, nor be ledde by them?

Aunswere. I forsake them.

John B. Chilton

Baptism under fire? Luke 3:16.

Rod Gillis

Hmm, I’m looking at my sentence,

” …I substituted ‘sinner of your own redeeming’ for ‘person of your own redeeming’ “. It ought to read the other way, i think, as I replaced ‘Sinner of your own redeeming’ with ‘Person of your own redeeming’.

Rod Gillis

Satan? I was driving down the highway and some graffiti artist had painted in big red letters on the overpass “BEWARE OF SATIN”. I wondered, maybe the artist misspelled ‘Satan”, or maybe he/she was both a graffiti artist and a fashionista, intending to make a statement about “satin”.

My final 25 years in parish ministry I used the Canadian BAS Baptism rite, which was lifted directly out of the 1979 American BCP. I never really cared for the text of the Renunciations and Act of Adherence, improvement though they are on the dreary quasi-Augustinian old Canadian BCP rite

In short hand here, during baptism prep I dealt with the renunciations by asking folks to think of them as concentric circles of ever increasing closeness i.e. temptation from “Satan” ( better term than diabolos/devil) as the personal force of evil that contends against God in the created order, “the evil powers of this world”, as those things that tempt us from without, and “all sinful desires” as those things that tempt us by welling up within us, being careful to point out that not all desires are sinful.Some desires are good and holy.

At the other end of life, in the funeral rite, commendation, I substituted “sinner of your own redeeming” for “person of your own redeeming”.

We like to name some kinds of sin more than others in the church. We are often obsessed with policing sexuality, but fail to be brave enough to name economic injustice as sinful. Its a particular problem for Anglicans.

Adam Spencer

All I can think of is that line from “The Usual Suspects”: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

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