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Church of England waters down Baptism?

Jesus arm wrestles the devil

The internet is awash with tub-thumping horror that the Church of England is diluting baptism by removing “sin” and “the devil” in alternatives. Usually immersed in far more important issues such as may gays love each other or can women lead, many are shedding tears at what they see as further infiltration by those nasty, wet liberals watering down the pure gospel.

The Church of England’s Common Worship, asks parents and godparents, or the candidates themselves

Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?…

Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?

In the alternative, that becomes

Do you reject evil and all its many forms and all its empty promises?

Common Worship, at the signing with the cross, has the congregation say

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.

In the alternative that becomes

Stand bravely with him. Oppose the power of evil, and remain his faithful disciple to the end of your life.

The alternative also abandons “submitting” to Christ.

This is all part of a formal General-Synod-approved trial alternative that has been going (without this current internet salivating) in hundreds of parishes since 2012. This year there will be a debate whether to allow the trial wider approval. Former Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali is one of the people seeking that the church wash its hands of this alternative rite and hopes to dampen the enthusiasm for it. Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, backs the changes.

I don’t want to pour cold water on this debate overseas, but just point out that in the baptism rite of A New Zealand Prayer Book – He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa the devil does not occur at all. “Sin” is mentioned in the NZ rite in a quote from the Acts of the Apostles [Peter saying, "Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus the Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God may call."], and in the Apostles’ Creed ["...the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,..."]

The parallels to the above sections are

The bishop or priest says to the candidates, and (for children), to the parents and godparents
Do you renounce all evil influences and powers that rebel against God?

The candidates and parents and godparents reply
I renounce all evil.

The bishop or priest makes the sign of the cross on each of the baptised, saying
We sign you with the cross, the sign of Christ.

A lighted candle may be given by a representative of the congregation, who says,
Walk in the faith of Christ crucified and risen. Shine with the light of Christ.

Correct me someone, but I don’t think we have ever had the devil in any NZ baptismal revision (we began our revisions in 1964), and we said good-bye to “sin” (in the sense being debated now in the CofE) in the 1970s. And no – there’s no “submitting” here.

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11 Responses to Church of England waters down Baptism?

  1. Brynn Wallace says:

    In my own experiences being baptized as a teenager and my seventeen-year old son’s frame of reference the alternative is preferable. Only in that the original phrasing is hard to comprehend at a tender age and may come across as intimidating even for an adult. The alternative is so much easier to understand for any age and makes it more appealing in general. That is for any new convert who maybe having second thoughts about a
    lifetime commitment to God but wants a relationship nonetheless. Knowing that you’re being baptized with the Holy Spirit present as the Trinity also is a comforting aspect of accepting Him into our heart’s and lives.

  2. Lou Poulain says:

    Here in the “wacky liberal heretical” good old Episcopal Church in the USA, we still have reference to Satan and Sin.
    Here are some pertinent texts from the Episcopal Church BCP rite of Holy Baptism:

    Question      Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?
    Answer        I renounce them.  
    Question      Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
    Answer        I renounce them.  
    Question      Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?
    Answer        I renounce them.

    and from the portion called “The Baptismal Covenant”
    Celebrant      Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
    People         I will, with God’s help.  
    Celebrant      Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
    People         I will, with God’s help.  
    Celebrant      Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
    People         I will, with God’s help.  
    Celebrant      Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
    People         I will, with God’s help.  
    Celebrant      Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
    People         I will, with God’s help.

    And the final part of the rite, which affects me emotionally every time I witness a baptism, when the priest anoints the newly baptized with Chrism:  
    N., you are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own for ever.  Amen.

    • Bosco Peters says:

      Yes, Lou, by your first sentence you are clearly as aware as I am of the (conservative?) (NZ) faction who denigrate TEC whenever possible, but take little notice of the real TEC that makes NZ look radical so often (“revisionist” anyone?). Blessings.

      • Lou Poulain says:

        That condemnation of TEC is a world-wide phenomenon. I have the privilege of coordinating adult education in my parish, and participating regularly in deep, touching and occasionally down-right amazing, conversations of faith with regular people who seek God in their lives and in their world. It’s what we are about, and I don’t really care about any judgments made at a distance from that core reality. And, let me add, we are considered a “progressive” parish in our diocese, (a “progressive” diocese in the province).
        Lou

    • Our Canadian 1985 BAS service is identical to the American 1979 book, Lou.

      • Lou Poulain says:

        I am aware of that. We share a common thread of development. I’m proud of the baptismal rite. Re the confirmation rite, not so much.
        Lou

  3. Rev Andrew Gentry says:

    So there is no “sin” in New Zealand! wow little wonder some folkes call it Paradise. Was this Eden and it just got lost to the rest of humankind and human history!?

  4. Shawn says:

    Wow, I’m sure if you tried harder you could get a little more derisive sneering into your post here Bosco.

    For someone who claims not to be anti-Evangelical, your posts on anything to do with us or conservatives in general, you sure sound like one.

    By the way, your tiresome and frankly daft claim that we are only obseesed with a few issues is laughable tripe. But I guess if you want to denigrate non-Liberals you have to invent things to make the case.

  5. Sir,

    As an American, I suspect that one’s response to:
    Do you renounce all evil influences and powers that rebel against God?

    would often be:
    I renounce all evil [and under one's breath "And I'LL define what's really meant by 'evil', and also perhaps what's really meant by 'God'"].

    Although perhaps only an illusion, “confronting” Satan and sin in such responses seems to leave somewhat less “wiggle room” in defining terms, in communicating with anyone listening outside of God Himself.

    May God Bless You, Your Family, Your Parish and Your Ministry,
    Robert

  6. Father Bosco,

    Although I have no reason to believe that this Calvin is an Epicopalian, he’s very much a modern American, not the American of times now gone (nor is he the original European Calvin), but he captures the attitude of miscommunication for those who avoid agreement as to terms, much less creed and dogma.

    Blessings to you and yours,
    Robert

    Calvin and Hobbes, tested.

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Rev. Bosco Peters Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.