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Getting NZ’s Baptism Rite right


I have placed online the NZ Anglican Baptism rite with the promises, commitments and creed before baptism. This was authorised in 2002.

Although some people touted NZ Anglican’s baptismal practice, of pouring water over someone’s head and then seeing if after that they believe anything, as a breakthrough in Christian baptismal history, I have always struggled with this revisionist rite. [For people unfamiliar with this rite, the declaration of Trinitarian faith and commitment to share this faith with, say, a child being baptised, come after the baptism, not before it! And let’s not get into the discussion of the layout in the Prayer Book which is a form of liturgical snakes-and-ladders so complex that regularly clergy get lost leading it, not to mention congregants trying to follow the text and watch the action…]

In 1998, when I was a member of General Synod Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW), I moved a motion which passed unanimously:

that General Synod/te Hinota Whanui requests that before the next ordinary session of the General Synod/te Hinota Whanui the Common Life Liturgical Commission prepares for authorisation an alternative baptism rite which is easier to follow and restores the promises, commitments and creed before baptism.

What was authorised by our church is little known and not readily available, so click to have a look at the Liturgy of Baptism I have now made easily accessible.

Many clergy do not even know this option exists in our formularies (agreed practice), preferring often to construct their own orthodox order than use the formulary provided by the church.

As a result of my 1998 motion, Statute 614 was passed at GSTHW 2000:

A new Additional Direction shall be inserted after section “C” on page 397 of ‘A New Zealand Prayer Book – He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa’ as follows:

“D An Alternate Order for the Liturgy of Baptism Only

These sections are used following the New Testament lesson or Gospel or Sermon

God’s Call
The Affirmation (but not including the post-baptismal questions and exhortation to parents, godparents, child, and congregation)
The Celebration of Faith
Commitment to Christian Service
The Baptism
The Continuation of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, or Prayers.”

This was then passed by diocesan synods and hui amorangi as required and then confirmed at GSTHW 2002. It is not printed in the 2002 revised edition of the Prayer Book, but it is in the 2005 edition. It is not in the online version of our Prayer Book.*

A quick glance at what GSTHW passed, and anyone would realise that the Liturgy Commission made a dog’s breakfast of what should have been a simple execution of the 1998 motion. That GSTHW did not fix the mess presented by the Liturgy Commission merely shows the significance of liturgical decisions there recently.

Bizarrely, The Presentation for Baptism (in which the candidate is presented, seeks baptism, renounces evil, and turns to Christ) has been removed altogether! The “post-baptismal questions and exhortations” (including to care for the child and share our faith with the child) have also explicitly been removed. The Commitment to Christian Service, a part of the confirmation rite rather than of baptism, and in the formulary requiring a Bishop, has suddenly been added!

When I pointed out these issues I was told, don’t worry Bosco, section A (page 396) is similarly defective – it doesn’t have a Presentation either!

In making available the authorised version in which the questions and baptism have been restored to the orthodox order, I have tried to ameliorate GSTHW’s mess and provide options that actually work. I hope many people will find it useful to now have readily available the text and PDFs of the right rite.


*The online version of the Prayer Book seems to be wholly retyped rather than consistent with printed editions, and hence cannot be used with assurance or reliability. Eg. In the online rite it has

If children have been baptised, the bishop speaks to the parent(s) and godparents

How then will you care for this child?

In the actual agreed formulary of our church the question is asked by “the bishop or priest” (my emphasis). [Yes, the difference may be minor, but it demonstrates the online text is not the printed text and has been retyped and hence needs careful checking against the authorised (printed) text before using it. I have already pointed out that the online version is out of date.]

image: The 1853 painting shows the baptism of the leading Te Āti Awa chief Te Puni by the Reverend Octavius Hadfield, an Anglican missionary. The old chief lived by Wellington Harbour at the site of present-day Petone, and was baptised there in 1852. However, the ceremony is shown here in the more impressive surroundings of Rangiātea, Hadfield’s church at Ōtaki.

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5 thoughts on “Getting NZ’s Baptism Rite right”

  1. Well done for putting this online Bosco. Very helpful. I am in (at least) two minds about my preferred order for the baptismal rite but agree entirely that the initiation liturgy(ies) in ANZPB are a shambles and add to a large amount of quite unhelpful confusion within them. My own work in this field has convinced me utterly that the perhaps dozen people in the Province who actually care about this stuff are simply not enough to effect a change of attitude or action within the apathetic majority. Such is life I guess!
    There is a long story of course about the origins of the online version of the prayer book which I won’t bore you with, but includes the joys of not having ANY electronic version in the early 21st century and relying on a rather dodgy scan of the printed book to create the basis for the versions we have today!
    Blessings, Brian

    1. Thanks, Brian, for these insights.

      Thanks for encouraging my getting it online. It took quite a bit of work (check my HTML and you will see why).

      To emphasise: having a digital version of liturgy readily available is a must in the third millennium. Available online [alongside other digital forms] seems to me essential. It must be accurate, and up to date.


  2. Thanks for that Bosco, the rite in NZPB is extraordinary and even after 20 years of using it, I’m still wondering if I’m using the right bits…and continually disappointed about the bits that are left out…

  3. Wow! Sounds complicated. I’m a world away (in more ways than one) the United church of Canada has more freedom and fewer issues. I find our liturgy very clear. Local churches can make many of their own choiceds. A predecessor in one church did baptism. BEFORE any reading because the babies would get restless and the parents may have to take them out.

    1. Thanks, Beth.

      Your point about moving the rite because of restlessness came up in a previous comment. Although I want rites to be pastorally, contextually appropriate, I would be careful if doing so went against theology. I think there are valid theological reasons for placing baptism at different points so that restlessness does not become the only reason.

      I must say that in all my years of baptising, and in more years of being present at baptisms, I have never seen restlessness to the point of having thought the rite needs to move position. What do such parents do at home with a restless baby? Take them out? What prevents them doing in church what they would do at home?


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