committed to excellense

Another confused bill was passed at General Synod Te Hinota Whanui 2014 (GSTHW14). This one was attempting to see to it that, in the Eucharist, baptism and confirmation can no longer be placed between the New Testament Lesson and The Gospel.

Contrary to the church’s reporting, this Bill has not now “passed into law“, but needs to go for debate and voting at all diocesan synods and hui amorangi, then return to the next meeting of GSTHW, and if it passes all those stages, there is another year for someone to object.

Currently on page 383 of A New Zealand Prayer Book – He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa it says about Baptism and/or Confirmation

The liturgy takes place when the Church meets for the Eucharist or another service of worship. It follows the New Testament Lesson or The Gospel or The Sermon. In special circumstances the bishop or priest shall provide a suitable introduction to this liturgy.

If the three-year long process of this Bill succeeds, these words will become

The liturgy takes place when the Church meets for the Eucharist or another service of worship. Baptism and/or Confirmation follows the proclamation of the Word, and in the context of a celebration of the Holy Eucharist is prior to The Peace,

While the intention of this Bill may be laudable, four issues immediately spring to my mind:

1) I do not think that “the proclamation of the Word” is a specified liturgical category. In our formularies for the Eucharist we have the category “The Proclamation” (eg starting page 409), but this includes The Readings, The Sermon, and The Affirmation of Faith (Apostles Creed, A Liturgical Affirmation, or Nicene Creed). So, following this revised rubric, whereas previously it was 100% clear that The Affirmation of Faith (creed) was not used prior to Baptism and/or Confirmation (with the Apostles’ Creed as integral to that) now one can envisage a service with readings from the Bible followed, for example, by the Nicene Creed, followed by Baptism and/or Confirmation which includes the Apostles’ Creed.

Now one might well respond that this is not the intention of the Bill, and is so unusual that it would not happen. But, remember, this Bill is in response to people regularly placing Baptism and/or Confirmation between the New Testament Lesson and The Gospel. That could just as easily have been said to “not have been the intention of the current rubric, and is so unusual that it would not happen.” But it did! It is for that very reason that all this energy is being expended. So this new rubric merely replaces one possible unusual, unintended service structure with possibly a worse one.

If you are going to clarify a rubric which can be misinterpreted, and do this via the complex twice-round GSTHW, diocesan synods, etc, system – make sure that the wording of what you are replacing it with cannot be misinterpreted.

2) When it comes to “another service of worship” (other than the Eucharist) the new rubric is at least just as confusing as with the Eucharist. Again, there is no category, “the proclamation of the Word”. One may find a category “The Ministry of the Word”, but that refers to everything between the Preparation and the Dismissal, including, once again, the use of a creed. So in this context we may again encounter the creed twice (actually thrice – the NZ Baptism/Confirmation rite has candidates recite a mini creed {page 388} as well as the Apostles’ Creed {and excludes the unbaptised from reciting the Creed – but that is another story}).

Furthermore, for most non-eucharistic services the whole service can be understood as “the proclamation of the Word”…

3) In one of the Eucharistic rites (page 456) there is the option of having the Peace straight after the opening greeting and The Sentence of the Day from the Bible. I can just see clergy arguing that Baptism is the entrance rite to the church and appropriately comes at the start of the service… after the proclamation of the Word in The Sentence of the Day and prior to The Peace…

The reason I can visualise this is because clergy have in the past, all the way to cathedrals, placed Baptism as part of the entrance rite…

4) Nothing has been done about the confusion in the “Arrangement of services” (pages 396-397). There, Option A bizarrely omits The Presentation for Baptism (in which the candidate is presented, seeks baptism, renounces evil, and turns to Christ). And Option D not only omits The Presentation for Baptism, and the questions and exhortations to parents, godparents, child and congregation, but it adds Commitment to Christian Service from the Confirmation rite!

I have previously contacted those responsible for our liturgical rites, spoken about this at our diocesan synod, and also written about this. Again, if you are going to clarify parts of a rite which can be misinterpreted, and do this via the complex twice-round GSTHW, diocesan synods, etc, system – can we not fix a number of such confusions at the same time?

The church reporting claims there was “detailed consideration” of this Bill at GSTHW.

Had this Bill been available, online for example, prior to the meeting of GSTHW14, some of these issues could have been pointed out, and things could have been tidied up in the committee stage of the Bill.

This is my fourth post reflecting on General Synod Te Hinota Whanui 2014:

Today is the Thirty-eighth day of Easter.

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