Thinking Anglicans

General Synod – more Wednesday press reports

Updated Wednesday evening and Thursday lunchtime

Riazat Butt in The Guardian Baptisms to be given in ‘BBC1 language’
BBC Baptism language to be simplified
Maria Mackay in Christian Today Church of England hopes simpler baptism language will connect with unchurched
Tim Ross in The Telegraph Church of England to rewrite baptism service words in ‘EastEnders’ speak

Independent Catholic News Bishop George Stack addresses Church of England General Synod

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Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

One of these articles quotes a priest who says something along the lines of, “…my parishioners have heard of Jordan, but they don’t know it’s a river.” Well, whose fault is that? I can understand how guests at a baptism who are not churched, or not Christians, might well be puzzled by what goes on, but surely members of the regular congregation ought to have had an opportunity to find out that the Jordan is a river, since it figures prominantly in both parts of the Bible. And certainly the family will have had at least one session with the… Read more »

John Roch
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John Roch

In England, because of the relationship between Church and State, “parishioners” means all who live in the parish, not just the regular congregation.

Rosalind
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Rosalind

In the context of the C of E. parishioners can mean all those who live in the geographical parish as well as those who go to a particular parish church. They might never go to church, but they are still “parishioners”, they have a right to be baptised or ask for their children to be baptised, and the incumbent has pastoral responsibility for them. So parishioners might well be unchurched guests at a baptism. Of course clergy prepare families for baptism – but this doesn’t mean that the liturgy could not be substantially improved (it’s on line on the C… Read more »

Meg Gilley
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Meg Gilley

The issue is not so much with the immediate family and godparents / sponsors, but with the wider family and friends who attend a baptism and who haven’t attended any preparation. For them, the whole service can be utterly alien. Many baptism parties now come with 50, 60, 80, 100 people. Where the parents are not married and it is a first child, the baptism can be the first time the two families have been brought together. I do try to explain everything as I go along to make it accessible as possible, but liturgy shouldn’t need a running commentary.

Peter Edwards
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Peter Edwards

Cynthia, there’s no such thing as an example of BBC1 language, so don’t believe a soundbite just because someone has used a meaningless simile. It means ‘everyday language’ as used by millions of differently-educated people from different regions. You have missed nothing in translation. The objection seems to be to what we would call ‘theological’ language, requiring a fairly basic grasp of Christianity. Admittedly, we do have a slight problem with the continuingly unchurched, who have either never been baptised; or have never been brought to church by their ‘promising’ parents; or have drifted away. What is baptism? A mystery,… Read more »

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

“In England, because of the relationship between Church and State, “parishioners” means all who live in the parish, not just the regular congregation.”

Well why not educate them? You could have an instructed Baptism, just as some US parishes that attract a lot of visitors have instructed Eucharists.

May this be part of the reason for declining church attendance? That is – you’re OK if you come here all the time, but if you come for a wedding, a baptism, an occasional service, we sure won’t explain anything to you.

A better argument for disestablishment I have not seen.

Lois Keen
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Lois Keen

Besides what John Roch writes, I’m under the impression that since the CofE is an established church, a priest can’t turn down a request for baptism, wedding or funeral. This might make it more likely the baptismal party will not attend a preparation session and could know absolutely nothing about what is going on, or even what they think the church is doing in baptizing a child. That makes the liturgy itself the teaching moment, and if it is written with a certain level of understanding or knowledge as a given, it’s more likely to fail.

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

“In England, because of the relationship between Church and State, “parishioners” means all who live in the parish, not just the regular congregation.”

So? Would they – the unchurched locals – show up at a baptism?

I’m confused here. I thought the person meant congregants who didn’t know about the river.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

“So? Would they – the unchurched locals – show up at a baptism?”

A baptism is a family occasion and you would invite people just like you would invite them to a Wedding. If unchurched locals happen to be members of your family, they would show up at a baptism, just as unchurched family members from all over the country.

Savi Hensman
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Savi Hensman

Cynthia, the best-known ‘Jordan’ in England is a celebrity.

Perry Butler
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Perry Butler

In the C of E baptisms take place as part of a regular service; at a special ( say, once a month) baptism service or ( probably decreasingly) at a more or less family only event after the morning service or mid-Sunday afternoon.There can be one baby/child or more ( considerably more, say 5+ which does increase noise levels)Im sure most clergy have some preparation for the parents, but sponsors these days are rarely local..I once had a baptism where the father was in shipping and the 3 God parents came from Singapore/ Sweden and Spain!so sponsor prep is difficult…tho… Read more »

David Wilson
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David Wilson

If they need to dumb down the baptism, especially for that of an adult, it suggests the person hasnt really understood what it is all about and needs further teaching. What a tragedy if they didnt really understand that it is a baptism of repentance. Likewise the parents and god-parents must understand. As an adult you are being delivered from Egypt i.e. the world. In that sense it couldnt be more relevant because society is as godless as Egypt. We can all see the immorality of the world. Yes you may substitute the word “love” but will they then even… Read more »

John Roch
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John Roch

I took the comment as being a humorous quip, given that a lady who has undergone much enhancement surgery, and every week appears in the so-called “celebrity” magazines, has the professional name “Jordan”.

On UK television there have been (it seems like daily, given the endless trailers) television programmes about the latest ins and outs of her marriage and divorce.

A search on the word “Jordan” produces many, many references to her

Simon butler
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Simon butler

Cynthia, your confusion is not surprising: as others have remarked, ‘parishioner’ in the UK does not equal ‘parishioner’ in the US. I have 12,000 parishioners and 250 members of my congregation. Baptisms almost always come from the 12,000 most of whom have never had much Religious Education, have never attended church, read the bible etc, but yet may have nascent faith, to which as a pastor I must respond. I voted for this proposal at Gen Synod yesterday, as a way of building bridges of understading between emerging ‘faith’ of parishioners and the ‘faith once delivered to the saints’.

Anne
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Anne

I can hear you are confused by this Cynthia, but you will just have to take our (the C of E clergy who are commenting on this thread) word for it that this is an issue which needs addressing. The reality here in the UK is that we have the wonderful privilege of having people come to us to ask for baptism for their children who haven’t had any church involvement before. They want something holy to happen for their children, even if they don’t quite understand what it all means at the outset. We can work with the family… Read more »

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

Thanks to you all for enlightening me about the issues around revising the baptismal service. Someone has suggested on another thread that you look at the 1979 American BCP, both for language and for brevity. At most TEC churches, there are no ‘private’ baptisms; they are always done as part of the regular Sunday morning services or on the several days suggested as especially appropriate – e.g., as part of the Easter Vigil. As you will see, the whole congregation reaffirms its baptismal vows, as well as pledging to support the newly baptized in their new life in Chrict. As… Read more »

jnwall
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jnwall

As an Episcopal priest, I cannot imagine doing a baptism without prebaptismal instruction at which the meaning of the language is explained. There is also a sense here — perhaps not able to be duplicated in England — that one should not do a baptism to make somebody happy but only if there is a reasonable chance the parents and godparents will take seriously their commitment to bring up the child in the Christian life and faith, which means as a minimum being active in the congregation. For the only vaguely religious, I see prebaptismal instruction is an evangelical opportunity… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

“When there are Children to be baptized, the Parent shall give
knowledge thereof over night, or in the morning before the begin-
ning of Morning Prayer, to the Curate. And then the Godfathers
and Godmothers, and the People with the Children, must be ready
at the Font, either immediately after the last Lesson at Morning
Prayer, or else immediately after the last Lesson at Evening Prayer,
as the Curate by his discretion shall appoint.”
1662 BCP Rubrics for the Public Baptism of Infants.

I see nowhere here a preparation class!

Just advising the Clerk on Saturday of the need ….. Why make it any more complicated than that?

Tim Chesterton
Guest

I haven’t seen the Common Worship text but it seems to me from what people have said that it must be almost the same as the TEC/Anglican Church of Canada text. I’ve been using that one since 1985 with no problem. But then, I’m not a priest in an ‘established church’, and I have to say that C of E baptismal practice is one of the major reasons why I could not in all good conscience be a priest in the C of E.

Father Ron Smith
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For me, as a retired but active priest in New Zealand, the most important part of all this discussion is that the child should recive the grace of Baptism. What happens in that ritual is that the Holy Spirit is welcomed into the life of the child concerned and we can never underestimate the spiritual grace that open-ness to Baptism may bring into the life of the Baptisee – not to mention the lives of the God-parents (who will need instruction before agreeing to take on their task) and any witnesses of the ceremony. In the Anglo-catholic situation – such… Read more »

Father David
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Father David

Yet one more example of how the Church of England has been floundering ever since it largely abandoned the incomparable liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer.

JCF
Guest
JCF

Martin, don’t you think that, in 1662, people would simply learn The Faith by rote—reinforced by custom and habit (in 1662 England, *law*)—than really intellectually ENGAGE it?

I really don’t think 1662 catechesis works in 2011 (OCICBW).

David Shepherd
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David Shepherd

This site is entitled Thinking Anglicans, yet clearly some hold to the belief that grace can be imparted by a hieratic mechanism that doesn’t ultimately and meaningfully engage the mind or will (and I don’t just mean intellect) of its recipients. Is there not a concern among those that without understanding, the ritual reduces to little more than administering a vaccine against infantile limbo and the loss of cultural/family tradition? What are the current strands of mainstream Anglican belief regarding the fate of the unbaptized child? It seems a far cry from the grace that imparts moral insight (to which… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

David,

You may call me unthinking because I don’t agree with you!

The whole point of the infant baptism is that it does not depend on the understanding and the active engagement of the baby’s mind.

Or are you suggesting that God checks out the understanding of parents and godparents first before deciding whether a particular baby is worthy of his grace?

If you see Baptism as little more than an adult promise to bring up a child in the Christian faith you completely miss what I believe it is about.

david rowett
Guest

“the incomparable liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer.”

I recall Geoffrey Cuming commenting (about 30 years ago) that those who spoke of Cranmer’s incomparable liturgy had clearly never compared it with anything else….;-)

Father David
Guest
Father David

One enlightened Synod member said that at baptisms when reference is made to Jordan some families think of a rather pneumatic lady rather than a river.
How come those same families don’t bat an eyelid at Christmas when singing
“God of God,
Light of light,
Lo! he abhors not the Virgin’s womb
Very God,
Begotten not created”?
An end to all this continual dumbing down and lowering of the hurdles is what I say!

David Shepherd
Guest
David Shepherd

Hi Erika, My comments weren’t particularly directed towards you. However, I would contend that no-one is worthy of divine grace. God is no man’s (or child’s) debtor. Christ happily received infants and young children and blessed them, saying, ‘Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.’ Grace was and still is directly imparted into their fledgling lives (as with Samuel and John the Baptist) without resorting to rituals. However heretical to Anglican orthodoxy it may sound, it would appear churlish of Him to invite them with words of full… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

My concern about “dumbing down” is that it lowers the expectations, consistently. I tend to agree with David that a ritual is not required for admittance to Christ’s redemptive nature, but, having embraced that act as symbol of community, why not expect people to understand, study and absorb the subject. Obviously, the infant can’t understand it, but it can be reintroduced for study later. We constantly expect less and less from our minds, and human tendency to complacency and a gravitation toward entropy mean that the lower we set the bar, the less people will attempt to learn. Like any… Read more »

Hector_St_Clare
Guest
Hector_St_Clare

What a horrendous idea. Dumbing down the liturgy so that witless and politically correct yahoos can understand it? What’s next? Does the church of England not have any self-respect left? If people are interested in the sacrament of baptism then they need to make an effort to educated themselves as to what it means, full stop. _They_ need to make that effort, not the church. Just like no one should receive the body and blood of Our Lord without self-examination and examinatin of conscience. It is not the role of the church of England to ensure that there is nothing… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David, 46 years ago my prematurely born brothers were emergency baptised by a nurse in hospital because they weren’t expected to live and she was afraid they might go to hell. I don’t know anyone who still believes that, and I do believe that even the Catholic Church has not so long ago given up the idea of limbo. I don’t understand your thinking on Baptism, is it not the moment in which a child becomes a member of the Christian family, not merely by virtue of human beings declaring him to be a member but by God’s grace? Are… Read more »

Malcolm French+
Guest

There is a significant difference between “dumbing down” the liturgy on the one hand and making the language of the liturgy accessible and meaningful to a new generation or a new culture on the other. The General Synod has asked for the latter, while the usual Chicken Littles are all assuming that the end product will be the former. Now, there is always a risk that even well-intentioned liturgical revision may result in some “dumbing down,” but it is dishonest and frankly tedious for the Sky Is Falling Brigade to pretend that such is always the case. All that said,… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest
David Shepherd

I took pains in an earlier post to this thread to distinguish the mind and will from mere intellectual assent. Yes, I may try to describe my experience in understandable terms, but why He saved me from self-destruction and how He did it is beyond my comprehension or anything I would imagine sacrificing for someone else. John the Baptist was a life-long Nazirite. He challenged his contemporaries to demonstrate genuine penitence in order to escape the retribution of the Day of the LORD. He was then was inspired by God to use the River Jordan as a large-scale accessible version… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“I would also distinguish water baptism from being joined to God’s family through the Holy Spirit” – David Shepherd – Oh, really? However, I suppose that’s the problem when one short-changes the liturgical nature of Baptism to being simply – a ‘water’ Baptism. In Anglican formularies for Holy Baptism in most Provinces of the Anglican Communion one notes that there are several ‘outward and visible signs’ of the ‘inward and spiritual grace’ intentionally provided for us in the ceremony. Water, Oil and Light are ancient symbols of the grace of Christ present in the Baptized that give us some clues… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest
David Shepherd

Father Ron: ‘The grace of Baptism is available, as we are told in the Scriptures – “To ALL whom the Lord our God may call”.’ Thanks for your insight and gentle instruction. It makes a welcome and exemplary change to the usual exchanges. I agree with the quotation, but the rest of the text renders thus: ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you and to your children and to all that are… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“However, up to that time, I can assure you that I was not indwelt by the Holy Spirit ‘whereby, we cry, Abba, Father’.” – David shepherd – Dear David, whether you were aware of it at the time or not (and possibly not, if you, like me, were an inbfant at the time), at your Baptism you received the grace of the Holy Spirit in your life. After all, that was the most important action of God in your life from the moment of your conception in the womb. However, like any gift that is given, the grace of the… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest
David Shepherd

Father Ron,
I am left to wonder how so many Pentecostals encounter the same experience of conversion without having been baptised as infants. Are they indwelt by the Holy Spirit during infancy as well.

The pastors of these churches perform a infant dedication ceremony. However, many Anglicans would argue that their leaders lack the intermediary authority to participate in the sacramental impartation of grace.

While we rage over exclusion of Anglican woman from episcopal authority, many of our number happily treat those outside of our number with similar contempt.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“The pastors of these churches perform a infant dedication ceremony. However, many Anglicans would argue that their leaders lack the intermediary authority to participate in the sacramental impartation of grace.” – David Shopherd – God’s grace is sometimes experienced as ‘pre-venient’ – meaning that we can never be certain of the origin or timing of such grace. This was borne out in Acts, when certain converts were seen to be showing signs of their conversion – evenb before being baptized. They were then Baptized – to ensure that they would be recognized by the Church as ‘kosher’! We can never… Read more »

Malcolm French+
Guest

David, I am not aware of any theological argument which argues that any baptized person “lack[s] the intermediate authority” to perform a baptism – and I am aware of arguments that even a non-believer could perform a baptism if a person desired to be baptized. (Not sure I buy the latter argument, but that’s beside the point.)

An infant dedication ceremony is not a baptism. Baptism as baptism, and dedication is not.