CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 August 2019

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Church of England revamps baptismal language

London (Agencies): The Church of England has rewritten its text for rite of baptism, dropping all mention of sin and the devil. 

The new wording is designed to be easier to understand–but critics are stunned at such a fundamental change to a cornerstone of their faith, saying the new, “dumbed-down” version “strikes at the heart” of what baptism means. 

The Mail Online reported on January 6 that instead of asking parents and godparents to “reject the devil and all rebellion against God,” the new text asks them to make a broad pledge to reject evil.

It reports that among other phrases abandoned in the experimental new baptism rite are those referring to “the deceit and corruption of evil … the sins that separate us from God and neighbour,” and a promise to “fight valiantly as a disciple of Christ against sin, the world and the devil.” 

The new text, to be tested in a trial lasting until Easter, also drops the word submit in the phrase “Do you submit to Christ as Lord?” because it is thought to have become problematical, especially among women who object to the idea of submission. 

The rewritten version—which came after complaints from some parishes that the current wording of the rite does not “resonate with the knowledge and experience of parents and godparents who are not regular churchgoers”—will be the fifth revision in 35 years to the wording in the Common Worship prayer book, if approved.

The Mail Online, reported that the Church of England said the new service was developed with the approval of the archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Justin Welby, to provide a service in “culturally appropriate and accessible language.” The trial version has been sent to 400 churches which have permission to use it until the end of April.

The idea has angered many senior members of the Church, who feel it breaks vital links with baptisms as described in the bible.

Writing in The Mail on January 5, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, the former bishop of Rochester, said the Church of England was dumbing down and that the reform should be scrapped before it further reduced Christianity to “easily swallowed soundbites.”

He said there is a trend to minimise the depth and mystery in the Church’s services on the premise of making them more accessible. He went on to note, “The new alternative service for baptism continues this trend. Instead of explaining what the baptism means and what the various parts of the service signify, its solution is to do away with key elements of the service altogether.” 

However, insiders predict the draft will become the norm for the Church’s approximately 150,000 baptisms each year if, as expected, it is approved by the General Synod which may discuss the issue as early as this summer.

One senior member of the synod, who did not wish to be named, remarked, “This is more like a benediction from the good fairy than any Church service.” 


A spokesperson for the Church of England said the texts have no formal status without approval by the General Synod.

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