Thinking allowed

baptismal texts: press comment

Updated Sunday morning

There is some press comment today on the draft baptismal texts published yesterday.

Reports say that “sin” removed in the original trial in January has now been reinstated, and that the response from parishes trialling the texts was positive, with more than 90 per cent saying the congregation had been “more engaged” with the new liturgy and there was praise for its “unchurchy” language.

The Times: Sin makes return in revamped baptism
The Daily Telegraph: ‘Sin’ is back but ‘the Devil’ optional in new Church of England baptism service
The Guardian: No devil in detail of Church of England’s new baptism service
The Daily Mail: Church puts the ‘sin’ back into traditional baptism services

Sunday update: Tim Stanley blogs for the Telegraph Hey, Church of England: if you want to become a Christian, you have to renounce the Devil — an article that contains numerous errors of fact, but which does represent the Church’s dilemma.

(Some of these reports are behind paywalls.)


  • James says:

    I confess to being rather uninspired by this baptismal rite revision. Angela Tilby’s involvement is cause for confidence in the quality of the material; but is tinkering with the text really going to make all that much difference? If you are not a church family, if the language and symbolism of the Christian faith in general, and baptism in particular, is alien to you, then it is going to be difficult. Full stop. This all originated with clergy who felt ill at ease using the 1997 texts because they were not ‘accessible.’ This is followed by a request to make them ‘easier’; but the demands and calling of baptism remain (although I think any intelligent approach to these texts should be read in tandem with Angela Tilby’s excellent essay in the David Stancliffe festschrift which highlights how we have sleepwalked into a doctrinal fudge over baptism).

    Of greater need (and urgency) is theologically literate clergy, who are au fait with the assumptions which underpin the texts, and can bring a measure of imagination and insight to bear in the way the whole rite is celebrated and enacted. In the final analysis, changing the words is not necessarily going to enable the rite to ‘speak’ more effectively – and what’s wrong with a liturgy that doesn’t reveal all its treasures on first encounter?

  • Susannah Clark says:

    I don’t really value giving ‘The Devil’ any oxygen of publicity, and I think baptism services should help families and communities affirm the good, so an affirmation to resist sin should be enough, with the focus on the positives of Christian love and grace, and the focus on Jesus’s baptismal example in life and death and resurrection.

    The key to baptism is the primary (and preceding and eternal) faithfulness and givenness of God.

    That givenness is made to all, and so the liturgy and sacrament needs to welcome all, and to me that implies the liturgy being accessible to all.

    That’s not to say that the language needs to be cold or robotic: the numinous otherness of God also invites expression, and language can participate in that.

    Sacrament is the work of grace in process.

    People’s lived experience and understanding of it may evolve in a journey.

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