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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