Thinking allowed

Additional Texts for Holy Baptism (GS 1958A)

The Agenda for the February sessions of the General Synod was published recently. On Thursday afternoon, the Alternative Baptism Texts return to the Synod after the revision committee stage:

The following items (full details of which are contained in Special Agenda II — see page 9) will be taken:

600 Alternative Baptism Texts (GS 1958A)
— Report of the Revision Committee (GS 1958Y)

and the note on page 9 says:

Article 7 Business
Consideration of a Report by the Revision Committee (GS 1958Y)
The Chair of the Revision Committee (the Bishop of Truro) to move:
600 ‘That the Synod do take note of this Report.’

1. Notice of motions for re-committal under the provisions of Standing Order 77(a) must be given in writing to the Clerk to the Synod by not later than 5.30pm on Tuesday 10 February 2015 (Standing Order 10(c)). Any such motions will appear on a Notice Paper.

2. If no such motion is carried, the liturgical business will automatically stand committed to the House of Bishops under Standing Order 77(f).

The texts (GS 1958A) and the report of the Revision Committee (GS 1958Y) can be found with other papers for this group of sessions here.


  • As scheduled for Thursday afternoon, the ‘Take Note’ motion was moved by the Chair of the Revision Committee (the Bishop of Truro) and was approved.

    Accordingly these Alternative Baptism Texts, as revised by the committee, now go to the House of Bishops, who have the responsibility for introducing texts in their final form for the Synod to approve. Approval of texts alternative to those in the 1662 BCP require two-thirds majorities in all three Houses of the Synod.

  • James says:

    “Those who work with young people give constant advice that references to the devil are likely to be misunderstood in today’s culture” quoth the Bishop of Truro in commending these new texts. It’s a pity he didn’t take advice from some theologians, historians, social scientists and even therapists! I wonder if he spoke to some parish priests working in places where ‘the devil and all his works’ are manifest in bullying individuals in church life, or where abuse is rife in the community, or structural evil is felt most acutely through economic and political factors? So, once again, the Church of England has been enabled to propose a change in its doctrine through the tweaking of liturgical texts. If the Bishop of Truro and his revision committee had placed more emphasis on the need for literate and imaginative clergy, who would relish the possibility of working-through the existing texts and helping “those who work with young people” and families seeking baptism for their children to make connections between the language and images of the liturgy and the world they inhabit, we might stand a chance of overcoming the misunderstanding to which he refers. As Giles Fraser says in today’s Guardian “wickedness flourishes in the dark, when it is not faced or recognised. This is why I regret the devil’s passing. He was a powerful and symbolic representation of human evil… at his best, he was a very human projection of ourselves and our darkest nature. And that is something we face not nearly enough.”

    I hope Synod members will be robust, once these texts come back for approval, and that the House of Bishops invite some serious theological minds to engage with these texts, too. If we change the doctrine of baptism by tweaking the texts, where will that place our significant ecumenical relationships (think ARCIC and Lima, for example)?

  • Will Richards says:

    First, the devil is removed from the baptismal liturgy because such references are likely to be “misunderstood.” Does that now mean the funeral liturgy needs to be revised to remove explicit references to death, because these may prove problematic in a culture that doesn’t like to talk about it (Death is nothing at all…)? Or what about references to the life-long covenantal character of marriage, in a society where divorce rates are so high? And we had better get rid of that old Trinity chestnut while we’re at it, because that’s bound to confuse isn’t it?

    Yes please. More theologically literate clergy and rather less of these “accessible” texts which simply suggest we’ve lost our nerve.

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