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Posted on Sat 4 January 2014

Why the CofE must abandon this dumbed-down christening

Since at least the 1970s there has been a fashion in the Church of England to minimise depth and mystery in its worship because of the alleged need to make its services ‘accessible’.

The new alternative service for baptism, which has been sent for trial, continues this trend. Instead of explaining what baptism means and what the various parts of the service signify, its solution is to do away with key elements of the service altogether!

From ancient times, the structure of the service has included the renunciation of sin, the world and the devil and the turning to Christ as Lord and Saviour.

If a child is being baptised, it is on the basis of the faith of the parents and the godparents, as well as the faith of the community.

There is, finally, a commission both to hear and to proclaim the Gospel.

In all of these aspects, the new service falls short of what has usually been required. At a time of high interest in supernatural evil, the traditional renunciation of the devil and all his works has been replaced with an anodyne rejection of evil in its ‘many forms’.

The very first baptisms of the Church took place after St Peter’s call at Pentecost to ‘repent and be baptised .  .  . for the forgiveness of sins’ (Acts 2:38).

The Church has always regarded repentance as necessary for beginning the Christian life and, for children, a cleansing, if not from actual sin, then certainly from the sinfulness of the whole race since the original sin.

Because of its anxiety to make everyone feel welcome and its desire not to offend anyone, the new service, almost entirely, does away with sin and the need to repent from its personal and social manifestations and consequences.

The whole thrust of the service of deliverance from sin, protection from the devil and regeneration by water and the Holy Spirit, based on the teaching of Jesus himself, has been set aside and replaced by a ‘welcome’ which seems to have no basis in the promises of God, the faith of the parents and godparents or of the Church as a whole.

Indeed, there seems to be ambivalence about the Church itself with such circumlocutions as ‘God’s family’ being used. We are not told anything about the Christ in whom we are to put our trust.

There is no acknowledgement of him as Lord and Saviour. In general, there is a reluctance to declare that the Bible sees the world as having gone wrong and needing to be put right.

This is done by the coming of Christ. Baptism is nothing less than taking part in this story of salvation, no part of which can be sold short.

Rather than the constant ‘dumbing down’ of Christian teaching, whether for baptism, marriage or death, we should be spending time preparing people for these great rites of passage.

When it comes to the service itself, the need is not to eliminate crucial areas of teaching but to explain them.

It is best to call a halt to this perhaps well-meant effort before it further reduces the fullness of the Church’s faith to easily swallowed soundbites.

The full article, posted by The Daily Mail can be viewed here.

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