Monday, 6 January 2014

The "new" Church of England baptism service

There have been a plethora of articles, good and otherwise, about the "new" Church of England order of service for baptism.   Here is the BBC version:

Today I saw a debate on the Facebook page of Premier Christian Radio and had to wade in after reading a lot of comments which didn't even seem to understand the facts.  I decided this comment of mine might be useful for others; so here it is with my thoughts and experience against the issues being claimed. Here for your enjoyment and discussion are the points others raised and my responses. 

1. The CofE is dumbing down the service
In my opinion this is not a dumbing down; this is an improvement in the way we communicate with those coming to our churches for baptism.  It's about communicating our faith more effectively.  It's also worth noting that this is not particularly new!  This proposed order of service is closer to the traditional (pre 1990s) service of baptism than the one we're currently using.  

2.  Non believers shouldn't be allowed to have their children baptised
Both the CofE and the Catholic Church baptise infants (as well as adults) and the biblical reasons for this could be the subject for another dozen or so blog posts.   I'd recommend for some very scholarly articles which are readable and clear on the subject. Childhood baptism (also called christening) is available to families who are not part of the church membership.  But let's be very clear - being a member of a church is not a requirement for being a Christian.  The vast majority of the families who come for baptism are Christians or seekers who are separated from "church" but not from God or their faith.   

But even if non Christians are asking for baptism then surely it is not for us to decide whether they are "good enough" or "right" for baptism.  God knows these families and we, as disciples of Christ, are called to help God in His misson.  Who are we to judge who believes and who doesn't; who knows God and who doesn't?  Who is hoping they're good enough to be loved, or not.

More than that, the process of baptism (including meeting the family before and after) often result in the families coming along to other Sunday services, messy church services, toddler services or holiday clubs.  In turn these often lead to the families finding a home at church which they otherwise wouldn't have encountered.  

3. Infant baptisms are all about the party
Not in my experience. If families want a party then a party they can have; they can even hire the church hall.
Why would families go through the process of finding their local church and speaking to the vicar and meeting the vicar and going to church just to gave a party?  That is far from an easy thing to do for anyone outside the church. 
When a family comes looking for a baptism then you can guarantee they are looking for a baptism; even if they find it hard to vocalise it any better than that.

And perhaps we should be the ones thanking these families for their discipleship; after all, when wad the last time families inside the church brought 100 of their unchurched family and friends into Church?

The baptism order of service is an opportunity for sowing of seeds, outreach into the community and nurturing of faith. 

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