The Church of England is revising its baptism liturgy to accommodate contemporary people who are offended to be addressed as sinners. Also missing, along with the rich language of the Book of Common Prayer, is mention of the devil and the charge to bring children to church and to teach them the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments.
The present modern language version asks parents whether they will “reject the devil and all rebellion against God”, “renounce the deceit and corruption of evil” and “repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour”. In the new version they are asked only to say that they “turn away from sin” and “reject evil”.
The Church of England is making the changes to adapt to a population which increasingly has no Christian background at all. Where once the pattern was for couples to get married, live together, have a baby, and then have it baptised at about six weeks, they are increasingly living together, having babies, and then, after a couple of years, getting married and having the children baptised at the same time.As a result, there is a need for a shorter, simpler service that will not put off people who are offended to be addressed as sinners. In the traditional service, which was in use for around 400 years, from 1662 to the 1960s, the priest would ask the parents and godparents: “Dost thou, in the name of this Child, renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the carnal desires of the flesh, so that thou wilt not follow nor be led by them?”
Where the traditional prayer book charge on the parents was that they should “call upon him to hear Sermons … [and] provide that he may learn the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments in the vulgar tongue, and all other things which a Christian ought to know and believe to his soul’s health”, in the proposed new liturgy they are told: “Here, we shall do all that we can to ensure that there is a welcoming place for you. We will play our part in helping you guide these children along the way of faith.”