AN ALTERNATIVE baptism liturgy, which does not mention sin or
the devil, is "baptism lite", and should be thrown out by the
General Synod, the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent,
said this week.
The experimental texts have also been criticised on social media
by other clerics, including the Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd
David Walker, who tweeted that he "reckon[ed] these draft texts are
more banal than even ASB".
The text is currently being piloted in 450 parishes. It was
developed by the Liturgical Commission after the Synod approved a
motion from Liverpool diocese asking for an alternative text in
"accessible language" (News, 11
A note attached to the text, which was published on Sunday, says
that "Clergy frequently find themselves conducting baptisms for
families who have little contact with the Church. . . For the
majority of those attending on such occasions, the existing
provision can seem complex and inaccessible."
The note states that the Commission had sought to "express the
primacy of God's welcoming grace, while retaining the solemnity of
the promises to turn away from evil and towards Christ".
The existing Common Worship rite asks parents and
godparents: "Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?
Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil? Do you repent of
the sins that separate us from God and neighbour? Do you turn to
Christ as Saviour? Do you submit to Christ as Lord?" The
alternative text asks: "Do you reject evil? And all its many forms?
And all its empty promises? Do you turn to Christ? And put your
trust in him?"
On Monday, Bishop Broadbent said of the Common Worship
text: "It has content about what Christian discipleship is all
about: a sense of turning away from what has gone before; of evil
being corrupt; repentance being central to what it means to be a
Christian; the needing of salvation; the lordship of Christ. I
understand entirely why people find some of our stuff is
impenetrable. . . But what they have produced here is more about
style than substance."
Preparation was part of the answer, he said, and "walking people
through" the service, with "plenty of symbolism and movement"
rather than relying solely on the text.
"I honestly believe that you need accessibility, but also
mystery," he said. "The Christian faith is both transcendent and
immanent, including language that is sometimes difficult. Rejecting
the devil and renouncing evil have always been part of what
Christian theology and baptism is about."
The Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, who chairs
the Liturgical Commission, said that the new text used "the
language of turning: the whole point of turning is that it comes
from the New Testament word for repentance." Of the Decision
section of the service, he said: "I think the terseness of language
that we use is pretty challenging."
The candidate would also be told "Christ claims you for his own"
and "Do not be ashamed of Christ," the Bishop said. He argued that
sin, resurrection, and salvation were included, but "You can't
repeat them in every single section of the service, nor should
On Tuesday, the Vicar of St Andrew's, Chelmsford, the Revd Paul
Greenland, spoke of the need, from an "urban mission perspective",
for an alternative text.
"Baptism liturgy and practice should meet people where they are,
and then try to help them on their journey of faith," he said. "I
am not interested in dumbing down or compromising one iota of
Christian doctrine about repentance of sin or the necessity of
believing in Christ crucified, but the language of our baptism
liturgy, and especially the promises and declarations, must be
Even after preparation, during which he explained the cross and
the cleansing from sin to families of children being baptised, he
felt the need to "translate" the service. "What I am concerned with
is what Jesus did, which is always to address people in language
and terms they could understand, and meet them where they
Question of the week: Should the devil be mentioned in the