I was called an ‘idiot‘ by a Church of England minister for blogging on this. Well as an update, we have the Guardian (which I’m assuming is better than the Daily Mail, since I’m not British?)…
The Church of England is to offer shorter, snappier baptisms in “BBC1 language” after its governing body voted overwhelmingly in favour of a more accessible service.
Bishops, clergy and laity attending the General Synod in London heard how the religious language of existing texts saw “the shutters come down among the unprepared guests“.
The Rev Tim Stratford, who proposed the idea, said the pictures and metaphors in the baptism service – “slavery in Egypt” or “brought to birth by water and the Spirit” – did not resonate with the experience and knowledge of lapsed Anglican parents.
He told the synod: “It sounds as if the church wants an entirely religious response – removed from our behaviour, actions and conversation.”
It was not a request for “christenings without Christianity” but making “culturally relevant references readily understood by the majority of Britons“, he explained.
The number of babies baptised fell to 83,800 in 2009, from 86,500 in the previous year. However, the number of child and adult baptisms increased to 43,500 and 11,000 in 2009 from 42,300 and 10,400 respectively in 2008.
The archbishop of Canterbury supported Stratford’s proposal, conceding how the “wordiness” of baptisms might lead to “eyes glazing over”.
One member to oppose the move was the Rev James Dudley-Smith, who suggested simplifying the language of baptism might be like “taking a recording of the Beatles and putting the singing voice of [footballer] Steven Gerrard” on top.
Stratford denied he was “asking for the language of Steven Gerrard” and said that “the language of BBC1” was fine. He added, however, that you could not “make EastEnders out of a Shakespearean tragedy without changing the language” – an indication that sacrifices would have to be made for the proposal to be effective.
It was not just the cultural relevance of baptism that concerned synod members; it was also its online accessibility.
Sally Muggeridge said the Church of England website was “extraordinarily unhelpful” in this respect. “I had to print off 60 pages of Common Worship in order to find out what a baptism service looked like.”
She said there was “no inspiration” as to what one might expect and there was “nothing to encourage adults” who were considering baptism because there was only the image of a baby in that section.
The proposal will go to the House of Bishops for approval before being sent to the Church of England’s liturgical commission, which will devise alternatives, with a simpler baptism service ready for use in about two years.
As I said then, the language here is not theologically too complexed, it’s simply unfashionable to the fallen mind, and that’s the problem… I’ll add:
Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…