UK

Church Of England Accused Of 'Dumbing Down' Baptism Service

05/01/2014 08:46 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 21:01 GMT

Baptisms performed by the Church of England will no longer urge parent to "repent sins" and "reject the devil" in new wording, rejected as "dumbing down" by one former Bishop.

In the new version, trialled in parishes until Easter, parents and godparents will be asked if they "reject evil, and all its many forms, and all its empty promises".

In the original version, the vicar asks: "Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?", prompting the reply: "I reject them." They then ask: "Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?" with the answer: "I repent of them."

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Former Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali who has criticised the change

Former Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali, writing in The Mail on Sunday, branded it as part of the "constant dumbing down of Christian teaching" rather than making an effort to explain the meaning of baptism.

"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!

"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 baptism ceremony has been adapted multiple times in the past few decades - contrary to the claim made in the Mail on Sunday that it not been altered for more than 400 years until it was changed in 1980.

"This is the third revision in 30 years," a Church of England spokesman said, calling the article "misleading".

"In 2011 a group of clergy from the Diocese of Liverpool brought forward a motion to the General Synod of the Church of England requesting materials to supplement the baptism service 'in culturally appropriate and accessible language," a Church of England spokesman said.

"Specifically the motion requested new additional materials which would not replace or revise the current baptsim service but would be available for use as alternatives to three parts of the service.

"The Liverpool motion was passed by General Synod and as a consequence the liturgical commission has brought forward some additional materials for discussion by the General Synod at a future date where they will be subject to final approval by the Synod.

"At its last meeting the House of Bishops agreed that the additional materials should be piloted and they were sent to over 400 for a trial period which lasts until the end of April.

"The texts have no formal status without approval by General Synod."