Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Comparing this Sunday's New Testament Lesson, the Book of Common Prayer, and the stuff being peddled in some Episcopal Churches

I. The Biblical Message

From this Sunday's Epistle, as appointed by the Revised Common Lectionary and displayed on the Episcopal Church lectionary page:

Therefore (Abraham's) faith "was reckoned to him as righteousness." Now the words, "it was reckoned to him," were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification. (Romans 4)

Got it? Human "righteousness" is received by belief in God, who raised Jesus from the dead. And this Jesus died for our trespasses and it is his new life alone that justifies us before God.

II. Our Current Prayer Book

Even with some goofy additions here and there, the Baptismal rite of The Episcopal Church (1979 Book of Common Prayer) still affirms the Biblical message. Baptism is a sacrament - "an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace" (p. 857).

"The means of grace" in the Prayer Book rite include personal rejection of Satan and spiritual forces of wickedness, evil powers of this world and our own sinful desires (p. 302). The rite recognizes that we need to be "cleansed from sin" (p. 307). It understands that apart from Jesus Christ we remain in our trespasses against God.

The Prayer Book affirms that we are baptized into Christ's death (p. 306) and that in the sacrament we are buried with Christ in his death. Christ's death is the decisive offering to God, and in joining ourselves to it the stain of our trespasses is erased.

Cleansed by the atoning death of Jesus Christ on our behalf, and accepting him as our Savior (p. 302), we can hope to "live in the power of his resurrection" (p. 306) and "continue for ever in the risen life of Jesus Christ our Savior" (p. 307). We can stand "justified" before God, not based on a righteousness of our own but on Christ's death and resurrection, to which we are joined in the sacrament of baptism.

The rite admits that we will sin and need to repent and return to the Lord, even after baptism (p. 304).

III. A non-Prayer Book "baptism" now used in some Episcopal churches.

You can see it here. (h/t "martin5" )

It removes the word "sacrament" from the rite. It reduces baptism to an organizational membership ceremony of some kind.

It has NO renunciation of evil. It does not admit to the reality of Satan, spiritual evil, worldly corruption or our own sinful desires. It does not warn that this false Trinity of the world, the flesh and the devil can separate us from God - rather, it says that "new birth is a gift that none can take away." There is no expression of the need to continually "repent and return to the Lord." Baptism is a magical, immediate entitlement to eternal life. It claims to "bestow the forgiveness of sin" without ever really acknowledging our status as creatures who have trespassed in rebellion against our Creator.

It has a few holdover phrases from the '79 Prayer Book, but is completely detached from the Biblical message. In fact, it removes some of the most Biblically accurate statements from the '79 BCP. "... made members of your Church" (yes, big "C") displaces deliverance "from bondage to sin" in the Thanksgiving over the Water.


The non-Prayer Book ceremony is a radical rejection of the radical reintroduction of The Great Vigil of Easter in the 1979 BCP. The Great Vigil begins with the reading of "Salvation History", detailing our rebellion against God and salvation through the waters of baptism. That this is a participation in the death and resurrection of Christ is made clear by the assignment of Romans 6:3-11, including

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

And the Collect for the Vigil Eucharist beautifully summarizes the Biblical message:

Almighty God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The differences between the '79 Book and the other rite suggest the choice between initiation into a club and baptism into Jesus Christ himself. They present the contrast of man-made religion with the revealed Gospel of the Savior... and I say this in full realization that the '79 rite has its own human innovations compared to prior BCPs. We are way down the slippery slope, and the denomination keeps rolling boulders down on us.


The Underground Pewster said...

The Non-Prayer book is from an Episcopal church in San Francisco.

There is either no oversight from the Bishop, or a sly wink of approval from the same.

I tried to open their wedding script but something is preventing me from opening that page.

For that I shall be thankful.

Anonymous said...

What is with that hokey-pokey dance they do before the Baptism? How weird.

James Manley

Perpetua said...

The most disturbing for me is the elimination of the assent to the Apostles' Creed. The 1928 PB and the 1979 PB require assent to the Apostles' Creed. But this uses the New Zealand "Affirmation of Faith".

TLF+ said...

Yeah, it uses "Christ" in a murky way, avoiding much mention of "Jesus" in order to detach from the salvation history in the Creed. God is pretty warm, fuzzy and generic if you take the ritual as a whole.

The Underground Pewster said...

They need to be careful about their words. I think the theology students might be have fun writing an essay on the following changes in the "Baptismal Liturgy Script."

New Text: Will you see that this child is brought up as a friend of God, sharing the faith and life of Christ?

1979 BCP: Will you be responsible for seeing that the child you present is brought up in the Christian faith and life?

The "friend" word perked my ears, but the omission of "brought up in the Christian faith" may be more important. Changes like this may seem innocuous to most pew-sitters, but it appears to eliminate the requirement of teaching sound Christian "doctrine" and substitutes personal experience.

TLF+ said...

Somewhere (probably in more than one place), I've read TEC folks saying that Baptism is "an affirmation of who we already are."

Again, sounds OK if you turn up the volume on grace. But really it as acceptance of calling toward who we are meant to be. There is a response - it is a Covenant, after all.

This is going to sound snarky and tangential, but I really can't see it any other way: this approach to the church is mired in the effort to justify LGBT. There is no need to change. You are loved just as you are. There is nothing to renounce.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

The renunciation of evil aka the 2nd Exorcism, was abolished in the proto Calvinist Swedish Court/Admiralty/Regimental Handbook orf 1608 (the first without a Manual, chapter 3 contained the Mass).

Just tellin' ya'

Anonymous said...

Somewhere, someone opined that the new rite met the trinitarian standard and so counted as a Christian Baptism service.

In fact it does not. The Trinitarian standard is necessary, not sufficient: Mormon baptism uses the Trinitarian formula but lacks the necessary intention to confer Christian baptism (to give just one example). At the turn of the 20th Centuary, most "mainline" churches would have accepted Mormon baptism, but by now, none do.

Well it is absolutely the same with this new ECUSA rite. By deleting almost every other essential element of the tradtional baptism - retaining only the Trinitarian formulation - it has ceased to be a Christian service.

This rite does not confer Christian baptism. Plain and simple.

Marion R. said...

Note how many of the pages on the site include tis text:

"Note: over the next few months we will be changing and growing this section of the website. Visit us again to see what we become! "

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is not any sort of Alternative Church, this is somebody's hobbyhorse. For Heaven's sake, each page has a "subscribe" button!

We live in a time when one person's poor driving can make 40,000 people late for work, when one person with a box cutter can send great nations to war, and one person with an HTML editor can create their own "Holy Tradition".

Are we really going to let this drive us crazy?

We have spent so much time fixiating on the heterodox it has become akin to its own form of idolatry.


Be not afraid! Go forth and spread the Gospel of Christ, baptising all Nations!

You cannot live for Christ if you do not go out and live! Repent! Forgive! Encourage! Exhort! Pick up your cross and follow the Messiah! If the KJV and 1662 BCP are so great, then go out and use them?

Or are you going to hide your talent in the earth?

As St. Bueller said: "Life goes by pretty fast."

Are you still here?



Get out of here!

Anonymous said...

Excuse me. All Saints company is not a new ECUSA rite. It is the rite of a parish thank you very much, and one without approval of the wider church or diocese. The Episcopal Church has one rite of Baptism and that is that of the 79 Prayer Book, thanks very much.

However, if we are going to look at this rite for Baptism, the Church has taught that for Baptism to be valid it must use the right matter and form. The form, we've believed, has been "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." The matter is water. Both of these are a part of this All Saints Co. material. They are not, as some Unitarians do, baptizing with rose petals in the name of beauty, love, and truth. (Yick!)

We Anglicans say that those baptized with water and in the name of the Trinity of other denominations are sufficiently baptized. Period. We say that those baptized by laypersons in case of emergency in the name of the Trinity and with water are baptized.

We don't require other denominations chrismate. We don't require the Apostles Creed as a part of their baptismal rites. We don't require a further Baptismal Covenant.

I love our Baptismal liturgy, and have zero desire to change it as All Saints co. has Let's get real folks. If what we mean by Baptism conforms only to what the 79 book or the 28 book says, then we should say that the matter and form are insufficient for emergency baptism and for other Christian denominations.

And although it varies from Tradition and even Episcopal Church tradition, and I don't like it (even), the rite itself is not unChristian,

Anonymous said...

It's easy to see why more Orthodox (that's Eastern Orthodox) have great anxiety over how to receive converts. By chrismation, as though already baptised in the 2000 year-old sense of the word (the way Katherine Schori's mother was received into the Orthodox Church in the late 70's) or by baptism, which is what happens when one was a Mormon, Muslim, or other non-christian. More Orthodox are leaning toward baptism of Anglican converts for obvious reasons.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Yuck! Makes me feel dirty just reading it.