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Bishop defends alternative baptism vows

The Bishop of Wakefield is rejecting criticism of an alternative baptism service currently being trialled by churches across the country. Rt Revd Stephen Platten - in his role as Chair of the Church of England Liturgical Commission - oversaw the production of the new wording.

The group was asked to put together a new service after clergy from the Diocese of Liverpool went to the Church's General Synod in 2011 to ask for it in 'culturally appropriate and accessible language'.

They'd said often families who have little contact with the Church would be involved in baptisms without any understanding of what they were required to say. A motion was passed which would allow new materials to be produced without replacing or revising the current Baptism service.

Much of the new wording is just a simplified version but criticism has come about because instead of priests asking parents and godparents:

Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God? (with parents and godparents responding) I reject them.

Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil? I renounce them.

Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour? I repent of them.

They ask:

Do you reject evil? I reject evil.

And all its many forms? And all its many forms.

And all its empty promises? And all its empty promises.

Writing in the Daily Mail, former Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir Ali says the new service continues the trend of 'dumbing down' Christian teaching.

Bishop Stephen tells Premier's Marcus Jones that's an unfair criticism.

Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, the Bishop of Willesden, has labelled the alternative service as 'crass' on his blog and listed ten questions about the wording. He told Premier's News Hour it will not do. 

A statement by the Church of England said: "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 the April.  "The texts have no formal status without approval by General Synod." When the trial period finishes, the House of Bishops will get the chance to make amendments before it goes to the General Synod for that final approval.

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