An Anglican Prayer Book (2008): Baptism

Date 2008/3/31 8:10:00 | Topic: Theology, Research ...

An Anglican Prayer Book (2008): Baptism

by Robin G. Jordan
Special to VirtueOnline
www.virtueonline.org
3/31/2008

Before we examine the Office of Baptism in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008), we first need to take a look at the Baptismal Offices in The Book of Common Prayer of 1662 and the theology embodied in those offices. In its Solemn Declaration of Principles adopted at Kampala in 1999, the Anglican Mission in America affirmed as its standard for doctrine and worship, the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England and the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal. Article III, Section 2 (a) of the Solemn Declaration of Principles state that "The theology set forth in the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer and Ordinal shall be the theology to which alternative liturgical texts and forms will conform."

In its ratification of the Theological Statement of the Common Cause Partnership the Anglican Mission accepted the 1662 Prayer Book as a doctrinal standard and the 1662 Prayer Book, with the Books that preceded it, as a worship standard. This means that the services of the 1662 Prayer Book and the doctrine expressed in them have at least on paper normative status. Any service for Baptism that the Anglican Mission adopts is expected to conform to the Biblical-Reformation theology of Baptismal Offices in the 1662 Prayer Book.

We also need to take a look at the Office of Baptism in the 1928 American Prayer Book and the Baptismal Offices in the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book. The Office of Baptism in the 1928 American Prayer Book and the Baptismal Offices in the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book deviate in a number of significant ways from the Baptismal Offices in the 1662 Book of Common both in content and doctrine. As we shall see in our examination of the Office of Baptism in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008), it has more in common with the 1928 American and 1962 Canadian Baptismal rites than it does the 1662 rites.

The order for the Public Baptism of Infants in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is substantially that of the 1552 and 1559 Prayer Books with some textual changes. The most significant textual change in the order for the Public Baptism of Infants is the addition of brief sentence for the blessing of the water in the font to the prayer, "Almighty, everliving God, whose most dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of our sins...." In the 1552 and 1559 versions of this prayer the minister prays, "Regard, we beseech thee, the supplications of thy congregation; and grant that all thy servants which shall be baptized in this water, may receive the fullness of thy grace..." In the 1662 version, however, he prays, "Regard, we beseech thee, the supplications of thy congregation; sanctify this water to the mystical washing away of sin; and grant that this child, now to be baptized therein, may receive the fullness of thy grace...". The use of a sentence for the blessing of the water in the font appears to have been suggested by a sentence in the 1637 Scottish version of the prayer: "Regard, we beseech thee, the supplications of thy Church, and grant that all thy servants which shall be baptized in this water (which we here bless and dedicate in thy name to this spiritual washing), may receive the fullness of thy grace..." The wording, however, appears to have been taken from the wording of a sentence in the 1637 Scottish version of the Flood Prayer, "...and by the baptism of thy well beloved Son Jesus Christ, didst sanctify the flood Jordan, and all other waters, to the mystical washing away of sin: Sanctify this fountain of baptism, thou which art the Sanctifier of all things...," the wording of which in turn is derived from the wording of the 1549 invocation of the Holy Spirit upon the water in the font (see below). This sentence is enclosed in brackets and is accompanied by the following rubric: "The water in the font shall be changed twice in the month at least: And before any child be baptised in the water so changed, the Presbyter or Minister shall say at the font the words thus inclosed [ ]."

Other significant changes in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer are the rubrics concerning the private baptism of infants and their reception into the congregation, the order for the Public Baptism of Those of Riper Years, and the rubrics concerning the private baptism of adults and their reception into the congregation. The 1552 and 1559 Prayer Books permit lay baptism in cases of necessity provided that those present pray for grace and say the Lord's Prayer. After the child is named, the 1552 and 1559 rubrics direct that the child should be baptized with the words, "I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." If the child survives, the 1552 and 1559 Prayer Books provide a set of questions that the minister of the parish is to use "to examine and try" those bring the child to church in order to determine if the child has been lawfully baptized. These questions ask by whom the child was baptized, who was present, whether God was called upon for grace, with what matter the child was baptized, and with what words. The 1552 and 1559 Prayer Books also provide a form for the reception of the child into the congregation.

The First Book of Common Prayer of 1549, it must be noted, also permits the lay baptism of infants in cases of "great cause and necessity." The 1549 Prayer Book contains a similar set of questions for examining and trying those who bring a child into the church when the child has been privately baptized. It also contains a form for the reception of the child into the congregation.

The Puritans took great exception to private baptisms as well as baptisms by laypersons especially women. These baptisms were one of their main objections to the Book of Common Prayer. The Puritans did not believe that the gospel sacrament of baptism should be administered by anyone other than a minister of the gospel. As a concession to the Puritans the Restoration bishops changed the rubrics concerning the private baptism of infants so as to permit only the minister of the parish, or in his absence any other lawful minister that could be procured, to baptize a child in a case of necessity in a house. The rubrics of the 1662 Prayer Book direct the minister and those present to call upon God and say the Lord's Prayer, and "so many of the Collects appointed to be said before in the Form of Publick Baptism, as the time and present exigence will suffer," after which, "the child being named by someone present," the minister is to baptize the child with the words, "N., I baptize thee in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." After the baptism the minister is directed to give thanks to God and to say the collect, "We yield thee hearty thanks...." The 1662 Prayer Book also provides a set of questions for the use of the minister of the parish to examine and try those bringing a child to church in order to determine the lawfulness of the child's baptism if the child was baptized by another minister. These questions ask by whom the child was baptized, who was present, with what matter the child was baptized, and with what words.

Except for the provision that an ordained minister baptize a child in case of necessity and use some of the prayers from the Form for Publick Baptism, the provisions in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer for the private baptism of infants are substantially those of the 1552 and 1559 Prayer Books.

In A Body of Divinity Being the Sum and Substance of the Christian Religion early seventeenth century Archbishop of Armagh and primate of Ireland James Ussher explains the Puritan objection to lay baptism:

"May none but a lawful Minister baptize?

No. For Baptism is a part of the public Ministry of the Church, and Christ hath given warrant and authority to none to baptize, but those whom he hath called to preach the Gospel: Go, Preach, and Baptize. Mat. 28.19. Those only may stand in the room of God himself, and ministerially set to the seal of the Covenant. And it is monstrous presumption for Women, or any other private persons (who are not called) to meddle with such high Mysteries; nor can there be any case of necessity to urge, as will appear afterwards." [1]

Catholic doctrine permits lay baptism in cases of necessity but the Puritans rejected this doctrine.

With the exception of the minister of baptism, the doctrine of baptism of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is the same as that of the 1552 and 1559 Prayer Books. The Flood Prayer acknowledges that God, by the baptism of his Son Jesus Christ in the Jordan river, "sanctified water to the mystical washing away of sin." The 1662 Prayer Book, like the 1552 and 1559 Prayer Books, does not require the blessing or consecration of the water in which a child or an adult is baptized in a private home or another setting beside the parish church. The sentence for the blessing of the water in the font in the 1662 orders for the Public Baptism of Infants and Those of Riper Years in actuality is not needed. A second blessing or consecration of the water is not essential to the sacramental efficacy of baptism.

If we examine the passages of the New Testament that relate to Baptism, we find no passage that enjoins the practice of blessing or consecrating the water in the font. While the Bible does not explicitly prohibit the blessing or consecration of water, it does not appear to be consistent with Biblical practice. The practice in the Bible is to dedicate or set apart inanimate or material objects to God for holy uses such as in the worship of the Temple in Jerusalem but this process does not involve the pronouncing of God's blessing upon these objects or the invocation of the Holy Spirit upon them. In the Bible God's blessing is pronounced upon people and not inanimate or material objects. In "1552 And All That (or how twentieth century revisions have eroded the insights of the Reformers in the Communion services of the Church of England)," an article published in the Churchman, David Wheaton, a former Principal of Oak Hill College, make a number of observations concerning the role of the Holy Spirit in the Communion Service, which are also relevant to the role of the Holy Spirit in the Office of Baptism. He writes:

"Apart from the Holy Spirit's part in the Trinitarian work of creation, the Bible teaches that the Spirit works in persons and not on inanimate objects."

After suggesting that his readers' look at Genesis 1:2, the first person plural in Genesis 1:26 and John 1:3, Canon Wheaton goes on to write:

"The only example of the Spirit's working on inanimate objects could appear to be in Ezekiel 36:6, 9, 10. Here the activity of the breath of God (the same word is used for 'Spirit" in v 14) in bringing life to dry bones is a re-enactment of what He did in Gen 2:7, and so is in fact operating on human beings." [2]

This may explain why Cranmer dropped from the 1552 Prayer Book the 1549 invocation of the Holy Spirit not only upon bread and wine but also upon the water in the font. The latter was quite elaborate:

"O most merciful God Our Savior Jesus Christ, who hast ordained the element of water for the regeneration of thy faithful people, upon whom, being baptized in the river of Jordan, the Holy Ghost came down in the likeness of a dove: Send down we beseech thee the same thy Holy Spirit to assist us, and to be present at our invocation of thy holy name: Sanctify + this fountain of baptism, thou that art the sanctifier of all things, that by the power of thy word, all those that shall be baptized therein, many be spiritually regenerated, and made children of everlasting adoption. Amen."

The rubrics of the 1549 Prayer Book direct that the water in the font should be changed "every month once at least, and afore any child be Baptized in the water so changed," the priest should say the preceding prayer at the font, followed by the 1549 versions of "O merciful God, grant that the old Adam..." and "Almighty, everliving God, whose most dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of our sins...." The 1549 version of the latter prayer contains the petition, "Regard, we beseech thee, the supplications of thy congregation, and grant that all thy servants which shall be baptized in this water prepared for the ministration of thy holy sacrament, may receive the fullness of thy grace...." In the 1552 Prayer Book a revised version of this prayer is placed immediately before the Baptism and a revised version of "O merciful God, grant that the old Adam..." is placed before it. The rubric for the monthly replacement of the water in the font and its consecration before a baptism is dropped with the prayer for the blessing or consecration of the water in the font.

When the 1552 and 1559 Office of Baptism is interpreted in light of biblical teaching of the Holy Spirit, it can be seen that the working of the Holy Spirit is to be understand as not being objectively on the water in the font, but in the child or adult undergoing baptism. The brief sentence for the blessing of the water in the font in the prayer, "Almighty, everliving God, whose most dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of our sins...," in the 1662 Baptismal Offices seeks to shift the Holy Spirit's working to the water in the font but that working can still be understood as largely in the baptismal candidate. This sentence asks God to make holy for the purpose of baptism what the Flood Prayer declares that God has already made holy for that purpose and hence is redundant, except perhaps for the foregoing reason.

The sentence in the 1637 version of the prayer, "Almighty, everliving God, whose most dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of our sins...," conforms more to the biblical idea of dedicating inanimate or material objects to God for holy purposes if the words "which we here bless..." are understood in the biblical sense of "for which we here give thanks...." In Matthew 14:19 we read that Jesus "blessed, and brake and gave the loaves to the disciples, in Matthew 26:26 we read that Jesus "took bread, and blessed, and brake it," and Mark 14:22 we read that "he took bread, and when he had blessed, brake it, and gave it to them..." These passages and 1 Corinthians 10:16 which refers to "the cup of blessing which we bless..." are not biblical examples of the pronouncing of God's blessing upon inanimate or material objects. They are references to the Jewish custom of blessing, or praising, God as a form of thanksgiving at meals. In the passage "He took bread and blessed..." God is the object of Jesus' blessing, not the bread, as is shown clearly by the corresponding words "gave thanks" in Luke 22:19 and 1 Corinthians 11:24. In the New Testament "the word 'bless' is never used directly of material objects as though conveying some special force." The blessing is "an acknowledgment of God as the Giver, the full phrase being to 'bless God for the thing.'" [3] In 1 Corinthians 14:16 the same word in the Greek used for "bless" in Matthew 14:19 and 26:26, Mark 14:22, and 1 Corinthians 10:16 is used to refer to ecstatic praise: "Else if thou bless with the spirit, how shall he filleth the place of the unlearned say the Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he knoweth not what thou sayest." In this passage blessing is clearly identified with giving of thanks. For this reason the New International Version (1985) renders 1 Corinthians 10:16 as "the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks..." The following rewording of the sentence makes explicit this understanding: "Regard, we beseech thee, the supplications of thy Church, and grant that all thy servants which shall be baptized in this water (for which we here give thanks, and which we dedicate in thy name to this spiritual washing), may receive the fullness of thy grace...."

The relevance of the foregoing discussion will become more evident with our examination of the Office of Baptism in the 1928 American Prayer Book, the Baptismal Offices in the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book and the Office of Baptism in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008).

The Office of Baptism in the 1928 American Prayer Book combines the forms for the Public Baptism of Infants and Those of Riper Years into one rite, drops the Flood Prayer, and recasts the prayer, "Almighty, everliving God, whose most dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of our sins...," so that the structure of the prayer parallels that of the Prayer of Consecration in the Communion Office of the 1928 American Prayer Book. The prayer is preceded by the Sursum Corda that begins with the versicle and response, "The Lord be with you" "And with thy spirit". In its omission of the Flood Prayer and its recasting of the prayer "Almighty, everliving God, whose most dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of our sins...," the 1928 American Prayer Book shifts the emphasis from God's sanctification of water for the sacramental use of baptism by the baptism of his Son Jesus Christ in the river Jordan to the minister's blessing or consecration of the water in the font. The 1928 American Office of Baptism places much greater emphasis upon the Holy Spirit's working being objectively on the water in the font than do the 1662 Baptismal Offices. The 1928 American Baptismal rite is much more open to the Anglo-Catholic view that through the priest "the Holy Spirit works to affect the miracle of the Eucharist, and of Baptismal regeneration" (see An Anglican Prayer Book (2008): The Order for Holy Communion-Part I. This article is archived at http://exploringananglicanprayerbook.blogspot.com as well as on the Virtue Online website.) This is not surprising since the 1928 American Prayer Book was adopted when Anglo-Catholicism was in the ascendancy in the Protestant Episcopal Church. However, the 1928 American Prayer Book provides a form for the private baptism of infants and adults in cases of necessity and this form provides a check to this interpretation of Baptism as the form does not require any blessing or consecration of the water used for such baptisms and "in cases of extreme sickness, or any imminent peril, if a Minister cannot be procured," permits any baptized person present to administer baptism using the prescribed form.

The order for the Baptism of Children in 1962 Canadian Prayer Book permits the omission of the Flood Prayer or the prayer, "Almighty and immortal God, the aid of all that need, the helper of all that flee to thee for succour...". The order for the Baptism of Those of Ripe Years takes elements of the Flood Prayer and the prayer, "Almighty and immortal God, the aid of all that need, the helper of all that flee to thee for succour..." and combines them into a single prayer. Both rites use the recast version of "Almighty, everliving God, whose most dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of our sins..." from the 1928 American Office of Baptism, preceded by the Sursum Corda beginning as in the 1928 American Baptismal rite with the versicle and response, "The Lord be with you" "And with thy spirit." The order for the Baptism of Those of Riper years may be followed immediately by the order for Confirmation. The 1962 Canadian Baptismal rites exhibit similar doctrinal tendencies as the 1928 American Baptismal rite. However, the retention of the option of the Flood Prayer in the order for the Baptism of Children and the form for the Ministration of Private Baptism serve as a check to these tendencies. The rubrics in the form for the Ministration of Private Baptism include the following instructions:

"When any Child who has not received holy Baptism is critically ill, the Minister of the Parish (or, in his absence, any other lawful Minister) should be called upon to administer the Sacrament without delay, and if no lawful Minister may be had, and the Child is in danger of death, ANY PERSON PRESENT should pour Water upon him and, naming him, say: N. I BAPTIZE thee In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. Then shall be said the Lord's Prayer."

The Office of Baptism in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) adopts the model of the Office of Baptism in the 1928 American Prayer Book, combining the order for the Public Baptism of Infants and the order for the Public Baptism of Adults from its predecessor, Services in Contemporary English from The Book of Common Prayer of 1662, into a single rite. The Office of Baptism An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) retains the Flood Prayer from the Baptismal Offices of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and its predecessors.

The Office of Baptism in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) would have greatly benefited if the compilers of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) had followed more closely the pattern of the Office of Baptism in the 1928 American Prayer Book and kept the questions for godparents separate from those for adult candidates for baptism or done a better job of combining the questions. In either case they should have used all of the questions from the Office of Baptism of the 1928 American Prayer Book, which are an improvement over the ones in the Baptismal Offices of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. What they have done is to reduce the questions from the 1928 American Prayer Book to the ones concerning the renunciation of the devil, the world, and the flesh; the desire to be baptized in the Christian faith; and the keeping of God's will and commandments, and to insert the Apostles' Creed after the renunciation of the devil, the world, and the flesh without any introductory words such as:

"Priest. Let us recite the Articles of our Belief. Then shall be said by the Priest and the persons to be baptized, and the whole Congregation, the Apostles' Creed. I BELIEVE in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth..."

The insertion of the Apostles' Creed into the questions without any introduction interrupts the sequential movement of this part of the liturgy. The transition from the preceding liturgical element-the question concerning the renunciation of the devil, the world, and the flesh and its response-is not a smooth one. It is like driving down a hardtop road and suddenly hitting a stretch of gravel without a sign to warn the driver. In a well-crafted liturgy each liturgical element flows smoothly out of the preceding element. As I pointed to the attention of the reader in "An Anglican Prayer Book (2008): The Order for the Holy Communion - Part II," the compilers of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) did not provide an Invitation to Prayer before the Prayer of Intercession in the Order for the Holy Communion. An Invitation to Prayer would have greatly smoothed the transition from the Offertory to the Prayer of Intercession, warning the congregation of the impeding movement from one liturgical element to the next. Attention to such factors in crafting a liturgy not only enhances the worship experience for the congregation but also simplifies the task of the worship leader. He does not need to give directions to the congregation because the directions are incorporated into the liturgy. The compilers of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) did not pay enough attention to transitions and the flow of the liturgy. The result is a liturgy that feels like it has been patched together. Most liturgies are cobbled together from other liturgies but in a well-crafted liturgy the congregation and the worship leader do not notice it.

In the questions from the Office of Baptism in the 1928 American Prayer Book the godparents are asked if they promise to ensure that the child learns the essentials of the Christian Faith and that he, as soon as he is adequately instructed, is brought to the bishop to be confirmed by him. Adult candidates for baptism are asked if they believe in Jesus Christ and whether they accepts Jesus, and desires to follow him as his Savior and Lord. These three questions arguably more important than the question concerning believing all the articles of the Christian faith. An adult candidate for baptism can mentally assent to all these articles but if he has not trusted in Jesus and surrendered his life to him, he is not saved. The Scriptures teach, "whoever believes in Jesus and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16 NIV). They do not teach that whoever assents to the Apostles' Creed will be saved.

The phrase "Blessed Lord, who live and govern all things, forever and ever. Amen" in the prayer, "Merciful God, grant this Child/your Servant may die to sin...," an adaptation of the prayer, "O merciful God, grant that the old Adam...," from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is awkward and ungrammatical. The compilers of An Anglican Prayer (2008) must have relied too heavily upon their computer's software to catch spelling and grammatical errors. My computer also did not catch this error. In grammatically correct English this phrase is "Blessed Lord, who lives and governs all things." The adaptation also lacks the Scriptural allusions of the older versions of the prayer.

An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) drops a number of Scriptural allusions that are found in the 1662 Prayer Book and the Books that preceded it. With the paucity of the Opening Sentences of Scripture in the Daily Services and the omission of the Offertory Sentences, the full texts of the Propers, and the Psalter An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) contains considerably less Scripture than the older Prayer Books. One cannot obtain the same kind of benefit from An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) that one could obtain from the older Prayer Books with their numerous quotations from Scripture.

An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) adopts the recast version of "Almighty, everliving God, whose most dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of our sins...," preceded by the Sursum Corda (also begun with the versicle and response, "The Lord be with you" "And with thy spirit."), and consequently its Office of Baptism suffers from the same tendencies as the 1928 American and the 1962 Canadian Baptismal rites with a shift of focus to the minister's blessing or consecration of the water in the font and an emphasis upon the Holy Spirit's working being objectively on the water. The only check to these tendencies in the Office of Baptism in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) is the Flood Prayer, as An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) contains no form for the private baptism of children and adults in cases of necessity. Consequently, the Office of Baptism in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) is decidedly less Scriptural in regards to the role of the Holy Spirit in the service than the Baptismal Offices of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and its predecessors, the 1552 and 1559 Prayer Books.

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the Books that preceded it, provide for two modes of baptism-dipping (immersion) and, in cases of weakness, pouring (affusion). The 1928 American Prayer Book and its predecessors, 1979 and 1892 American Prayer Books also make provision for two modes of baptism-dipping and pouring. So does the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book. Services in Contemporary English from The Book of Common Prayer of 1662, the predecessor of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008), also provided for these two modes of baptism.

Immersion is the most common mode of baptism described in the New Testament. "And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straight away from the water..." (Matthew 3:16 ASV). "...and they both went down into the water, both Philip and eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water..." (Acts 8:38-39 ASV). But it is evident from the circumstances under which a number of converts were baptized such the jailer in Philippi and his household that immersion was not the only mode of baptism used in New Testament times.

The early Church practiced two modes of baptism-immersion and affusion. The latter was usually reserved for the sick and dying and involved copious amounts of water when an ample supply of water was available. The two modes of baptism in the Book of Common Prayer can be traced to the practices of the early Church. While pouring became the more common practice in the Episcopal Church, dipping has not disappeared from North American Anglicanism. Indeed full and partial immersion are enjoying something of a revival in the Anglican Mission and other Anglican jurisdictions with the increasing number of baptisms of adults and older children. The Anglican Mission in the Americas website features a picture of a priest or deacon baptizing a young girl in a swimming pool. The same picture appears in the Anglican Mission brochure, "Who We Are," published in 2008. However, the compilers of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) were apparently out of touch with who the Anglican Mission is because for some unexplained reason they omit dipping, or immersion, as a mode of baptism from the Office of Baptism in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008). The omission of this mode of baptism cannot be justified on the grounds of insufficient Scriptural warrant, lack of precedence, or even disuse.

An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) does appear to take a step toward comprehensiveness in the invitation to prayer, "Brothers and Sisters in Christ..." and the prayer, "Grant, Lord, that being buried with Christ by baptism...," that follow the signing of the newly baptized upon the forehead with the cross. The invitation to prayer is an adaptation of the 1662 Invitation to Prayer, "Seeing now, dearly beloved brethren, that this child is regenerate...". The prayer is an adaptation of the 1662 Thanksgiving after the Baptism, "We yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to regenerate this infant..."

The reference to the child being regenerate in the original invitation to prayer and the reference to God having regenerated the child in the thanksgiving have been the cause of a heated dispute between Anglicans. Anglo-Catholics argue that the regeneration invariably accompanies baptism. They claim that the 1662 Book of Common Prayer teaches their view of the sacrament of baptism, pointing to the wording of the Invitation to Prayer and the Thanksgiving that follow the signing of the newly baptized on the forehead with the cross. Evangelicals, on the other hand, argue that the 1662 Prayer Book uses the language of charitable supposition, presuming that the newly baptized is regenerate even though he may not be. They point to the examples of those who showed evidence of regeneration apart from baptism in the New Testament (the thief on the cross, Paul, Cornelius, and Lydia) and those who were baptized but did not show evidence of regeneration (Simon Magus). They point to the numerous people who have been baptized but have never shown any evidence of regeneration in their lives. In the United States in the nineteenth century the dispute over baptismal regeneration became so intense that a number of conservative Evangelicals in the Protestant Episcopal Church left that church and formed the Reformed Episcopal Church. For over sixty years the Protestant Episcopal Church was effectively without an Evangelical wing as those Evangelicals who did not leave became Broad Church Liberals. The Protestant Episcopal Church would develop collective amnesia about its Evangelical heritage. Evangelical Episcopalians had played a significant role in the early development of the church. In England the dispute over baptismal regeneration lead to a famous court case that resulted in the Gorham Judgment in 1850. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council issued the following ruling:

"That baptism is a sacrament generally necessary to salvation, but that the grace of regeneration does not necessarily accompany the act of baptism that regeneration invariably takes place in baptism; that the grace may be granted before, in or after baptism; that baptism is an effectual sign of grace, by which God works invisibly within us, but only in such as worthily receive it-in them alone it has wholesome effect; that in no case is regeneration unconditional." [4]

This ruling did not bring the dispute over baptismal regeneration to an end. But it did reject baptismal regeneration as the official doctrine of the Church of England.

The Invitation to Prayer, "Brothers and Sisters in Christ..." and the prayer, "Grant, Lord, that being buried with Christ by baptism..." appear to take a compromise position. The first acknowledges that the newly baptized "has received the Sacrament of new birth and been received into the family of Christ's Church." The congregation is invited to give thanks to "Almighty God for these benefits" and to pray that the newly baptized "may lead the rest of his Christian life according to this good beginning." The revised Invitation to Prayer mutes the strong language of "Seeing now, dearly beloved brethren, that this child is regenerate...," but it does not rule out baptismal regeneration: it just is less explicit. The second reduces the 1662 Thanksgiving after the Baptism to a brief petition:

"Grant, Lord, that being buried with Christ by baptism into his death, this Child/Person may also be made partakers of his resurrection; so that, serving you on earth in newness of life, he may finally, with the rest of your holy Church, be an inheritor of your everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

The prayer does lose something in the process of abbreviation and revision and does, in my opinion, need more work. However, the compilers of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) do deserve commendation for this attempt to make the language of the prayer acceptable to both Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals.

The revised Invitation to Prayer and the adaptation of 1662 Thanksgiving after the Baptism were originally introduced in Services in Contemporary English from The Book of Common Prayer of 1662.

The compilers of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) dropped their adaptation of the 1962 Canadian Exhortation to the Godparents in the Service for the Baptism of Infants in which they went beyond the language of the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book and spoke of the newly baptized being "strengthened by the gift of the Holy Spirit" at Confirmation. The 1962 Canadian Prayer Book only speaks of the newly baptized being "strengthened by the Holy Spirit" at Confirmation. As I draw to the reader's attention in my article, "A Plea for a Biblically Faithful Mission-Oriented Prayer Book," the view that the bishop with the laying on of hands confers the gift of the Holy Spirit at Confirmation is only the interpretation of the theological significance of Confirmation of one theological stream in Anglicanism:

"While Evangelicals in the Anglican Church agree with Anglo-Catholics that the bishop, when he lays hand upon the candidate for confirmation, prays for the strengthening of the Holy Spirit, they reject as contrary to the Scriptures the Anglo-Catholic doctrine that the gift of the Holy Spirit is imparted with the laying of hands at Confirmation. They point to those passages in the New Testament that teach and show that the Holy Spirit is received apart from the laying on of hands. The 1662 Confirmation Service is silent on this point. The bishop prays for the strengthening gifts of grace for the candidates. He then lays hands on each candidate and prays that God will defend him, and that he will increase in the Holy Spirit more and more each day until he comes to God's everlasting kingdom. The 1662 Confirmation Service speaks of the bishop laying his hands on the candidates to certify, or assure them, 'by this sign', of God's 'favour and gracious goodness toward them.' It does not suggest that either the gift of the Holy Spirit or the gifts of the Holy Spirit are conferred at Confirmation."

I further note:

"From his writings I gather that Dr. Toon is a proponent of the two-stage theory of Christian initiation that was popular in the earlier part of the twentieth century and which was a point of heated dispute among Anglicans then (and still is now) and subscribes to this interpretation of Confirmation's theological significance. Other reputable Anglican theologians like Michael Green and J. I. Packer would strongly disagree with him. Dr. Toon's views, however, were given expression in the trial services, violating what might be described as the 'neutrality' of the 1662 Prayer Book."

The adaptation of the 1962 Canadian Exhortation to the Godparents in the Service for the Baptism of Infants does not appear to have been left out due to its particular interpretation of the theological significance of Confirmation. The model of the Office of Baptism in the 1928 American Prayer Book that was adopted for the Office of Baptism in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) does not contain an exhortation to the godparents of newly baptized infants or an exhortation to newly baptized adults. The rubrics at the end of the Office of Baptism direct the minister to address the parents and the godparents concerning their responsibilities to the newly baptized infant and the newly baptized adults concerning confirmation and first communion either at the end of the office or later in the service.

The rubrics at the end of the Office of Baptism appear to tie the first communion of newly baptized adults to their confirmation. However, the introductory notes at the beginning of the Office of Baptism state, "In some cases First Communion may precede Confirmation." The introductory notes at the beginning of the order for the Holy Communion further states, "only those who are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and duly prepared in mind and heart should receive Holy Communion." They do not insist upon confirmation as a prerequisite for admission to the Lord's Table. The Exhortation on page 51 of the Order for the Holy Communion also addresses those intending to receive Holy Communion as "Fellow baptized Christians...." It appears from these provisions in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) that newly baptized adults and older children should be able to take their rightful place at the Lord's Table. Classical Anglicanism has insisted upon confirmation before first communion only to ensure that "those who receive the sacrament of our redemption by Christ's death" do so "rightly, worthily, and with faith," for only to those who receive the sacrament in this manner is "the bread a partaking of the body of Christ and the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16)". "All in whom a vital faith is absent" are "in no sense...partakers of Christ." [5] The rubric at the end of the order for Confirmation in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer permit the admission to the holy Communion of those who are "ready and desirous to be confirmed." If had not been for this provision, North American Anglicans in the Colonial church would have never received Holy Communion as they had to travel to England to be confirmed. Adults and older children who have been adequately prepared for baptism and have made a profession of faith in baptism should be "ready and desirous to be confirmed." Otherwise, churches using An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) are faced with the inconsistency of admitting one group-visitors-to the Lord's Table solely on the basis of their baptism while barring another group-the adults and older children that they baptized on profession of faith-from the Lord's Table because they have not yet been confirmed.

One way out of this dilemma may be to adopt the course that the Anglican Church of Kenya's Our Modern Services takes. It provides a rite for the admission to the Holy Communion of children who were baptized as infants. Pre-conditions of their admission are that they display evidence of faith and are prepared to "rightly and worthily" receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. Confirmation in Our Modern Services, while retaining the candidate's confirmation of the vows made at his baptism and the laying on of the hands of the bishop as a sign by which candidate is assured that he can rely upon God's confirmation and strengthening of him in his life as a Christian, is largely a rite for bringing a person into full standing in the Anglican Church of Kenya and a commissioning for service. Only young people who have been baptized, instructed, and admitted to the Holy Communion may be confirmed.

The compilers of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) do not provide a form for the private baptism of children and adults in cases of necessity. Such a form is useful in evaluating the theology of baptism given expression in a particular edition of the Book of Common Prayer. The 1662 Prayer Book and the Books that preceded it, the 1928 American Prayer Book and the 1662 Canadian Prayer Book all contain forms for the private baptism of children and adults. These forms are substantially the same. They primarily differ on who is the right minister to baptize in emergencies or cases of urgent necessity. Only the 1549, 1552, and 1559 Prayer Books and the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book take the primitive Catholic position that baptism is so absolutely indispensable that anyone can baptize in cases of necessity. The 1662 Prayer Book requires a minister of the gospel to baptize and the 1928 American Prayer Book adopts a similar position but permits a baptized layperson to baptize if a minister cannot be procured.

The omission of a form for the private baptism of children and adults in cases of necessity does raise questions as to the theology of baptism given expression in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008). As I have previously noted, the presence of such a form in a number of Prayer Books serves as a counterbalance to the sacerdotalism evidenced these books. This counterbalance is largely missing from An Anglican Prayer Book (2008), which has only the Flood Prayer to check such tendencies in its Office of Baptism.

In my next article I will be examining the Catechism and the two orders for Confirmation in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008). Anyone who has not had an opportunity to read the previous articles will find them archived at http://exploringananglicanprayerbook.blogspot.com, as well as on the Virtue Online website. I am also posting supplemental articles on Exploring An Anglican Prayer Book (2008), which were prompted by readers' comments and questions.

End Notes:

[1] James Ussher, A Body of Divinity Being the Sum and Substance of the Christian Religion, Birmingham, Alabama: Solid Ground Christian Books 2007, pp. 372-373
[2] David Wheaton, "1552 And All That (or how twentieth century revisions have eroded the insights of the Reformers in the Communion services of the Church of England)," The Churchman Issue 2002 116/4
[3] W. H. Griffith Thomas, The Principles of Theology: An Introduction to the Thirty Nine Articles, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Philadelphia Theological Seminary 1996, p. 391
[4] Michael Green, Baptism, London: Hodder and Stoughton 1987, p. 57
[5] Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, "The Thirty-nine Articles A Re-statement in Today's English," Theology of the English Reformers, Abington, Pennsylvania: Horseradish 1997


---Robin G. Jordan, a life-long Anglican, resides in western Kentucky where he is involved in a three-year-old church plant targeted at students at a local university and young single and married adults and their children in the community. One of his passions is to reach the emerging generations with the gospel of Jesus Christ.



This article comes from VirtueOnline
http://www.virtueonline.org/portal

The URL for this story is:
http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/article.php?storyid=7996