The Church of England has voted to use more accessible language during baptisms to help it connect better with congregations, especially non church-goers. Members attending the Church’s General Synod, or parliament, in London, agreed that the Liturgical Commission should provide supplementary material to help prevent the eyes of worshippers “glazing over” during important parts of the service.
The Reverend Tim Stratford, from Liverpool, said on Wednesday his motion was “not a request for christenings without Christianity.” Quite the opposite. “I am not asking for the language of Steven Gerrard,” he said, referring to the Liverpool and England soccer star. “Just references that could be understood by the majority.”
Parts of the service were difficult to use “without seeming inappropriately schoolmaster-like”, he said. Stratford said he did not disagree with the words currently being used, such as “I turn to Christ, I repent of my sins, and I renounce evil.”
“But it sounds to many as if the church wants an entirely religious response — removed from our behaviour, actions and conversations”. Instead, he wanted words that showed Christ’s neighbourly love. “Not inquisitorial, but aspirational.”
Those speaking against said there was enough flexibility already and it was unwise to add alternatives. Other synod members suggested that if the children who were being baptised understood the service better, they and their parents may be more keen to attend church in future. It was not a call for words to be watered down, but for simpler, more powerful language to be used.