While Christians waited to learn whether the Church of England would approve the consecration of women bishops, the church’s governing body — the General Synod — quietly voted to drop all future references to the devil in a new baptism service.
The simplified wording was written after priests said the traditional service was unnecessarily complex and might confuse people who are not regular churchgoers.
In the traditional service, godparents are asked whether they are ready to renounce the devil and all his works for the sake of the child being baptized.
The Church of England’s vote to allow female bishops threatens unity with the Catholic Church, according to the editor of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.
Giovanni Maria Vian, who is also a Rome historian, on Tuesday said the decision would have “an extremely negative impact” on steps to bring the churches closer together despite a positive meeting between Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Pope Francis a month ago.
“Clearly it’s a decision that complicates the ecumenical path,” Vian said in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa published on Tuesday. “The problem is not only with Rome but also with Orthodox Churches, and that the Anglican Church is itself divided on the issue.”
After nearly 20 years of debate, the Church of England’s General Synod voted Monday to permit women priests to be ordained as bishops, overturning centuries of tradition in a church that has been deeply divided over the issue.
JOY CARROLL and I were married in 1997. A year later, we had our first son, Luke. We met at a delightful British festival of faith, the arts, and justice called Greenbelt. Joy—a Brit—was on the Greenbelt board and also one of the speakers, as was I. We were on a panel together in a tent with a couple thousand young people, and that’s where our relationship began. I had coffee with Joy afterward, and she told me about the long journey women had made toward ordination in the Church of England.
Joy had been trained as a priest at Durham, just the same as the men, but at that time wasn’t able to be ordained to the priesthood. Her first parish was in a housing estate (what we would call a housing project) in the middle of an impoverished neighborhood with lots of drugs and violence—a place where male priests were afraid to take their families. As a deacon, Joy moved in to live and work in the housing estate, doing everything a priest would do except celebrate the Eucharist, which was still reserved for males only. At age 29, she was elected to the church’s General Synod—its youngest member—and in November 1992 she cast a vote for women’s ordination. Joy went on to become one of the first women ordained as a priest in the Church of England.
When Luke was 4 years old, we found ourselves back at Greenbelt, again as speakers. Sunday morning is always a high point at the Greenbelt festival, with creative and powerful worship that draws most of the 20,000 in attendance. Joy was on the main stage as the chief celebrant of the Eucharist, while Luke cuddled on my lap, carefully watching his mother at the altar. He looked up at me and asked, “Dad, can men do that too?”
Having a woman celebrating the Eucharist that day was a moving, freeing, and emotional experience for many who were there—women and men. But it just seemed normal to a little boy watching his mom and wondering if he might be able to do that someday himself.
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Canterbury Cathedral, mother church of the 85 million-member worldwide Anglican Communion, will have its first girls’ choir perform since it was rebuilt nearly 1,000 years ago.
On Jan. 25, worshippers will hear the voices of 16 girls between the ages of 12 and 16 at a historic Evensong service, which will include the music of English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Until now, only male voices have been heard at the cathedral’s services.
Twenty years ago, Salisbury Cathedral was the first English cathedral to allow girls to sing in choirs at services. That set the ball rolling. There are now 765 girls in cathedral choirs across England, compared with 1,008 boys.
The Church of England has been accused of “dumbing down” the baptism service following the introduction of an alternative liturgy in which parents and godparents need not repent of their “sins” or reject “the devil.”
In the traditional version of the service, parents and godparents are asked: “Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?” and “Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbor?”
In the alternative version, now being tested in 400 churches, parents are instead asked to “reject evil and all its many forms and all its empty promises.”
A well-known Anglican bishop in charge of the archbishop of Canterbury’s campaign to attract young people to the church says he’s ready to put on blue jeans and a T-shirt.
“There are people for whom vestments are profoundly helpful and those for whom they are a real obstacle,” said Bishop Graham Cray who heads the ”Fresh Expressions” campaign.
His statement follows reports that the General Synod, the Church of England’s governing body, is prepared to debate a controversial motion that would make clerical vestments optional.
In a letter to Synod members, the Rev. Christopher Hobbs, vicar of St Thomas in Oakwood, North London, wrote: “In all walks of life people are less formal. And sometimes informality is good even in a very traditional parish.”
British novelist and essayist Francis Spufford’s spirited defense of the Christian religion is in some ways like eavesdropping on a missionary conversation with the pagans of antiquity.
Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense — is the latest attempt at an ancient literary form, the Christian apology, and it makes its appearance in the United States more than a year after it was published in England.
Spufford’s defense of Christianity is aimed primarily at what he calls “godless Europeans,” the post-Enlightenment elites who tend to regard religion with bemusement as a silly fairy tale, if not with open hostility as a dangerous superstition.