"On the Way"
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"On the Way" Coverage
In future issues of Update, for the benefit of readers who (like the editor) don’t immediately buy all the C of E’s publications, we will try to bring you some extended coverage of “On the Way”, following Mark Earey's recommendation. In the mean time, here are some condensed thoughts from the CW book:

The introduction starts by highlighting baptism over confirmation. “This book contains • an introduction; • two groups of services: (i) a single baptism rite for both children and adults, (ii) a range of services (baptism, confirmation, affirmation of baptismal faith, reception into the C of E) recognizing different patterns of people’s spiritual journeys; and • a commentary.’ The practical difference between the ‘two groups of services’ is that you can do the first with your own vicar, but you need a bishop for the second. But the impression clearly given by the book is that the first group is the real essence of “initiation”, while the second group is a collection of tack-ons. All of which flies in the face of the commentary’s assertion that ‘in an episcopally-ordered church the bishop is the chief minister of the whole process of Christian initiation and is integral to its practice’ (p187). One sees Mark’s point ((a) opposite) at once!

The first group of services (the baptism ones) are probably familiar to most readers of this newsletter, and have been discussed in our pages at length. The second group (which may be less familiar) follow the pattern you might expect: after the opening praise and ministry of the word come:
• presentation of candidates
• decision (6 questions)
• sign of the cross
• prayer over the water
• profession of faith (creed)
• baptism
• affirmation declarations
• reception declarations
• confirmation
• affirmation
• reception
• commission
followed by intercessions and the communion part of the service (the welcome takes place at the Peace, and there may be a candle-giving at the end).

The dynamic philosophy seems to be not to treat the service in sections (a section for each of the four groups), but to mix-and-match: to get everyone to make their different declarations severally, and then go round them all again with laying-on-of-hands (handshake for reception). So why is the baptism still on its own? What’s going on?

The commentary starts by observing that ‘over the last hundred years Christians have been involved in the rediscovery of the meaning of baptism: before this it was generally treated as a sort of birth-rite within a Christian Society’ (p185). I’m told it’s intended to mean “immediately before”, but it seems to serve as a prelude to ignoring the wisdom of past ages, baptist points of view, and so on. Never mind all that, let’s plough straight into “On the Way” and its stages in initiation!

Liturgically, one may well agree with p193 that ‘the same rite, used with only a minimum of adaptation, should be used for both those able and unable to answer for themselves’ (this is a quotation from the Toronto Statement). I guess the question is what “minimum” means, if one also believes that a personal declaration of faith is integral to the whole business of Christian initiation? I find it confusing that the Lima Statement (BEM) is both commended (p185) and ignored (on this point). And maybe that’s why the section on “the use of oil and understandings of confirmation” (p194-6) turns out to be all about oil, with a footnote to explain that ‘confirmation’ is a poorly defined word, and (like communion) we don’t know when the ‘magic bit’ takes place.

Therefore it is logical that p202 should say we don’t know what it’s all about, and the best thing is to design a play-it-safe rite which ‘follows traditional Anglican practice’ without hesitation, deviation, or (most importantly) repetition. This ensures a ‘logic and flow’. Q.E.D!

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