Baptism in a New Zealand Prayer Book

Many previously experimental services were presented to General Synod 1987 with minor alterations and improvements for inclusion in the new Prayer Book. The baptism service, however, had a significant change in order. In the NZ Prayer Book the creed and most of the promises came after the baptism, not, as traditionally, prior to it. It was as if one poured water over them and then checked to see if they now believed anything - rather than declaring the faith into which they were about to be baptised.

Another New Zealand tendency is to move away from adults making promises "on behalf of" a child. Parents and godparents, in New Zealand, cannot make promises "on behalf of" a child, which means that, for those baptised in infancy, "renewing baptismal promises" is a nonsense - as no promises were made on their behalf.

When I was a member of General Synod in 1998 I moved an amendment: "and that General Synod/te Hinota Whanui requests that before the next ordinary session of the General Synod/te Hinota Whanui the Common Life Liturgical Commission prepares for authorisation an alternative baptism rite which is easier to follow and restores the promises, commitments and creed before baptism." It passed. The reference to "easier to follow" will be understood by those who know the NZ rite, which is equivalent to liturgical snakes and ladders in its instructions what to leave out and where to go next.

The Common Life Liturgical Commission presented a new order at GS 2000:

God's Call
The Affirmation (but not including the post-baptismal questions and exhortation to parents, godparents, child, and congregation)
The Celebration of Faith
Commitment to Christian Service
The Baptism
The Continuation of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, or Prayers

There is much of interest here. The Commitment to Christian Service (p.390), which in the original snakes and ladders rite is for those to be confirmed, not for baptism, has now become part of baptism (unclear how that works when it is a baby who is the candidate). Most significantly I pointed out that there is an obvious error - the page and a half Presentation for Baptism (p. 384-5) has been accidentally omitted. Rather than correct this obvious error, it was pointed out to me that the original order on page 396 A also omits the Presentation for Baptism. Instead of correcting any mistakes, both errors were left in. In New Zealand two wrongs make a rite!

General Synod passed the error in its usual twice round way, and has them printed in the new 2005 edition of the Prayer Book. Interestingly, in this latest edition, the bottom half of what used to be on page 397 has just disappeared! Obviously there are other ways of making changes to the Prayer Book than the cumbersome twice to General Synod and around every diocesan synod!

Except if you are a tiny typo. But that's another story. Read it in another New Zealand Prayer Book error
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