A brief look at what General Synod will debate in February

This month’s Synod will debate in particular two areas of interest and concern for readers of New Directions. The first centres around the Rite of Baptism. A motion

will come before the Synod asking that ‘the House of Bishops ask the Liturgical Commission to prepare material to supplement the Common Worship Baptism provision, comprising additional forms of the Decision, the Prayer over the Water and the Commission, expressed in culturally appropriate and accessible language.’ The worry in this proposal is that it might lead to a decision to dumb-down the baptismal liturgy even further. Many of our parishes may choose to supplement the Common Worship with liturgies from other churches but even then what is needed is good baptismal preparation. We cannot expect young families, or indeed older families, to come to a service of baptism and understand immediately what is going on. Families may understand baptism as a rite of passage but they require teaching and preparation both before and during the baptismal liturgy. Nothing can replace good baptism preparation for the families of young children to be baptized or indeed preparation of adults to be baptized. Who knows what might grow out of such preparation.

The second debate of interest concerns the ARCIC document Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ. The motion for debate will call on the Synod to ‘(i) welcome exploration of how far Anglicans and Roman Catholics share a common faith and spirituality, based on the Scriptures and the early Ecumenical Councils, with regard to the Blessed Virgin Mary; (ii) request that, in the context of the quest for closer unity between our two communions, further joint study of the issues identified be undertaken – in particular, the question of the authority and status of the Roman Catholic dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary for Anglicans; and (iii) encourage Anglicans to study the report with ecumenical colleagues and in particular, wherever possible, with their Roman Catholic neighbours.’

Many if not all Anglo-Catholics will agree that this move forward between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church regarding devotion to Our Lady is an important and good one. We would welcome further theological study of the material and further discussion of the heritage of Marian devotion in England and more particularly in Anglicanism itself. There will be many in the Church of England for whom agreeing on some of the Marian dogmas is a step too far. It is important for us to remember when these issues are debated that it is the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that these dogmas were not simply invented by the Church but that they are consonant with scripture and the tradition of the Church. They need to be examined by Anglicans through the lens of ‘tradition, scripture and reason.’

(Editorial Note:
We hope to bring further coverage of the
‘Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ’ debate next month.)