Solemn Promises: Baptismal Vows in Rites of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Predecessor Bodies, 1906-1993   8 comments

124002pv

Above:  Pulpit and Baptismal Font, First Presbyterian Church of Ulysses, Trumansburg, New York

Image Created by the Historic American Buildings Survey

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ny1328.photos.124002p/)

Reproduction Number = HABS NY,55-TRUM,1–10

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I.  MY PURPOSE

My purpose in this post is to write about baptismal vows in Directories for Worship and baptismal rites of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its predecessor bodies, following chiefly the five editions of the Book of Common Worship (1906-1993) so far.  I am aware of germane material relating to this topic in certain other bodies, such as the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARPC), the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), and the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).  Yet that material resides beyond the purview of this post and my interests today.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

II.  BACKGROUND

The first of four denominations (two of them concurrent) to bear the name Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.) (PCUSA) met in General Assembly for the first time in 1789.  The commissioners adopted the Directory for the Worship of God (http://archive.org/details/formofgovernment00pres), adapted from the original Directory for the Publick Worship of God (1645).  Although John Knox had provided ritual forms for the Church of Scotland in the 1500s, Presbyterianism came under Puritan influence shortly thereafter, this Directories, with their guidelines and suggestions, replaced service book (https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/a-brief-history-of-u-s-presbyterian-worship-to-1905/).  The Church of Scotland, by the way, recovered Knox’s service book in the 1800s (http://archive.org/details/bookofcommonorde01chur).  And High Churchmanship here and there in the PCUSA during the 1800s led to the first, authorized Book of Common Worship (http://archive.org/details/bookcommonworsh00assegoog) in 1906.  But Puritan influences continue to shape Presbyterianism.  And Puritanism clashes with my spiritual type.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

III.  THE DIRECTORY FOR THE WORSHIP OF GOD (1789)

The Directory for the Worship of God (1789) was in effect in the succession of bodies called the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (PCUSA) through 1958 (when the last one merged with The United Presbyterian Church of North America to form The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.)., in The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.  (UPCUSA) through 1961, and in mostly Southern Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) through 1894.  Thus the 1906, 1932, and 1946 versions of The Book of Common Worship had to conform to this document.  That fact makes the 1789 Directory more relevant than it would be otherwise to my inquiry today.

The 1789 Directory contains guidelines for conducting baptism.

The minister, when conducting the baptism of a child, reminds the parents/guardians that children are holy but

that we are by nature, sinful, guilty, and polluted, and have need of sanctifying influences of the Spirit of God.

Next the minister instructs the parents/guardians

That they teach the child to read the Word of God; that they instruct it in the principles of our holy religion, as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament; an excellent summary of which we have in the Confession of Faith of this Church, and in the Larger and Shorter Catechisms of the Westminster Assembly, which are to be recommended to them, as adapted by this church, for their direction and assistance, in the discharge of this important duty; that they pray with and for it, that they set an example of piety and godliness before it; and endeavour, by all the means of God’s appointment, to bring up their child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Then the minister blesses and baptizes the child.

Later, when the baptized has learned to recite the Catechism, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer, has learned the faith as taught to him or her, and has

come to years of discretion,

while being

free and scandal,

appearing

sober and steady,

and having

sufficient knowledge to discern the Lord’s body,

therefore being ready to begin to take Communion, he or she, before the church elders,

shall be examined

as to his or her

knowledge and piety

to the elders’ satisfaction.

Unbaptized people seeking to join to church must

after giving satisfaction with respect to their knowledge and piety, make a public profession of their faith in the presence of the congregation; and thereupon be baptized.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

IV.  THE DIRECTORY FOR THE WORSHIP OF GOD (1894)

The Southern Presbyterian Directory for the Worship of God (1894) (http://archive.org/details/constitutionofp00pres) contains some optional forms, but not one for baptism.  Its guidelines regarding Christian initiation retain the 1789 standards, adjust some language slightly, and add questions.  There are now, for example, three optional model questions to follow the minister’s instructions to the parents/guardians:

Do you acknowledge your child’s need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, and the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit?

Do you claim God’s covenant promises in his behalf and do you look in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ for his salvation, as you do for your own?

Do you now unreservedly dedicate your child to God, and promise, in humble reliance upon divine grace, that you will endeavor to set before him a godly example, that you will pray with and for him, that you will teach him the doctrines of our holy religion, and that you will strive, by all the means of God’s appointment, to bring him up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?

Likewise, the 1894 Directory establishes four model questions for those professing their faith and seeking to join the church:

Do you acknowledge yourselves to be sinners in the sight of God, justly deserving his displeasure, and without hope save his sovereign mercy?

Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Saviour of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon him alone for salvation as he is offered in the gospel?

Do you now reserve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to walk as becometh the followers of Christ, forsaking all sin, and conforming your life to his teaching and example?

Do you submit yourselves to the government and discipline of the church, and promise to study its purity and peace?

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

V.  THE UNITED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF NORTH AMERICA, 1858-1958

The United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPCNA)  (http://archive.org/details/testimony00unit) adopted its revised Book of Government and Worship (http://archive.org/details/digestofprinci00unit) in 1910.  The 1926 version of it, containing amendments passed from 1911 to 1925, provides guidance regarding baptism.

Parents/guardians must answer the following questions:

Do you now take God as your God in covenant, and as the God of your children?

Do you renew the profession you made when you were admitted to the Church?

Do you solemnly promise, if God shall spare your life and that of your children, to train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; to instruct them in regard to their lost condition by nature, and to lead them to the Saviour; to pray with them and for them, to worship God regularly in your family; to set before them an example of piety; and to use all the appointed means of salvation?

People baptized as adults make a public profession of faith and receive baptism by water.  They promise

to cultivate the spirit of Christian fellowship and brotherly love, and to seek the welfare of the congregation

while a member of it.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

VI.  THE BOOK OF COMMON WORSHIP (1906), THE BOOK OF COMMON WORSHIP (REVISED) (1932), AND THE BOOK OF COMMON WORSHIP (1946)

The 1870-1958 incarnation of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. published three versions of The Book of Common Worship (BCW).

The 1906 BCW (https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/the-book-of-common-worship-1906/), although authorized by the General Assembly, was unofficial and optional.  And many PCUS ministers found some of its contents useful, despite the fact that the Southern Presbyterian General Assembly never authorized its use.  The PCUS General Assembly did authorized the use of the PCUSA’s 1932 and 1946 versions of the BCW, however.

The 1906 ritual for baptism requires the parents/guardians to answer the following questions affirmatively:

Do you accept, for yourself and for your Child, the covenant of God, and therein consecrate your Child to Him?

Do you promise to instruct your Child in the principles of our holy religion, as contained in the Scriptures, to pray with him and for him, and to bring him up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?

Adults being baptized answer the following questions:

Do you receive and profess the Christian faith and in this faith do you desire to be baptized?

Do you confess your sins, and turn from them with godly sorrow, and put all your trust in the mercy of God, which is in Christ Jesus; and do you promise in His strength to lead a sober, righteous, and godly life?

One who confirms baptismal vows confesses

Christ as Lord,

adhering

to the Christian faith,

ratifying and confirming his or her baptismal vows, and promising

with God’s help to serve the Lord, and keep His commandments all the days

one one’s life.  Then one answers the the following question:

Now desiring to be received to the Lord’s Supper, do you promise to make diligent use of the means of grace, submitting yourself to the lawful authority and guidance of the Church, and continuing in the peace and fellowship of the people of God?

The 1932 (https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/the-book-of-common-worship-revised-1932/) Christian initiation rites are identical to those of 1906.

The 1946 (https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/the-book-of-common-worship-1946/) Christian initiation rites are similar to those of 1906 and 1932, with one notable change:  Adults being baptized and renewing their baptismal covenants affirm the Apostles’ Creed also.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

VII.  THE WORSHIPBOOK (1970/1972)

Different language appears in the baptismal rites in the late 1960s and early 1970s (https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/the-worshipbook-services-and-hymns-1972-services/).

The questions (with answers), directed to parents/guardians or to the baptismal candidates, follow:

Who is your Lord and Savior?

Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.

Do you trust in him?

I do.

Do you intend (your child) to be his disciple, to obey his word and show his love?

I do.

Will you be a faithful member of this congregation, giving of yourself in every way, and will you seek the fellowship of the church wherever you may be?

I will.

At confirmation one answers the first two questions and a variant of the fourth.

These rites are consistent with the 1961 Directory of The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA) and the 1963 Directory of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS).

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

VIII.  BOOK OF COMMON WORSHIP (1993)

The Directory for Worship (1989) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) lists the required elements of baptism in that denomination.  Among these are:

Those desiring the Sacrament of Baptism of their children or for themselves shall make vows that

(a)  profess their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior,

(b)  renounce evil and affirm their reliance on God’s grace,

(c)  declare their intention to participate actively and responsibly in the worship and mission of the church,

(d)  declare their intention to provide for the Christian nurture of the child.

–W-3.3603

The Book of Common Worship (1993) (https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/book-of-common-worship-1993/) provides a variety of baptismal texts, which I will quote here quite partially.  The renunciations, long parts of the baptismal rituals in many denominations, appear now in Presbyterian rites.  The baptismal candidates, for example, renounce

evil and its power in the world

in two options and

all evil, and powers in the world which defy God’s righteousness and love

plus

the ways of sin that separate you from the love of God

in another.  There is also the Consultation on Common Texts service for baptism, in which one renounces, in order:

Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God;

the evil powers of this world, which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God;

all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God;

evil and its power in the world, which defy God’s righteousness and love;

the ways of sin that separate you from the love of God.

The renunciations and affirmations associated with baptism recur in the confirmation ritual and the rite for the public profession of faith.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

IX.  CONCLUSION

There is no single correct way to cover the serious liturgical work of baptismal vows.  One can do much of it via renunciations, but, if one words affirmations properly, one can cover the same content in purely positive terms.  How to do it best is a matter of taste.

As I read the texts for this blog post I noticed much continuity amid change from one generation to the next.  I chose not to quote extensively from the 1993 texts, but they echo and quote previous Presbyterian liturgies while expanding upon them.  The 1993 texts are, I think, the best which the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) tradition offers.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 30, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM PINCHON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HORATIUS BONAR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RUDOLF BULTMANN, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WILBERFORCE, ABOLITIONIST

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

First I acknowledge my brain, given the years I have spent becoming an expert on U.S. Presbyterianism.  Citing my brain is quicker and easier than seeking print sources for certain details.

I consider any document to which I have provided a hyperlink cited properly already.

I also used certain books while drafting this post.  Those credits follow:

Book of Common Worship.  Louisville, KY:  Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993.

Book of Common Worship, The.  Philadelphia, PA:  Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work, 1906.  Reprint, 1922.

Book of Common Worship, The.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Christian Education of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, 1946.

Book of Common Worship (Revised), The.  Philadelphia, PA:  Presbyterian Board of Christian Education, 1932.  Reprint, 1942.

Confessional Statement and The Book of Government and Worship of The United Presbyterian Church of North America, The.  Pittsburgh, PA:  United Presbyterian Board of Publication and Bible School Work, 1926.

Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), The.  Part II.  Book of Order 2004-2005.  Louisville, KY:  Office of the General Assembly, 2004.

Psalms and Hymns Adapted to Social, Private, and Public Worship in the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.  Philadelphia, PA:  Presbyterian Board of Education, 1843.

Worshipbook:  Services and Hymns, The.  Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1972.

KRT

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: