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Vol II No. 5

the twentieth-century BAPTISMAL revolution: does it really render the classic Prayer Book OBSOLETE?

by
Jesse Billett

I. What Was the Baptismal Revolution?

The phrase “baptismal revolution” seems to have been coined by one of the leading liturgical scholars working in the Episcopal Church today, Ruth Meyers, in her 2009 book Continuing the Reformation: Re-Visioning Baptism in the Episcopal Church. Meyers explains that a radical new approach to the sacrament of baptism, first discovered in the heady days of the 1960s, was a decisive factor in the creation of the Episcopal Church’s new liturgy, the book of 1979. Furthermore, Meyers contends, as the 1979 baptismal liturgy has become familiar through repeated use, it has, to varying extents, called forth a new Christian consciousness on the part of Episcopalians, and has led to an understanding of the Church as constituted, not by the Eucharist, as earlier exponents of the liturgical renewal movement had argued, but by baptism.

This new “baptismal ecclesiology” advances three central assertions. First, that baptism is, as the 1979 book puts it, “full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body the Church.” This has obvious corollaries, namely, that baptized infants are full members of the Church and that, since the Holy Spirit is given fully in baptism, the rite of Confirmation should no longer be understood as part of Christian initiation.

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