ASB Baptism liturgy

ASBcoverI have reproduced here the baptism liturgy from the Alternative Service Book (1980). It is not currently authorised for use without specific permission.

It is not without its problems, and there were questions asked when it was introduced. But it is interesting to note its directness and simplicity compared with Common Worship, and its extensive use of biblical imagery compared with the ‘additional’ texts just proposed. Would some of the key elements of the decision, the baptism and the profession of faith make a better alternative to CW than the ‘additional texts’?

(Please note that the layout is not a perfect match with the printed ASB.)

Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion


At the entry of the ministers this, or another APPROPRIATE SENTENCE, may be used:

The Lord is my strength and my song,
and has become my salvation. Psalm 118.14

and A HYMN or A CANTICLE may be sung.

Bishop               The Lord be with you
All                     and also with you.

If THE PRAYERS OF PENITENCE (Holy Communion Rite A, sections 5-8) are to be used, they follow here.

Heavenly Father, by the power of your Holy Spirit
you give to your faithful people new life in the water of baptism.
Guide and strengthen us by that same Spirit, that we who are born again
may serve you in faith and love, and grow into the full stature of your Son Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever. Amen.



If AN OLD TESTAMENT READING is to be read, one of the following may be chosen (see pp. 262-268).

Genesis 7.17-23 (or 7.17-8.5); Exodus 14.19-31; Deuteronomy 30.15-20; 2 Kings 5.1-15a; Isaiah 43.1-3a, 6b-7; Isaiah 44.1-5; Jeremiah 31.31-34; Ezekiel 36.25a, 26-28

At the end the reader may say

                             This is the word of the Lord.
All                         Thanks be to God.

Silence may be kept.

PSALM 107.1-9 may be sung (p. 261).

If A NEW TESTAMENT READING is to be read, one of the following may be chosen (see pp. 268-271).

Acts 16.25-34; Romans 6.3-11; Romans 8.11-17; 1 Corinthians 12.12-13; Galatians 5.16-25; 1 Peter 2.4-10

At the end the reader may say

                             This is the word of the Lord.
All                         Thanks be to God.

Silence may be kept.

A CANTICLE or A HYMN may be sung.


THE GOSPEL. When it is announced

All                         Glory to Christ our Saviour.

One of the following may be chosen (see pp. 271-274).

Matthew 16.24-27; Matthew 28.16-20; Mark 1.1-11; Mark 1.14-20; John 3.1-8; John15.1-11.

At the end the reader may say

                         This is the Gospel of Christ.
All                       Praise to Christ our Lord.

Silence may be kept.


At the end silence may be kept.


If children are to be baptized sections 42 and 43 may be used here.

Those who are to be baptized the parents and godparents of children to be baptized and those who are to be confirmed stand before the Bishop. He says:

Our Lord Jesus Christ suffered death on the cross and rose again from the dead for the salvation of mankind. Baptism is the outward sign by which we receive for ourselves what he has done for us: we are united with him in his death; we are granted the forgiveness of sins; we are raised with Christ to new life in the Spirit.

Those of you who have come for baptism must affirm your allegiance to Christ and your rejection of all that is evil.

(Those parents and godparents who present children for baptlsm must bring them up to fight against evil and to follow Christ.)*

Those of you who come to be confirmed must with your own mouth and from your own heart declare your allegiance to Christ and your rejection of all that is evil.

Therefore l ask these questions:

(Parents and godparents must answer both for themselves and for these childern.)*

Do you tum to Christ?
Answer             I turn to Christ.

Do you repent of your sins?
Answer             I repent of my sins.

Do you renounce evil?
Answer             I renounce evil.

Either here or at section 21 the Bishop makes THE SIGN OF THE CROSS on the forehead of each one who is to be baptized and says to each

I sign you with the cross, the sign of Christ.

After the signing of each or all, he says

                       Do not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified.
All                    Fight valiantly under the banner of Christ
                        against sin, the world, and the devil,
                        and continue his faithful soldiers and servants
                        to the end of your lives.

Bishop             May almighty God deliver you from the powers of darkness, and lead you in the light and obedience of Christ. Amen.

PSALM 121 (p. 262) or some other suitable psalm or hymn may be sung.


The Bishop stands before the water of baptism and says

                       Praise God who made heaven and earth,
All                     who keeps his promise for ever.

Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ was baptized in the river Jordan
we thank you for the gift of water to cleanse us and revive us;
we thank you that through the waters of the Red Sea,
you led your people out of slavery to freedom in the promised land;
we thank you that through the deep waters of death you brought your Son,
and raised him to life in triumph.
Bless this water, that your servants who are washed in it
may be made one with Christ in his death and in his resurrection,
to be cleansed and delivered from all sin.
Send your Holy Spirit upon them to bring them to new birth
in the family of your Church,
and raise them with Christ to full and eternal life.
For all might, majesty, authority, and power are yours, now and for ever. Amen.

The Bishop says to adults who are to be baptized

You must now declare before God and his Church the Christian faith into which you are to be baptized and in which you will live and grow.

(To parents and godparents of children who are to be baptized he says

You must now declare before God and his Church the Christian faith into which these children are to be baptized, and in which you will help them to live and grow.

You must answer for yourselves and for these children.)

(To those who have already been baptized and are now to confirmed, he says

You must now declare before God and his Church that you accept the Christian faith into which you were baptized, and in which you will live and grow.)

Then he says

                       Do you believe and trust in God the Father, who made the world?
Answer             I believe and trust in him.

                       Do you believe and trust in his Son Jesus Christ who redeemed mankind?
Answer             I believe and trust in him.

                       Do you believe and trust in his Holy Spirit, who gives life to the people of God?
Answer             I believe and trust in him.

The Bishop turns to the congregation and says

                       This is the faith of the Church.
All                    This is our faith.
                        We believe and trust in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Bishop then baptizes the candidates. He dips each one in the water or pours water on him, addressing him by name.

N, l baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

And each one of his sponsors answers


The Bishop makes THE SIGN OF THE CROSS on the forehead of each one, if he has not already done so. The appropriate words are printed at section 14.

The priest or other person may give A LIGHTED CANDLE to each adult who has been baptized, and to a parent or godparent for each child, saying to each

Receive this light.

And when a candle has been given to each one, he says

                       This is to show that you have passed from darkness to light.
All                    Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father.

* When no children are to be baptized the words in brackets are omitted


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8 thoughts on “ASB Baptism liturgy”

  1. Curious question from an outsider:

    What is the point of authorizing a liturgy? To assure its soundness? To assure uniformity in the worship of the church?

    If the latter, than the plethora of different forms in the combination of BCP and CW would defeat that purpose.

    If the former, then “de-authorizing” a liturgy carries with it at least some suggestion that either it is not, after all, theologically sound, and therefore should never have been authorized, or that the doctrine of the church, and thus the standard of soundness, has changed.

    Which is it?

  2. The reason has to do with the complexities of liturgical revision over the last 50 years in the C of E.

    In 1927 a revision to the BCP was proposed in order to accommodate the shift in the Church under the influence of the Oxford Movement, led for a time by Newman. This was accepted in the Church, but rejected by evangelical laity in Parliament.

    Then in the 1960s there was a new movement for liturgical change, and experimental liturgies called Series 1, 2 and 3 were introduced. Series 3 was the most widely used, and this formed the basis for the publication of the Alternative Service Book. The title was important, since one reaction to the 1927 debacle was to state that the BCP remained normative, and anything else would be a parallel alternative, thus cementing the C of E’s doctrinal position. This is in contrast to ECUSA, who *replaced* the BCP with their 1976 Prayer Book, thus shifting their doctrinal position and causing most evangelicals to leave.

    But the vision for the ASB was always that it would be temporary, licensed in the first instance for only 20 years. Common Worship was then supposed to succeed it, as the permanent, contemporary language alternative to the BCP.

    But the problem here is that many of us think that it was profoundly mistaken in its approach in a number of important regards, and the baptism service is one example of that. Funerals, weddings, daily prayer and collects are other notables.

    I hope at some point there will be a mind to recognise that CW was a mistake, and we will return to something more straightforward as a settled, modern alternative to BCP. The chief obstacle to this is the extraordinary pain and effort involved in liturgical revision. No-one involved in CW will want to be involved in the next change, so it will probably need to wait another 20 years till they have all died or retired.

    Does that make sense? (No, I know it doesn’t, but does that explain it?)

  3. Not sure whether the wording matters so much unless those involved are well prepared before the ceremony and have on-going spiritual formation afterwards.

    I have a memory of having the 39 articles read to us in 3 sessions in a cold church, a short baptism at the back of an empty church one Saturday – a week before Confirmation. I’ve no memory of the Confirmation Service except being part of a crowd in a strange church and having to wear a veil. Thenceforth we were allowed to go to Communion which remained a mystery to us. Confessing that I am a sinner each week did not enable me to understand why!

    Many I have met of my generation are still not sure why they are there except that they have always been to church–
    (I moved on to study in London, near All Soul’s Church and John Stott which helped me on the Way-)

  4. It makes some sense. Basically it means “While we won’t insist on everyone doing the same thing, you can’t just do what you want, even if it is theologically sound.”
    But it seems to me that Anglicans are pretty good at ignoring the rules, anyway 🙂

  5. Jean you raise an important point about education and understanding—but this is germane to the issue, since the ‘additional’ wording has been provided largely for contexts with an ‘open’ baptism policy, where very often there is no preparation.

    Wolf, yes it is about ‘bounded diversity.’ And I would love to be able to disagree with your observation, but…

  6. I’d like to thank for aiding me with the kids’ baptismal services. They truly prepared the children by explaining the significance of this significant Christian milestone! I am really pleased with how things ended out and how the children are developing into excellent Christian young adults!

  7. We are happy with how handled everything for us during my son’s baptism last week. I would like to offer my appreciation to the churchgoers and volunteers for making our son’s baptism a solemn and memorable event. God also blesses the outstanding preacher for participating in and leading the ritual.


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