recent post about our mission situation and by a recent shift in the Baptism policy of the Cleethorpes parishes.
The church knows how to operate in a pagan society. It has a lot of experience of this - this is where it begun and where it is in many parts of the world today. In these circumstances Baptism is a carefully guarded gateway (albeit most Biblical examples in fact evidence very little preparation).
It knows how to operate in a Christian society. It has a lot of experience about this - this is where we have been in our European culture for many centuries. In these circumstances Baptism is an open way (albeit followed up by sometimes quite substantial later formation).
Some of us persist in seeing a Christian society around us (with some justification when we are welcomed in schools, and when we are asked to pray by strangers) so we continue to use the open approach. Because there are substantial Christian elements in a post-Christian society, this sometimes works well. When it does, the process of human ‘confirmation bias’ means we take this to be strong evidence that we are doing the right thing (and ignore the way we can be seen to peddle ‘cheap grace’).
Some see a pagan society around us (with equal justification when large Baptism congregations are uninterested and unresponsive, and when secular values dominate) and so revert to a more fenced approach. Because there are substantial pagan elements in a post-Christian society, this also sometimes works well. When it does the same human tendency to self justification means we also take it to be strong evidence that we are doing the right thing (and ignore the way we can be seen to provoke long term hostility).
But my instinct is that we have simply not yet found out how to operate in the complex and changing post-1960s society. An often liberal instinct towards inclusiveness and an often evangelical instinct towards rigourous commitment both arise from Gospel values and both feel consistent, justified and neat. But until we are better nuanced in our understanding of the complex situation in which the church now exists any subtlety about policies of engagement (let alone Baptism) doesn’t seem very likely.
The picture is another of Kirmington church, this time taken next to the lights ahead of the runway at Humberside Airport.