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Church of Scotland to consider online baptisms, Communion

A newborn baby is baptized.

CANTERBURY, England (RNS) The Church of Scotland will launch a two-year investigation into the possibility of introducing online baptisms, Communion and other Christian sacraments.

The church, known as The Kirk, has seen its rolls fall by almost one-third between 2004 and 2015, to just under 364,000 members.

Some 750 commissioners from congregations across Scotland and other parts of the world are scheduled to meet in Edinburgh May 21-27 for its annual General Assembly.

The church’s Legal Questions Committee, which is responsible for advising the General Assembly, the church’s lawmaking body, is pushing for “a wide-ranging review of practice and procedure which is impacted by the use of new technology in church life.”

It adds: “Now is the time to open up a wide range of discussion on these contemporary developments.”

Baptism, one of the key Christian sacraments, normally demands the physical presence of the person undergoing the rite.

Section 9.6 of the General Assembly’s Blue Book points out that there are no easy answers to some of the questions being asked, “but, in a world where the fastest growing communities are being fostered online, the committee believes that now is the time to open up a wide range discussion on these contemporary developments.”

David Robertson, moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, whose members broke from the Church of Scotland in 1843, said: “The notion of online baptism is as ridiculous as the nation of online weddings or online Communion. At best it is a cheap gimmick, at worst it comes across as yet another desperate attempt by a declining national church to shore up its numbers and justify its existence.”

(Trevor Grundy is an RNS correspondent based in England)

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  • When it gets to that point, what’s the point? How is that even possible? To sacrifice the reality of the experience for the sake of what’s convenient is to reduce what should be holy and life-giving encounters. Where’s the sanctity of the experience? When you fall in love with someone and want to get married and share a life together, you don’t replace that with an on-line “relationship.” You want the real thing. What a shame it’s not desired. Disappointing that the church would see this as a solution. In fact it’s heartbreaking. When Christ came from heaven to earth and took on human flesh and blood, that was real. He came to enter human history and dwell among mankind for real. His suffering and death were real. His resurrection was real. The Gospel isn’t just a compilation of words in a book…”The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” He didn’t take the easy way out and He didn’t take shortcuts.

  • Do you have to sprinkle yourself with water at home and click a box to confirm you’ve done this?