Online baptism to be considered by Church of Scotland

BAPTISM is set to go online for the first time as the Church of Scotland attempts to bring the digital age to its worshippers.

Baptisms could be performed online in the future under new plans in the Church of Scotland. Picture: TSPL

Online baptism is just one of the plans due to be presented to delegates at the Kirk’s annual gathering on The Mound in Edinburgh next week.

Other proposals include allowing “access to the sacraments while not being physically present in the congregation”.

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And it is hoped the plans will start a debate about how to engage more with parishioners while also inviting suggestions for executing baptisms remotely through the internet.

Norman Smith, vice-convener of the Mission and Discipleship Council, described the plans as forward-thinking, adding: “Most people live out their Christian faith not in church buildings.

“We are responding to where we find ourselves in society in a positive and engaging way.

“It shows that the Church is not behind the times.”

Theological and legal experts will discuss how they will go about doing the sacraments such as baptism if the plans are approved.

Rev Smith, minister in Granton, Edinburgh, said: “They are the questions that have yet to be addressed and we are yet to have a discussion.”

Attempts to embrace online audiences come as the church accepts the “nature of membership and belonging to the Church of Scotland is becoming more and more blurred”.

The report, due to be presented at the general assembly, states: “As fewer people join up in the traditional sense and as they make choices which include ever greater interaction with the Church through online access and social media, questions arise about online membership and even about access to the sacraments while not being physically present in the congregation.

“There are no easy answers to some of the questions which are already 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-ranging discussion on these contemporary developments.

“The committee proposes that this research be done jointly with the Mission and Discipleship Council and the Theological Forum.”

The Kirk is looking for new ways to reach people as its membership continues to drop and technology plays a bigger role.

The Kirk’s former Moderator, the Very Reverend Albert Bogle, has spearheaded a separate project taking the holy message to the internet with religious apps.

He now has 1,700 using the website Sanctuary First.

Online worship is popular in the US where evangelical churches have used the internet to stream services and religious messages.