Exorcism is a rare topic in Christianity. Since the Church of Scotland is to recognize that exorcisms can be effective in delivering people from demonic possession, it brings the concern and curiosity of Christians in Britain.
However, the Kirk will not create an official rite of exorcism, or a set liturgy, just as the Anglican Church and the Catholic Church do. They believe that ritualism for exorcism would "do more harm than good and create unwarranted publicity and demand."
Instead, ministers should use "prayer, blessing and the ministry of healing" to free unwanted demons.
Exorcism is not new to the Church of Scotland as "Deliverance ministry" was set up by the Church of Scotland last year aiming to help people who believe they are possessed by demons. The Church was warned by mental health campaigners their work could increase the stigma associated with psychiatric illness.
Richard Norris from the Scottish Association of Mental Health claimed that talking about demon possession conjured up "disturbing" and "medieval" images about mental health which would not be welcome to many.
The Church surveyed more than 1,000 parish ministers and hospital, mental health and prison chaplains. The result revealed that more than two thirds of Church of Scotland ministers "believe supernatural forces of evil exist today."
The new recommendations for the Kirk have come in a report by the study group, called the 'Deliverance Group' and will be debated at the Church's General Assembly in Edinburgh in May. The group aimed to establish guidelines for ministers who encounter people who believe they are suffering from demonic possession.
According to the report, people have different point of views towards exorcism and supernatural existence. Some take the view that demons exist as an objective reality and should be cast out by the power of Christ given by the church whereas some believes that demon has no objective reality and those who suspect themselves possessed by demon should be referred to medical expert.
In conclusion, the report recommends a "cautious approach" with regard to supernatural evil. It pointed out that for most cases where someone believing themselves to be possessed, it is very unlikely to be the truth.
Whilst Douglas Irvine, convener of the Deliverance group, admitted that the Kirk's understanding of demon possession was wanting he said he still believed it was time to revisit the subject.
"We would recognize that in a lot of cases people are mentally ill, but there are situations we do affirm in the Church where people are not sick in the mind but they are diseased in the spirit," he said.
Evangelical churches regarded exorcists as "vulgar magicians" but the charismatic renewal movement led to resurgence in the practice by leading charismatics, such as America's John Wimber, who died in 1997.
Exorcisms are carried out in the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church and the Scottish Episcopal Church but are rare and only the Catholic Church has a specific rite. In the Catholic and Anglican churches, only authorized exorcists can perform them, and then only with the permission of the diocesan bishop.
Deliverance Group Recommends the Church of Scotland a Cautious Approach to Exorcism
Published 02 April 2004