Devil given the boot from CofE baptism liturgy

Published 14 July 2014  |  
(Photo:dcubillas)

The devil has been excised from new Church of England baptismal texts which were given initial approval at the General Synod in York.

The texts, which will now go forward for revision, are intended to be shorter and clearer, the synod was told.

Instead of asking parents and godparents to "reject the devil and all rebellion against God", the service asks them to "reject evil".

Quoting Martin Luther, the Bishop of Sodor and Man, Robert Paterson, told the synod: "When a child is brought for baptism he or she comes empty handed, with no good works, no doctrinal understanding, simply the most precious thing from God's sight, a child of his creation."

He said feedback from families who had taken part in baptisms suggested they remembered the symbols and actions more than the words used.

He admitted that the absence of the devil from the text had attracted attention. "However, we all know that for many people, the devil has been turned into a cartoon-like character of no particular malevolence.

"We have no quarrel with standing up to the devil, the problem is helping people with little doctrinal appreciation to understand what we mean by affirming that the devil is a defeated power."

So the words had been changed to "encapsulate what we mean by a broken and restored relationship with God."

A report for the Church's Liturgical Commission said: "Clergy frequently find themselves conducting baptisms for 'un-churched' families, sometimes at services separate from the main Sunday morning act of worship.

"On these occasions there may be a few people present who have a developed understanding of the Church's language and symbolism.

"For the majority of those attending, the existing provision can seem complex and inaccessible."

The Rev Anne Holingshurst, from the St Albans Diocese, said: "This is not language that has been dumbed down. I believe that this is rich language..that seeks to communicate more clearly to a new generation the age long love of God for us."

Alison Ruoff, from the London Diocese, said: "I want and beg you to bring back the Devil into this slight simplified service," she urged the Synod.

"I would suggest we must not patronise people they are not stupid, people will look at the television and the radio and the news and they see evil well and truly and we have to tell them, if we don't know, that it emanates from the Devil."

Reprints

More News in Church