CHURCH AXES DEVIL IN BAPTISM WORDS
The Church of England has overwhelmingly backed a new simplified baptism service which omits mention of the Devil in an attempt to appeal to people with no religious background.
Members of the General Synod, meeting at York University, were told that the draft alternative service had appealed to parents, godparents and relatives where it had been piloted throughout the country.
The present baptism service in the Common Worship service asks parents whether they will "reject the devil and all rebellion against God", "renounce the deceit and corruption of evil" and "repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour".
The new alternative service asks them only to say that they "turn away from sin" and "reject evil".
The Rt Rev Robert Paterson, Bishop of Sodor and Man, proposing the new text, defended it against claims that it represents a "Baptism-lite".
"We all know that for many people, the Devil has been turned into a cartoon-like character of no particular malevolence," he said.
"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."
The Rev Michael Parsons, from the Gloucester Diocese, whose parish pioneered the new text, said it had been "like a gift of water to a thirsty soul" in its effects.
"Words like sin and the Devil don't help because they can either be given the wrong context or people just have no idea as to what they mean," he said.
The Rev Anne Hollingshurst, from the St Albans Diocese, also backed the new text. She 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."
But Alison Ruoff, from the London Diocese, said to members of the General Synod: "I want and beg you to bring back the Devil into this slightly simplified service."
"I would suggest we must not patronise people, they are not stupid, people can look at the television and the radio and the news and they see evil well and truly. We have to tell them, if they don't know, that it emanates from the Devil," she added.
Prudence Dailey, from the Oxford Diocese, told members: "Those parts of the baptism service which are difficult to understand need to be explained to them, they deserve to have it explained to them, the principles of the Gospel, there is no short cut to that."
A report for the Church's Liturgical Commission said clergy were frequently finding 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," it said. "For the majority of those attending, the existing provision can seem complex and inaccessible."
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