The big news concerning the Church of England this week was the denomination’s vote to allow female bishops, but it seems another big change unfolded that went widely unnoticed: the removal of the devil from the church’s official baptism rite.
Priests had apparently felt that the ceremony — which asks parents and godparents whether they will renounce Satan — was too complex and confusing to people who don’t regularly attend church, so it was “quietly voted” out by the General Synod, the denomination’s legislative body, according to Religion News Service.
Rather than rejecting the devil outright, these parties will now simply be asked to “turn away from sin” and to “reject evil,” a development that has sparked some debate.
Traditionally, the baptism rite asked parents and godparents to pray for children being baptized, to show them Christian examples and to care for them.
Additionally, adults being baptized — or the parents and godparents of children receiving the rite — were asked to respond to some statements and questions about Satan.
“In baptism, God calls us out of darkness into his marvellous light. To follow Christ means dying to sin and rising to new life with him,” the rite read before the change. “Therefore I ask: Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?” Respondents then answer with: “I reject them.”
Evil is also mentioned as is repenting of sin and turning to Jesus as one’s personal savior.
An alternative baptismal rite did allow for priests to conduct the ceremony without asking about the devil, though the mainstream rite included Satan.
While officials say the removal of the devil was not an attempt to water down the service, the U.K.’s Independent reported that, “the simplified service aims to appeal to people with no religious background as membership of the Church of England continues to decline.”
Bishop Robert Paterson, a Church of England leader, though, attempted to describe why the church made the change in the wake of Sunday’s decision.
“We all know that for many people, the devil has been turned into a cartoon-like character of no particular malevolence,” he said, according to the Independent. “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.”
Some, though, have charged that the removal of the devil from the rite dumbs down the ritual and fails to teach the public that true evil comes from Satan — a belief held in most Christian circles.
What do you think?
(H/T: Religion News Service)
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