The title loosely quotes the Neuhaus's Law: "Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed." Some time ago I posted on this devil-less Baptismal service when it first came out of committee. In a move that surprises no one, the Church of England has voted in favor of this "updated" and "accessible" version of the service and removed reference to the devil - something that has been part of the Baptismal process from the beginning of Christianity.
(National Post) - The Book of Revelation speaks of the Devil being vanquished and cast into a pit of fire and brimstone at the end of the world.
Yesterday, however, the Church of England consigned Satan to a decidedly less dramatic fate – being quietly designated as an optional extra.
Instead of requiring an apocalyptic battle between the forces of good and evil, the move was approved with a polite show of hands at the General Synod, the Church’s decision-making body, which has been meeting in Westminster.
Members voted to approve an alternative baptism liturgy with all references to the Devil removed, as part of a drive to make services “accessible” to those unused to attending church.
Following a consultation process, a committee of liturgical experts ruled that the inclusion of Satan as “personified evil” was “unhelpful” as it was likely to be “misunderstood” by young people.
The word “fight” has also been removed from the liturgy to give the services a more pacifist tone.
An earlier draft abandoned references to sin, but it was reinstated after complaints from churchgoers who said the new wording was “bland,” “dumbed down” and “nothing short of dire.”
Those who wish to retain references to violent combat against the Prince of Darkness will still be able to opt for the baptism liturgy in the Church of England’s main service book, Common Worship, in which those being baptized, or in most cases their parents and godparents, are urged to “fight valiantly as a disciple of Christ against sin, the world and the Devil.”
Despite the subject matter, there was little fury in the tone of the debate, which approved the new texts without dissent.
The closest the mood came to condemnation was when Synod members tutted in mock outrage when one parish priest, the Rev Charlotte Gale, from Coventry, admitted that she had already used the new wording in services, even though they had not yet been approved. To quote T.S. Eliot, "This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper."
In the current baptism service, the priest asks the parents and godparents: “Do you reject the Devil and all rebellion against God?” to which they reply: “I reject them.” The priest then asks whether they “renounce the deceit and corruption of evil” and “repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour.” In the new wording they are asked to “turn away from sin” and “reject evil.” They are also asked merely to “stand bravely” against the forces of evil.
The Bishop of Truro, the Rt. Rev. Timothy Thornton, who oversaw the revision process, said: “This is seen as a posture of confident resistance rather than an aggressive act and it deliberately stops short of the word ‘fight.’
“Those who work with young people gave consistent advice that references to the Devil are likely to be misunderstood in today’s culture.” What is to misunderstand unless you now see the devil as an unwelcome situation like automotive traffic, missing tea time, or poor penmanship?
Canon Dr Chris Sugden, a leading conservative in the Church, also welcomed the alternative texts. “The issue is accessibility of language and also understanding by those for whom these texts are intended,” he said. “Nothing has changed in the doctrine of the Church of England, nothing has changed in our Common Worship services and practices.” Lex orandi, lex credendi. Not lex "pretendi."