CANTERBURY, England (RNS) While Christians waited to learn whether the Church of England would approve the consecration of women bishops, the church’s governing body — the General Synod — quietly voted to drop all future references to the devil in a new baptism service.

The devil is portrayed in "The Temptation of Christ," an 1854 painting by Ary Scheffer. The Church of England on July 14, 2014, approved alternative language in its baptism rite that removed a reference to the devil, who "has been turned into a cartoon-like character of no particular malevolence," said Robert Paterson, the Bishop of Sodor and Man.

The devil is portrayed in “The Temptation of Christ,” an 1854 painting by Ary Scheffer. The Church of England on July 14, 2014, approved alternative language in its baptism rite that removed a reference to the devil, who “has been turned into a cartoonlike character of no particular malevolence,” said Robert Paterson, the Bishop of Sodor and Man. Public domain image

The simplified wording was written after priests said the traditional service was unnecessarily complex and might confuse people who are not regular churchgoers.

In the traditional service, godparents are asked whether they are ready to renounce the devil and all his works for the sake of the child being baptized.

The new wording, approved Sunday (July 13), only asks whether parents and godparents will “turn away from sin” and “reject evil.”

Speaking after the new wording was overwhelmingly approved, Bishop Robert Paterson denied that the baptism service had been watered down.

“We all know that for many people, the devil has been turned into a cartoonlike character of no particular malevolence,” he said.

But the move is almost certain to infuriate traditionalists.

Speaking on a BBC radio program Tuesday, Peter Stanford, author of “The Devil: A Biography,” wondered what would happen to the dozens of trained exorcists attached to each diocese in England. In 1974, the Church of England set up a “Delivery Ministry” in which exorcists are trained by theologians and registered psychiatrists.

“If we’re never going to mention the devil anymore, what exactly is it that these people going to do?” he asked.

Referring to the devil in the New Testament, Stanford asked: “Are we saying that the devil is just a symbol and isn’t real and if so, where does that leave God? I think we’re in a bit of a muddle here.”

On Monday, the General Synod voted 351-72 to allow women to be ordained as bishops.

YS/MG END GRUNDY

25 Comments

    • Religion is embedded in mythology, the unknown, the inability to know. The result has always been that it has taken refuge in expressing itself in similes and metaphors that over millennia lose their original meaning and their hold on “the faithful.”.

      Because some churches have refused to adjust their figures of speech, or because they hesitated for fear “their faithful” would be scandalized, they run into even greater scandal when they make the least attempt, as in ridding their stories of a human-like, malevolent Lucifer after millennia.

    • Unfortunately, or sadly, or unavoidably, the stories of religion originated in ancient times when nothing was known compared to what we know now. More unfortunately, religion has too often not adapted to new knowledge, precisely because its origin is attributed to “God,” to that which is beyond humanity, this world, and new knowledge.

      We shouldn’t be surprised that the ordinary masses live blindly on the acceptance of those ancient comforts of mythology. How many people work steadily to study and learn, to think and adjust their minds to new learnings? The old mythologies comfort them until stronger, uncontrollable factors become threats.

  1. Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    I think the devil has a pretty good sense of humor. At the same exact time the Church of England votes to have women bishops, it tries to try to make sure no one thinks they are doing Satan’s work as it starts work on the next destruction–the execution of the sick and elderly to join the butchered unborn children. (All coincidence????)

    • So, Deacon John, you think it is more sacred to despise sex, marriage, and women, just as in the darkness of antiquity?

      One might ask, if deacons can marry, why not priests. And if men can be ordained, why not women. Or is there a difference in the humanity of all these?

      We should not be stuck in ancient, mythological cultures of thinking.

      • Deacon John Bresnahan

        Our culture is sexually confused enough while at the same time people make snide, ignorant comments about Catholic-Orthodox Tradition.
        The high point of Catholic– and also usually Anglican worship— is the Holy Mass. It is a re-enactment of the Last Supper. Christ, a man, presided there and all who go to Mass know this. Thus to have a woman preside creates a jarring disjunction for those who know their history well.
        And some Anglicans I have talked with who supported ordaining women to preside at the Last Supper (Mass) didn’t realize how this “sex-crossing” would strike them::: the same way seeing Arnold Schwartzeneger play Mary in a Hollywood movie would strike them–time for laughter and to look for the doors. (As episcopal membership is proving.)
        Of course there are many loud voices and noise demanding female ordination in the Catholic Church. But where is much of this uproar coming from??? Read the comments on various issues in places like RNS. Then see how much of the screaming for women’s ordination is coming from people who have not been shy about their hatred for the Catholic Church and Christianity. Nothing more would please these haters than for the Catholic Church to commit suicide.

  2. In theory, this move is prepostrous and absurd. You cannot have Christianity without the threat of Satan. The entire point of our faith is to fight in the Army of the Lord against manifestations of Satan in our world: Homosexuals, athiests, liberals, ect.

    In practice, it is irrevelant because UK is all athiest now anyway. Christianity died there when they abandoned the Free Market and created socialized medicine for everyone, in defiance of God’s capitalist plan. Now no one goes to church there because they worship the State instead.

  3. Yes, the devil has always been the symbol of evil, especially in the dark days of the mythology when the stories were originally written. One might also say that “God” is a symbol of the vast unknown, of no gender really, not even of personhood. Those ancient imaginings did not know and could not speak or write in any other way. How might we, even now, write about the vast–or if you like, the infinite–unknown? We should really remain speechless, unlettered, when it comes to what is infinitely beyond the ability of humans to know.

  1. […] 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. […]

  2. […] 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. […]

  3. […] 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. […]

  4. […] The Church of England has renounced the devil and all his works once and for all… by voting to remove any mention of him from the baptism rite.  The updated version will only ask of those about to be baptized or their sponsors that they “turn away from sin” and “reject evil.”  Says Bishop Robert Paterson in explanation of the omission, “We all know that for many people, the devil has been turned into a cartoonlike character of no particular malevolence.” […]

  5. […] 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. […]

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