Anglicans purge devil references in simplified baptism liturgy

(Photo: REUTERS / John Stillwell /pool)Britain's Prince William carries his son Prince George, as he arrives with his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge for their son's christening at St James's Palace in London October 23, 2013. The Anglican Church in July 2104 decided to take references to the devil in baptism ceremonies.

The Church of England has purged references to the devil and to sin in a new baptism ceremony, saying it is easier to understand compared to the older service.

In the current wording, parents vow to "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 neighbor," Britain's Independent newspaper reported.

The 16-year-old alternative version agreed by the churches' General Synod on Sunday, however, only asks parents and godparents to "turn away from sin" and "reject evil."

In approving the new text, the synod said there were apprehensions that the current wording was too complex to understand and easily turned off people particularly occasional churchgoers.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper quoted Bishop of Wakefield, Rev. Stephen Platten, also chair of the church's Liturgy Commission, as saying that the updated text still expressed the need for repentance.

He also noted that the place of the devil in the wording was "theologically problematic."

While 1,000 parishes were already observing the baptism ceremony, some church leaders and traditionalists remain critical of the new version approved Sunday.

The General Synod is the body that approves legislation affecting worship in the Church of England, which is considered as the mother church of the 88-million strong Anglican Communion.

Surprised by such a change to the foundation of their faith, some also described it as "watering down" the christening ceremony.

The former Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali said the amendment must be junked before it further reduces Christianity to "easily swallowed soundbites," reported the Daily Mail.

"The need is not to eliminate crucial areas of teaching but to explain them," said Nazir-Ali.

The Daily Mail also quoted a senior member of the General Synod, who requested anonymity, saying the change did not only "dumb the service down" but also "eviscerated it."

"It destroys the significance of the rite by watering down the concept of sin and repentance," said the source.

Robert Paterson, the Bishop of Sodor and Man, Robert Paterson defended the new text 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.

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