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Today’s newspapers reported, in various tones, that the Church of England was getting rid of the Devil. This referred to the C of E suggesting that references to the Devil and ‘sin’ might be removed from the baptismal service.  I shan’t link to the typically over-reaction from the Daily Mail as it will only encourage them.  Anyone disturbed by the Mail’s reaction obviously doesn’t read it; its main contribution to our public discourse is to coarsen it.  But I was not very happy with the reaction of some Anglicans. The commentator, Vicky Beeching tweeted:

Crazy to fuss about liturgy that is simply being trialled & is unofficial. Modernising language is crucial & so experimenting is important.

Yes, clearly calling those who disagree with you ‘crazy’ is a helpful contribution to helping matters along. Quite why she imagines that the general public are any more familiar with the word ‘evil’ (which might be substituted for ‘sin’) who knows; when I’ve asked folk, many of them are just as puzzled.  She may have to end up with ‘being naughty’, which I think folk do get. The limits of experimentation need ‘pushing’ methinks.

I don’t know who does the C of E’s ‘media relations’ but to judge from this they are more at home with the evasive language of modern politicians. It fails to address the not unreasonable fear that anything which is trendy is going to get through a Synod which seems obsessed with appearing to be ‘modern’, and it signally fails to address queries about what it means by the ‘Devil’ and ‘sin’. The statement appears not to recognise why believers might be concerned by the proposed wording, and instead offers, in the first paragraph, a reassurance which cannot but provoke further concern. It isn’t true, it says, that there’s been no change for 400 years – in fact there have been three changes in the last 30 years. Ah, how reassuring – not.

So, for the best part of four hundred years, the C of E was happy with the Book of Common Prayer and the one baptismal formula; but in 30 years it has changed the latter thrice; goodness knows how many ‘alternative’ versions of the Prayer Book it has offered. Clearly, in these exciting modern times things need to move on a pace, whereas in the dull old past, they didn’t.  Yes, that dull old past when a lot of folk went to church, as opposed to the modern and exciting church where they don’t.

Clearly anyone who is concerned about the past is ‘crazy’. Let us all hold hands together and allow folk to be godparents who reject ‘evil’ but don’t believe in God. Makes sense to someone, perhaps someone who is a bit embarrassed by old-fashioned beliefs about the Devil and sin.  Let’s get folk in by being inclusive – and whilst we’re at it, can’t someone do something about that crucifixion thing – it doesn’t half put folk off.

Let us not try to explain to a population which is, we are told, better educated than any previous generation, concepts which their grandparents understood well enough. Let us change the language. But what we say expresses what we believe and if we believe in the devil and in sin, why not explain that? Perhaps because some folk don’t?  Why not just say it and shame the Devil?