Bishop Morgan drew attention to the document "The New Covenant" stating that appeals have been received from native people that the Sunday before the First Minister's Conference be designated a Day of Prayer.
That this House of Bishops respond to the request of Native leaders for the Churches to name a Day of Prayer to precede the final First Ministers' Conference to be held on March 26-27, by designating Sunday, March 22, as a Day of Prayer for Aboriginal Peoples:
And that we commend the document entitled "A New Covenant" prepared as a Pastoral Statement by leaders of the Christian Churches to be used as a focus for this Day of Prayer. CARRIED
The Rev. Douglas Stoute was welcomed and invited to address the House. Dr. Stoute commented on the previously distributed report, and responded to questions.
That the report and the proposed guidelines of the Exorcism Task Force be received with gratitude, and the Primate be requested to appoint a task force to continue the work. CARRIED
The House of Bishops Task Force on EXORCISM
The Doctrine and Worship Committee of the Anglican Church of Canada has for some time been engaged in the preparation of a book of liturgical texts for occasional use. Suggestions were made to members of the Committee that rites of exorcism be included in this book. Eventually the Editorial Sub-Committee of the Doctrine and Worship Committee asked the then chairman of the committee (The Rt. Rev'd R.E.F. Berry) to raise the subject of exorcism in the House of Bishops, with the suggestion that advice be sought from people competent in the behavioural sciences and in theology before the development of liturgical material was addressed. (D&W 88/158.1)
The House of Bishops subsequently approved the suggestion made by Bishop Berry and referred the matter to the Primate. The Primate appointed a task force of five persons, the Rev'd Douglas Stoute, Dr. James Wilkes, the Rev'd Alyson Barnett-Cowan, the Rev'd Prof. W. Crockett, and the Rev'd Paul Gibson.
The following task was assigned:
The Task Force is requested to focus on the following questions:
1. Should the Anglican Church of Canada address the matter of exorcism ?
2. If so, what theological and psychological principles should be enunciated ?
3. What form of expression would be most appropriate ? e.g., rite, regulation ?
The Bible acknowledges the mystery of evil in human life and in the world, but does not give a consistent symbolic interpretation of the origin of evil or of the form which it takes. The Old Testament term for Satan has its origin in a judicial contest and means the "adversary," especially in the sense of an accuser at court (Zech. 3:1). Nowhere in the Old Testament does Satan appear as a demonic figure opposed to God. In the book of Job, for example, Satan appears as an adversary who acts with the divine consent. Satan only begins to emerge as a demonic figure in the inter-testamental period when a dualistic strain appears in Judaism which sees the world as a battleground between God and the forces of evil, personalized as Satan and the demonic powers. It is during this period that the myth of Satan as a fallen angel who led a rebellion against God and was cast out of heaven enters the literature (2 Enoch 29:4). Satan is now seen also as the initiator of the first sin among human beings, bringing death into the world (Wis. 2:24; 2 Enoch 11: 74-80; 22: 42), and as responsible for subsequent evil as well as sickness.
Satan appears in the New Testament under several titles, including diabolos (devil), and his role and that of the demons is largely taken over from late Judaism. Given this worldview, it is not surprising that in the New Testament it is assumed that demons can invade the human person and "possess" the individual, and hence need to be cast out (exorcism). Jesus himself practised exorcism as did his disciples. In a different symbolic worldview, demonic possession is viewed as the personification and objectification of emotional, mental, or physical states, which require medical or psychiatric treatment. The theological significance of the New Testament's world view is that disorder in human life is connected in some way with the reality of sin and requires an appropriate ministry acknowledging that reality. In the New Testament, demons are expelled in the name of God or of Jesus. This is rooted in the idea, common in the ancient world, that power is connected with the act of naming. The liturgical practice of exorcism continued in the early church, particularly in connection with Christian initiation. Exorcism in this context was not concerned with demonic "possession," but was one of the signs which marked the passage of the baptismal candidate from the sphere of evil and death to the sphere of new life in Christ. Exorcism, therefore, has taken on a different meaning in different ecclesial and cultural contexts.
Members of the task force found themselves reluctant to encourage or endorse the practice of exorcism in the context of most Anglicans in Canada. They recognized, however, that the concept of exorcism is conditioned by the cultural and symbolic context in which it appears and that in some contexts there is a declared pastoral need. Among aboriginal people, for instance, there is a frequent desire for a ritual act which "cleanses" a house where a death (and especially a violent death) has occurred. In such settings this frequently takes the form of blessing, a category of ritual action which cannot be easily separated from exorcism. Elsewhere, the pastoral care of people who experience a strong awareness of the reality of evil in their lives may require appropriate medical or psychiatric treatment together with prayers for healing and deliverance (see Guidelines 7 & 8 below).
Members of the task force identified three models of approach to exorcism.
There is a model which sees the world in mythological terms as a battleground between God and the forces of evil, personalized as Satan and the demonic powers. This model tends toward a dualistic view of reality.
There is a model based on native spirituality with its strong sense of spiritual realities.
There is a model which looks beyond the literal interpretation of myth, but which acknowledges the theological significance of the symbolic worldview of the New Testament and refuses to reduce it to a simplistic scientific worldview. This model takes seriously the need for suitable forms of Christian ministry in the face of the reality of evil, but leaves open the question of the appropriateness of exorcism.
Members of the task force rejected any approach to exorcism based on a dualistic understanding of reality. The theological tradition of the church has consistently rejected an ultimate dualism between God and the powers of evil. In the classical tradition, St. Augustine taught that evil is not a substance, but a privation of being and is the distortion of a created good. At the present time, at the practical level, there is a tendency towards an ultimate dualism in the fascination with apocalypticism and in the attraction which evil and myths of evil (including satanism and the occult) exercise on the imaginations of many people, an attraction which has been encouraged and perhaps exploited by the entertainment industry in recent years. Such a dualistic worldview, especially when held by persons who have a strong personal need to control others or exercise power, poses obvious dangers where exorcism is concerned. The task force, therefore, wishes to discourage these and similar approaches to exorcism. At the same time, it wishes to encourage appropriate sensitive pastoral care for those negatively affected by their attraction to evil, especially individuals and the families of those involved with satanic groups.
The task force recognized that forms of blessing/exorcism may be appropriate for pastoral reasons in some communities of aboriginal people and other culturally distinct communities, especially where they have already been established by tradition. The task force also recognized that forms of prayer for freedom from perceived evil may be appropriate in association with treatment as part of a holistic healing process in certain cases.
The task force agreed to recommend that no liturgical form of exorcism should be published.
The task force suggested a list of guidelines for consideration (appended).
The task force reviewed its task and agreed
1. the Anglican Church of Canada should address the matter of exorcism, but with caution;
2. the theological principles have been identified;
3. expression should be by guidelines.
3 October 1990
The House of Bishops Task Group on EXORCISM
1. Exorcism, when practised, is part of the healing ministry of the church and relates to the healing and wholeness of people.
2. Where people wish to have a house blessed by prayer or by the celebration of the eucharist after a death or other tragic event, this should be affirmed within a responsible context of pastoral care. This practice is closely parallel to the existing ministry of healing. The traditional practice of blessing a house as an act of prayer for the future of those who live there is not an act of exorcism.
3. If a person requests exorcism because they wish to be delivered from an evil influence they perceive to be affecting them, such action should take place only after competent clinical exploration and in the context of clinical treatment.
4. No one should ever be exorcised on the request of others or under pressure.
5. There is no need to appoint diocesan exorcists.
6. Exorcism should only be performed with the bishop's permission.
7. A bishop who receives an application for exorcism should give permission only after consultation with an ad hoc advisory group which includes an experienced pastor, a psychiatrist, the applicant's physician, and others as needed. Within a multi-cultural society it is important that one at least of the bishop's advisors should be familiar with the culture of the person who has requested exorcism.
8. The Group is disinclined to recommend a particular liturgical text because of its conviction that the event should be closely related to the symbol system of the person(s) involved. At least, however, an appropriate passage of scripture, a renunciation of evil on the part of the person(s) involved (as in the baptism rite in The Book of Alternative Services), suitable prayers for healing and deliverance, and the Lord's Prayer should be used. The laying-on-of-hands, anointing, and celebration of the eucharist may be appropriate.
9. Exorcism should always be followed by close and careful pastoral follow-up.
10. The event of exorcism should be carried out in a straightforward, matter-of-fact, discreet manner, without any hint of sensationalism.
11. Exorcisms should be performed by priests only. Two priests should be present and a physician, preferably a psychiatrist.