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The Church of England Is Considering Using Gender-Neutral Language to Reference God

The Church of England Is Considering Using Gender-Neutral Language to Reference God

The Church of England is set to embark on a new project “on gendered language” regarding references to God in church services later this year.

The plans were revealed by the Liturgical Commission, which prepares and promotes forms of service and religious worship in the Church, during this week’s General Synod, the Church’s legislative body. The Rev. Joanna Stobart asked what steps were being taken “to provide more options for those who wish to use authorized liturgy and speak of God in a non-gendered way, particularly in authorized absolutions where many of the prayers offered for use refer to God using male pronouns.”

In response, the Rev. Michael Ipgrave, replying as vice-chairman of the Liturgical Commission, said, “We have been exploring the use of gendered language in relation to God for several years, in collaboration with the Faith and Order Commission.”

To no one’s surprise, the move has been met with both criticism and support. Critics warn against deviating from original scriptures, arguing that “God is not sexed,” while warning against the “interchangeability” of male and female imagery. Meanwhile, supporters of the project welcome the move toward a more inclusive language in authorized liturgy, claiming that a “theological misreading of God as exclusively male” is a driving force behind ongoing discrimination and sexism against women.

A spokesperson for the Church of England has acknowledged that “Christians have recognized since ancient times that God is neither male nor female, yet the variety of ways of addressing and describing God found in scripture has not always been reflected in our worship.”

It will be months before any decision is made, but in the meantime it’s brought up a conversation that many have been waiting to discuss for years.

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