Church of England considers making God 'gender neutral' to be 'more inclusive'

Bishops were asked "to provide more options for those who wish to use authorised liturgy and speak of God in a non-gendered way."

Libby Emmons Brooklyn NY
The Church of England is reportedly considering making God non-binary. Traditionally, God has been referred to as Him, as God the father, and now, the Church of England is weighing a plan to remove the masculine from God himself, and replace that with more "inclusive" and gender neutral terms.

Bishops within the church are launching a project on which pronouns should be used to refer to God. The project "on gendered language" will reconsider how God should be referenced not only in pronouns, but in text, The Telegraph reports.

Many conservative Christians in the church balked at this change that would remake not only contemporary references, but would potentially change the entire way God is considered in theology. For conservatives, the concept of a "gender neutral" God is anathema to Christian theology.

Liberal Christians blame the masculine God himself for discrimination and sexism, claiming that "a theological misreading of God as exclusively male is a driver of much continuing discrimination and sexism against women." 

The plan became known when a written question to the Liturgical Commission emerged. That Liturgical Commission was meeting this week during the General Synod.

The question was from Rev Joanna Stobart, from Bath and Wells, who asked "what steps were being taken to offer congregants alternatives to referring to God with male pronouns and if there was any update 'to develop more inclusive language in our authorised liturgy,'" The Telegraph reports.

Stobart's ask for "inclusive language" was not all, she also asked bishops "to provide more options for those who wish to use authorised liturgy and speak of God in a non-gendered way, particularly in authorised absolutions where many of the prayers offered for use refer to God using male pronouns."

It turns out that this is not the first the bishops have heard of this. "We have been exploring the use of gendered language in relation to God for several years, in collaboration with the Faith and Order Commission," Bishop of Lichfield Rt Rev Dr Michael OBE said, replying as vice-chairman of the Liturgical Commission. "After some dialogue between the two commissions in this area, a new joint project on gendered language will begin this spring."

The Synod's gender and sexuality group has been considering these questions for years as well. Professor Helen King, who is vice-chairman of that group, appears to believe that one's conception of God is more important and essential than attempting to consider God through liturgy and teachings that have been passed down since Jesus named his disciple Peter the rock upon whom the church would be founded.

"For some," King said, "God as father is helpful because of their own positive experiences of a loving parent. For others, God as father may reinforce a bad experience of a strict disciplinarian as their father. If we dig deeper, clearly God is not gendered, so why do we restrict our language for God in gendered ways?"

A spokesperson for Women and the Church within the Church of England is also in favor, saying that it would be a good idea "to look at the development of more inclusive language in our authorised liturgy."

The Church of England is not without pushback against this idea, but the basis of that pushback is not that God is masculine, but that God is neither male nor female. "The use of male pronouns for God should not be understood as implying that God is male—which is a heresy. God is not sexed, unlike humanity," said Rev. Dr. Ian Paul, a member of the General Synod and the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England.

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