Metro Weekly

Church of England Considers Using Gender-Neutral Terms for God

Plans to study the issue are in the works, but changes to prayers, traditions, or doctrine would have to be approved by the General Synod.

Cathedral Church of Christ in Liverpool – Photo: MarcFrasere1958, via Wikimedia

The governing body of the Church of England is considering the possibility of referring to God in gender-neutral rather than masculine terms.

But the church’s decision-making body says that while it’s been exploring that issue for years, no immediate changes are on the horizon. The church said it would launch a new commission examining the matter in the spring.

Any changes to prayers, traditions, or doctrine would have to be approved by the General Synod, the legislative arm of the Church of England, which debates and votes on budgetary matters, doctrinal issues, and other regulations.

The question of gender-neutral terminology to refer to God was raised during a meeting of the General Synod earlier this week. The Rev. Joanna Stobary, the vicar of Ilminster and Whitelackington in South Somerset, asked about where the church stands with regard to adopting ”more inclusive language,” reports the UK-based newspaper The Guardian.

In response to Stobary’s question, Bishop Michael Ipgrave, the vice chairman of the church’s liturgical commission, said the question was already being studied, referring to the upcoming commission examining the use of gender-specific language when referring to God.

To no one’s surprise, social conservatives have become enraged and pushed back against the very idea of changes, seeing it as an attempt to appeal to “woke” secular culture.

The Rev. Dr. Ian Paul told The Telegraph that any such adoption of gender-neutral terms would constitute an abandonment of Church doctrine.

“The fact that God is called ‘Father’ can’t be substituted by ‘Mother’ without changing meaning, nor can it be gender-neutralized to ‘Parent’ without loss of meaning,” Paul said. “Fathers and mothers are not interchangeable but relate to their offspring in different ways.”

A spokesperson for the Church of England downplayed the alleged controversy over the proposal, implying it does not amount to the kind of “culture war” issue that those on the far-right — both inside and outside the church — would like to portray it as being.

“This is nothing new. 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,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “There has been greater interest in exploring new language since the introduction of our current forms of service in contemporary language more than 20 years ago.

“There are absolutely no plans to abolish or substantially revise currently authorized liturgies, and no such changes could be made without extensive legislation.”

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