Church of England discusses gender-neutral God

Lazy eyes listen

According to the Telegraph, liberal Christians are pushing the Church of England to remove gendered references to God from scriptures and services. They argue that describing God as a man is a “theological misreading.”

The issue was raised during a meeting of the Church’s legislative body, the General Synod, this week. The Reverend Joanna Stobart of Bath and Wells, according to the Telegraph, asked the Liturgical Commission what steps were being taken “to develop more inclusive language in our authorized liturgy.”

Stobart expressed a desire for more opportunities to “speak of God in a non-gendered way,” as well as more prayers that did not refer to God “using male pronouns.”

The Liturgical Commission is in charge of determining how church services are conducted, including the language used during these services. The Bishop of Litchfield, the commission’s vice-chairman, told Stobart that the commission has “been exploring the use of gendered language in relation to God for several years” and plans to discuss the issue with the Faith and Order Commission this spring.

A Christmas carol has been rewritten to be more “inclusive.”

Any changes to the Church’s liturgy, however, would require the unanimous approval of the Synod, which is currently divided.

“The fact that God is called ‘Father’ cannot be replaced by ‘Mother’ without changing meaning, nor can it be gender-neutralized to ‘Parent’ without losing meaning,” said Rev. Ian Paul, a member of the Church’s Archbishop’s Council, in response to Stobart’s proposal.

“Father and mother are not interchangeable, but they relate to their children in different ways,” he went on to say. “If the Liturgical Commission seeks to change this, they will be moving the Church’s doctrine away from being grounded in the Scriptures in a significant way.”

The Church of England is distinct from the Catholic Church in several ways: it does not recognize the Pope as the ‘Vicar of Christ,’ it allows clergy to marry, and it allows women to be ordained, all while delegating more authority to individual bishops and ministers. While the Vatican prohibits Catholic priests from blessing same-sex unions, the Church of England’s General Synod is preparing for a contentious vote on the issue this week.

While the Catholic and Anglican churches’ catechisms define God as neither a man nor a woman, they both refer to him as male in their liturgy.