Wednesday, September 8, 2010


From the Telegraph:

The new form of worship, which removes words such as "Lord, he, his, him" and "mankind" from services, has been written by the church in an attempt to acknowledge that God is "beyond human gender".

Episcopalian bishops have approved the introduction of more "inclusive" language, which deliberately removes references suggesting that God is of male gender.

Traditionalists have criticised the changes on the grounds that they smack of political correctness and because they believe they are not consistent with the teachings of the Bible. The alterations have been made to provide an alternative to the established 1982 Liturgy, which, like the Bible, refers to God as a man.

"The changing of God language is a little tricky," admitted Rev Darren McFarland, convener of the church's liturgy committee.

"It is then that opinion is much more divided. We have really tried not to mess around with the descriptions of God in the biblical text. But what we want to see is generous language when it comes to gender. God is above and beyond human gender.

"We are not saying God is not masculine. God is also feminine. The problem is trying to use human language to describe the indescribable.

"The bishops have permitted these changes, people do not have to use this form. But we are trying to honour the breadth of descriptions of God in a way that's helpful to the church and its membership."

In truth, I have never been as bothered by non-inclusive language in worship services, in the Bible, or in prayers as some of my fellow Christians, both female and male. (I know "Horrors!", but that's my story.) In my mind, I rather easily make the leap to inclusive language, but I understand those who have problems with the constant references to a masculine and masculine-only God.

In my own writing, I've mostly moved away from references to God as "he" or "him". Even before the days of PC, I thought of the Holy Spirit as more feminine than masculine, with the "Wisdom of Solomon" and Lady Sophia in mind. Correcting the worship service to gender-inclusive makes for awkward phrasing at times, but, on the whole, I think the change is good. Of course, certain of my fellow Christians see the change to gender-inclusive language as earth-shaking.

I wonder.... I hope the change is not the aftershock from the travels of the Mad Three to Scotland. As my correspondent who sent me the link said, "Grandmere, you take one trip to Scotland and controversy ensues." With due respect, Ann, I won't bear the entire responsibility on my shoulders. After all, we were three.

Thanks to Ann V. for the link.


  1. Ann is right - without a shadow of a doubt, this is the work of Mimo.

  2. Cathy, yes, indeed. It's Mimo and two of her n'er-do-well friends.

  3. I'm glad to see the good that has come of your visit!

  4. The one combination which makes me absolutely LOSE IT is "the Holy Spirit . . . He...". Whenever I hear that, I mentally (and often verbally!) SCREAM, "She!!!!"

    [In professing the Creed every week, I say "I believe in the Holy Spirit . . . Who...". I've done it for about 20+ years, and it's completely instinctive to me now. I don't think I could say "He" there now, w/ a gun to my head. Well, maybe then. ;-p]

  5. JCF, I agree. "He" for the Holy Spirit is totally unacceptable.

  6. One thing that I really like about mass in Japanese is that the language is pretty much gender-inclusive by default.

  7. Catherine, does that influence how people feel about women's roles in church?

    On a Forward in Faith blog here people are arguing that God as father is absolutely male as is Jesus and that this alone is enough to rule out women priests. Strangely, it's the women who are most aggressively forceful about this view!

  8. Well, Erika, can we say, "Uncle Tom" or even "Stockholm Syndrome?" Quite often it is the oppressed who identify the most strongly with their oppressors.

  9. I never used to understand that language can insidiously affect belief, but now think it is true. Glad to hear how everybody adapts the language of the liturgy to be inclusive, and good for the SEC

  10. I couldn't agree more that language should be inclusive and yet I never think of God as She. I think of the Holy Spirit as male too. I'm not saying that proves anything - it's just habit on my part.

  11. Catherine, I did not know that the Japanese language is gender-inclusive. Thank you for educating me.

    Strangely, it's the women who are most aggressively forceful about this view!

    Erika, I've noticed that, too, and I think Boocat's take is correct.

    Freda, I'm coming to understand more and more that other women are more seriously affected and offended by the all-male descriptives of God than I was.

    So, Cathy, the Holy Spirit is a male dove, then?

  12. I don't really think of the Holy Spirit as the dove descending either, but more as the air around us, or within us, or a kind of tornado, re Acts 2:

    "And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.

    3And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.

    4And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."

  13. Cathy, I was teasing about the dove. I think of the the Spirit as ethereal, like a wind or a breath - something you feel but don't see. But insofar as I would label the Spirit of either gender, I would choose feminine.


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