The Church of England is considering changing the language of Scripture to cast God as gender-neutral. According to MSN, the gender of God has been a debate within the church for decades, and now the proposal to replace references of “He, Him, and Our Father” with gender-neutral or female alternative language is on the table. The church’s lawmaking body, the General Synod, is meeting this week to discuss the proposal.
The effort to use more “inclusive language” is backed by several church leaders who argue that depicting God as male “is a driver of much continuing discrimination and sexism against women.” In response, the Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Rev. Michael Ipgrave, who is the vice-chairman of the Liturgical Commission, shared that they are working with the Faith and Order Commission on a “new joint project on gendered language” which will begin in the spring.
Although there appears to be much support for the move among liberal Christians, conservatives oppose any changes. Rev. Ian Paul, a member of the General Synod and the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England, warned that such an action will move “the doctrine of the Church away from being grounded in the Scriptures.”
“The Bible uses feminine imagery and metaphors of God, but primarily identifies God using masculine pronouns, names, and imagery. Male and female imagery is not interchangeable […] The fact that God is called ‘Father’ can’t be substituted by ‘Mother’ without changing meaning, nor can it be gender-neutralised to ‘Parent’ without loss of meaning. Fathers and mothers are not interchangeable but relate to their offspring in different ways,” said Rev. Ian Paul.
A spokesman for the Church of England said that this debate is nothing new to the Church of England, noting that the debate has been going on for more than twenty years. He explained that there are no set plans to “abolish or substantially revise currently authorised liturgies,” adding that “no such changes could be made without extensive legislation.”