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08th Feb 2023

Church of England consider allowing people to change God’s pronouns

Charlie Herbert

Church of england consider allowing use of gender neutral pronouns for God

‘Christians have recognised since ancient times that God is neither male nor female’

The Church of England is to consider allowing priests to use alternatives to referring to God as ‘he’.

The Church said it would launch a new project on “gendered language” referencing God in the spring to decide on any changes, after priests asked to be allowed to use gender-neutral terms instead.

Any potential alterations, which would be a departure from traditional teachings dating back millennia, would have to be approved by synod, the Church’s decision-making body, the Telegraph reports.

The move has been welcomed by liberal Christians who argue that using exclusively male language to refer to God is a ” driver of much continuing discrimination and sexism against women”.

Meanwhile, conservatives opposing the idea claim that “male and female imagery is not interchangeable.”

The project was prompted by Rev Joanna Stobart, from the Diocese of Bath and Wells, asked at synod 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”.

She also asked bishops “to provide more options for those who wish to 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”.

The Rt Rev Dr Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Lichfield and vice-chair of the commission responsible for the matter, said the Church had been “exploring the use of gendered language in relation to God for several years”.

“After some dialogue between the two Commissions in this area, a new joint project on gendered language will begin this spring,” he said.

“In common with other potential changes to authorised liturgical provision, changing the wording and number of authorised forms of absolution would require a full Synodical process for approval.”

It is not yet clear how any changes would impact the Lord’s prayer, the central Christian prayer which Jesus Christ is said to have instructed his followers to say together through the generations.

In this prayer, the term ‘Our Father’ is used to refer to God.

However, conservatives have hit back at the suggestion of allowing Christians to use non-gendered pronouns when referring to God.

Rev Dr Ian Paul said any changes would represent an abandonment of the Church of England’s own doctrine.

He said: “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.

“If the liturgical commission seeks to change this, then in an important way they will be moving the doctrine of the Church away from being grounded in the scriptures.”

A spokesman for the Church of England said: “This is nothing new. Christians have recognised 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.

“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.

“As part of its regular programme of work for the next five years, the Liturgical Commission has asked the Faith and Order Commission to work with it on looking at these questions.

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

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