The Church of England will consider gender-neutral terms for God after requests from priests
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The Church of England has said it will consider whether to stop referring to God as “he” after priests asked to be allowed to use gender-neutral terms instead.
The Church is launching a new project in the spring to look into the matter, but any potential alterations, which would mark a departure from traditional teachings dating back millennia, would have to be approved by the synod, the Church’s decision-making body.
The Rt Rev Dr Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Lichfield and vice-chair of the liturgical 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,” he said.
The bishop’s comments came in response to a question asked at the synod by the Revd Joanna Stobart, vicar of Ilminster and Whitelackington in Somerset, about the progress on developing “more inclusive language” in services. However, the specifics of the project are unclear.
It is unlikely the term ‘Our Father’ in the Lord’s Prayer, would be replaced however, according to a statement from the Church of England. Conservative critics have hit back at the possibility of changes, with the Rev Dr Ian Paul telling the Telegraph that they would represent an ‘abandonment of the Church’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.”
A spokesperson 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 languages 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 authorised liturgies, and no such changes could be made without extensive legislation.”