Church of England Ponders Gender-Neutral Language for God and Jesus
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The Church of England is considering the idea of using alternative language instead of referring to God in the masculine gender.
The Washington Times reports the church said Tuesday it would begin a new "project" this spring to consider "gendered language" in its liturgy after a request had come up the ranks from some of its priests.
The Rev. Joanna Stobart, of the Diocese of Bath and Wells, asked the church's liturgical commission chair whether that body would "develop more inclusive language in our authorized liturgy and to provide more options for those who wish to use authorized liturgy and speak of God in a non-gendered way," according to the outlet.
Any changes to the words used in prayers or other liturgies using "God the Father" and Jesus Christ "God the Son" would have to be approved by the General Synod, the church's governing body. Such a move would mark a departure from traditional Jewish and Christian teachings dating back millennia, The Independent noted.
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," according to reports from several media outlets.
Conservative critics have sounded off on the church's announcement. The Rev. Dr. Ian Paul told the Telegraph that such a move would be an abandonment of the church's own doctrine.
"The fact that God is called 'Father' can't be substituted by 'Mother' without changing meaning, nor can it be gender-neutralized to 'Parent' without loss of meaning," Paul said. "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," he said.
And the words of Jesus in scripture are undeniable as He repeatedly referred to God as His Father. For example, when Jesus said in John 10:30, "I and My Father are one."
A Church of England spokesman said the discussion about gendered language "is nothing new. Christians have recognized since ancient times that God is neither male nor female."
The spokesman added, "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," but insisted "there are absolutely no plans" to substantially change or abolish "currently authorized liturgies," which would require "extensive" Church of England legislation to accomplish.
As CBN News has reported, over the years the Church of England has made several doctrinal changes pitting the escalating global LGBT sexual agenda against the teachings of biblical morality. It has led to friction between the church's leaders and members.
As we reported in January, the church announced it will let priests bless same-sex couples who are in civil marriages. The church's bishops even issued a formal apology to LGBTQ people for the "rejection, exclusion, and hostility" they have felt from within the church.
Even though the Church of England is the mother church of the international Anglican Communion, it has yet to be seen how such a doctrinal change would be accepted by other members of the global communion. Last summer, bishops from Nigeria, Uganda, and Rwanda—which represent an estimated 44 million of the world's 100 million Anglicans, according to the World Christian Database—boycotted the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops to protest the presence of churches with liberal teaching and practice on homosexuality, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Unlike the Catholic Church, the Church of England does not exercise authority over other members of the Anglican Communion. Many Anglican churches in Africa oppose same-sex marriage because it goes against scriptures on marriage found in the Bible.
The Christian Perspective
For more than 2,000 years, Christians have referred to God and Jesus Christ using the male terms as found in the Bible.
Even at the beginning of the Bible in the book of Genesis, God refers to himself as male. There are also approximately 170 references to God, as the "father" throughout the Bible.
There are also close to 1,000 verses where God uses a masculine Greek noun as a direct reference to Himself, according to Christianity.com.
God is described in the Bible in several male metaphors including, King, Father, Husband, Master, and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus is repeatedly referred to in the Bible's New Testament as the "Son of God." There are other references throughout the New Testament where Jesus used male nouns and pronouns to describe himself as a man. He also referred to God as "Father."
Author C.S. Lewis, a devout Christian, and theologian, suggested that gender is far deeper than our human distinctions reveal. He suggested that God is so masculine that we all are feminine in relation to Him. If this is true, it might explain why the church is referred to as the bride of Christ, though it is composed of both men and women.
In her article Why Do We Use Masculine Pronouns for God? published on the website Christianity.com, Heather Riggleman considers the problem when trying to assign gender-inclusive language to the Bible or God.
"One might advocate for a gender-inclusive Bible or to refer to God as "They" or the "The Lord." But we need to look at the motives behind these ideas and also remember the Bible is infallible as it is. Nothing may be added or taken from it," Riggleman wrote.
"We cannot conform God to our political agenda or preferences. He is the One who created the universe, the Grand Canyon, men, women, atoms, and chromosomes. While He makes allowances so we can relate to who He is, it is important for each of us not to put God in a box!" she concluded.
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