Is God a man? Priests push for gender-neutral pronouns

A new project has been launched to explore a potential use of non-gendered terms in the Church of England

Justin Welby
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby
(Image credit: SIMON DAWSON/AFP via Getty Images)

The Church of England is considering a proposal to begin referring to God in gender-neutral terms, rather than using traditional male pronouns.

The topic is being “explored by two commissions in a new joint project”, reported Sky News, though the “specifics of the project’s aim and outcome remain unclear”. The project was prompted by the Rev. Jo Stobart, who asked bishops how the church would develop its use of “inclusive language” and “speak of God in a non-gendered way”. It comes as the Church of England grapples with its role in modern British society amid a wider decline in organised religion.

Traditionally, many priests have referred to God in male terms, as He, Him, and the Father. Some, however, already “prefer to replace the terms” with non-gendered alternatives, a practice that is “decades old and predates current debates over transgender or non-binary people”, wrote The Times. Those using inclusive terms argue that Christian doctrine says “God does not have a sex or gender”, while there are parts of the bible that describe God as “providing solace ‘as a mother comforts her child’”, the paper said.

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A formal change, which would first need to be approved by the church’s lawmakers in the General Synod, would be a “​​departure from centuries of tradition”, said The Telegraph. The proposal has already been “criticised by conservatives” who have “warned that ‘male and female imagery is not interchangeable’”. The Rev. Ian Paul told The Telegraph that a formal change in language would be “moving the doctrine of the Church away from being grounded in the Scriptures”.

A spokesperson for the Chuch of England told Sky News that there had been “greater interest in exploring new language in the last 20 years”, but despite the new project there were no formal plans to “abolish or substantially revise currently authorised liturgies”.

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