Wanted: a god that surpasseth gender
Male language and imagery used to describe God should br scrapped and replaced with non-sexist terminology says a Church of England group.
Rev Jody Stowell, a member of Women and the Church (Watch), the pressure group that led the campaign for female bishops, is quoted here as saying:
Orthodox theology says all human beings are made in the image of God, that God does not have a gender. He encompasses gender – he is both male and female and beyond male and female. So when we only speak of God in the male form, that’s actually giving us a deficient understanding of who God is.
Stowell said discussions over terminology arose out of a Westminster faith debate on whether the consecration of female bishops would make a difference in the Church of England.
The matter has been discussed within the transformation steering group, a body that meets in Lambeth Palace to “explore the lived experience of women in ordained ministry”. The group has issued a public call to bishops to encourage more “expansive language and imagery about God”.
The Rev Emma Percy, chaplain of Trinity College Oxford and a member of Watch, said the effect of using both male and female language would be to get rid of :
The notion that God is some kind of old man in the sky.
She said many people in the church had been having this debate for a long time.
It’s just the church moves slowly. [The debate] caught the imagination now because we’ve got women bishops so in a sense the church has accepted that women are equally valued in God’s sight and can represent God at all levels. We want to encourage people to be freer, and we want to get the Liturgical Commission to understand that people are actually quite open to this and there is room for richer language to be used.
Hilary Cotton, the chair of Watch, said the shift towards gender-equal language was already at an advanced stage in some sections of the church.
The reality is that in many churches up and down the country something more than the almost default male language about God is already being used. Quietly clergy are just talking about God as ‘she’ every now and then.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn & Trevor Blake