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Church of England to explore gender-neutral terms for God.

Church of England to explore gender-neutral terms for God – women clergy’s suggestions for replacing ‘Our Father’ Published: February 10, 2023 12.41pm GMT

Author Sharon JaggerLecturer in Religion, York St John University


The Church of England has announced it will explore alternative words to describe God, after some clergy asked to use more inclusive language in services.

The dominance of masculine language for God certainly matters. As feminist theologian Mary Daly wrote: “If God is male, the male is god”. In other words, talking about the Christian God in exclusively masculine terms privileges men in society and underpins male dominance.

According to a Church spokesperson, the official Christian doctrine is that God has no gender. Yet “He” is described almost exclusively in masculine terms. And since the Church continues to struggle with issues of gender equality, this project is likely to be contentious.


( you think ??? )

Critics will see this as an attempt to undo the long Christian tradition of calling God “He” and “Father”. But feminine language and imagery has also been part of Church history

Our mission is to share knowledge and inform decisions. Hildegard of Bingen, a respected abbess (also known as a mother superior) in the Middle Ages, imagined the feminine side of God in her artistry and writings. And in the 1300s, female mystic Julian of Norwich spoke of the motherhood of God.

Modern feminist commentators such as Mary Daly and Joan Engelsman, have argued that God in feminine form has been strategically written out of Christian history.

Initial reports indicate the Church’s project will explore gender-neutral terminology – “Parent” instead of “Father”. But there have been other recent proposals to use feminine language like “She”.

When Libby Lane was appointed the Church of England’s first female bishop in 2014, she called for the mainstream acceptance of feminine names and pronouns for God.

At the same time, the chair of Women and the Church, a group that advocates for gender equality in the Church, stated that the introduction of female bishops would impact women’s lives in the Church “only if God is she as often as she is he – because this is such a formative aspect of our church life, and a real bastion of sexism”. Rachel Treweek, consecrated as bishop in 2015, joined the debate by arguing for the elimination of all gendered pronouns for God.

A genderless ‘Father’?

In my research with women clergy, there are clues that some might be unsettled by moves away from traditional masculine language. One woman vicar described how in a bible study “all hell broke out” at the suggestion that the Lord’s Prayer could begin with “Our Mother”.

The more gender-neutral “Parent” worries Rev Ian Paul, who has commented that such words are not interchangeable and have different meanings. The way words collect gendered meaning is, of course, part of the problem. Feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether argues that even words that seem neutral are not – “God” conjures male imagery.


Complicating this further, I found that sometimes masculine words are forced to mean both male and female. This is awkward and ultimately unsatisfactory. One woman priest, for example, told me that she sees “Father” as the only way of describing God, but “it might be that ideas about fatherhood need to change”. Another interviewee told me she sees the term “Father” to include male and female. These complications around language and gender suggest that a project exploring gender-neutral language will need to think deeply about what constitutes “neutral”.

Exploring other names for God

While my research suggests there is an attachment to words such as “Father” among some women clergy, several interviewees told me they tried to avoid any gendered language for God. Some mentioned “Godself” as a possible candidate to replace masculine pronouns.

One woman told me:

Where I heard ‘Godself’ being used, I quite like that. That is a suggested way. Again, at the moment … [but] within the parishes I think it would draw attention when it’s not necessarily what you want them to focus on. There’s a sense here that some congregations may not be willing to embrace language change, even if there is a desire among clergy. Would gender-neutral language open the door to other, more progressive changes in the Church? Puwadon Sang/ShutterstockThe project to look at gender-neutral language to describe God is, at the very least, a recognition that the dominance of masculine language is a problem. Many would welcome the possibility of worshipping in Church without the constant references to “He” and “Father”, given that God is supposed to be beyond gender. A reform of patriarchal language may open the door to tackling other social injustices. Perhaps we are witnessing a sea change in the Church.

But right now the Church of England’s inclusivity credentials are in tatters. It has problems with institutional racism, there is gender inequality in the priesthood and after years of discussion, same-sex marriage is still not recognised. Given the institution’s record on equality, any radical change coming out of this project would be quite miraculous.


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Disclosure statement Sharon Jagger has received funding from Women and the Church for a current research project which is paid to York St. John University.Partners York St John University provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK. The Conversation UK receives funding from these organisations View the full listWe believe in the free flow of information


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JB SHARES

I tend to use the word - S/HE - when I talk about God as it is SHE - Female - and HE - Male - all in the same word. Whoever considers God to be ' The Father' has been brainwashed by thousands of years of a male dominated church damning and destroying the female because men have always feared the power of women and have always sought to down play, damn and destroy, to belittle and to ' keep in their place' all women. Even Biblical writings are edited to make all women whores or virgins and little else and even Mary Magdalene - the one the church called a whore - the church admitted 30 odd years ago that SHE WAS NOT A WHORE at all and how they had got that wrong - and we all know why - don't we....? They had to down play ANY powerful women in the writings to make it a male dominated story so these crappy little boys within the church could feel powerful and in control. ( little boys is the word here... scared shitless of women )





Some facts about the church


Institutionally homophobic . racist ad bigoted - even though the church is crammed full of homosexuals be they men or women. Tons of hidden LGBT - and not forgetting the word I hate and refuse to normally use but in reference to many within the church - it applies - QUEER - parading in their cassocks and tons are sexual perverts who abuse and ruin peoples lives.


The church is full of lies. Just check out their Guide Book of Rules - er - better known as The Bible. MASSIVELY mistranslated and full of misinformation and blatant changes to the truth so that makes it full of lies and bullshit NOT applicable to modern day man / women.


The church will NEVER - EVER - accept women as equal as these scared little boys in their robes hold power and they DO NOT like sharing that power with women as THEY KNOW women are actually MORE POWERFUL - BY FAR - THAN ANY MAN - and that scares the pants of these little boys in the church - immature and sexually dysfunctional as many of them are. They may say one thing, and they may change process to be more inclusive, but it will all be for show and will - like the Metropolitan Police who claim not to be - but are institutionally racists through and through. It may not be right and it may not be tolerated, but the facts speak for themselves and after decades of women's lib and women's rights and that of LGBT rights, the church will say one thing but do another and we all know how hypocritical and two faced it is and will always be, - because they can.


John Bellamy


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COMMENTS FROM READERS


Dear John: Had to write. Had to share. Showed your article to a friend on how the church is trying to find a gender neutral word for God and your comments afterwards. He was adamant you were wrong and we argued for a while. He insists women are second class to men - insists blacks are inferior - insists the Jews are a bastard race and that only genuine Christians will get into heaven and I absolutely had to argue this with him as what arrogance - what absolute arrogance - and I was really shocked anyone in this modern day and age could be so backwards and so brainwashed by such clap trap. He is a doctor as well, a scientist, a very clever man yet believes in a virgin birth, that Jesus walked on the water and rose from the dead and there really was no getting through to him and his beliefs are solid, based in ignorance of reality and - to put it simply - nothing near the truth. I loved your piece but he was almost in tears that people could adamantly oppose and reject his versions of the truth and not fall to our knees in worship.

More articles like this please,. It is so refreshing to read. Nigel ( Cape Town - South Africa )


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I have been trying to come up with a name we can call an all inclusive God and other than something camp and silly, it is hard. I liked your S/HE. I have prayed to the Mother and Father Gods for ages anyway, always knowing you cannot have one without the other so, what on earth is the church thinking by assuming God was male in the first place. Talk about blatant sexism.

Love Janice ( Trans in the process of transitioning and your Blog really helps keep my spirits up John, so thanks )


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