LONDON — A group of female priests with the Church of England have moved for the denomination to start referring to God as a “she” during the weekly liturgy, stating that to make mention of God solely in the male pronoun is sexist.
According to reports, the group Women and the Church (WATCH), which was behind the push to allow women to serve as bishops in the denomination, is now in talks with the Liturgical Commission for a change in the pronoun used during services when speaking of God. The group says that to refer to God in the masculine devalues women.
“When we used only male language we reinforce the idea that God is like a man and, in doing so, suggest that men are therefore more like God than women,” member Emma Percy, who leads services at Trinity College in Oxford, said in a statement. “If we take seriously the idea that men and women are made in the image of God, both male and female language should be used.”
Jody Stowell of St. Michael’s Harrow told RT.com that referring to the divine in only masculine terms also places limits on the revelation of God’s character.
“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,” she said. “So when we only speak of God in the male form, that’s actually giving us a deficient understanding of who God is.”
Percy said that the move was presented at this point in time because of changes in the denomination surrounding women.
“[The proposal] 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,” she explained. “In the last two or three years we’ve seen a real resurgence and interest in feminism, and younger people are much more interested in how gender categories shouldn’t be about stereotypes.”
“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,” Percy said.
Reports state that some congregations are already referring to God as “mother” or “she” during services.
However, Chairman Hilary Cotton says that she doesn’t think that an official alteration will take place anytime soon.
“We are at a very, very preliminary stage in terms of shifting the language of worship,” she told reporters. “The question of how might we rewrite the services of the Church of England in a way that broadens our understanding of God is a difficult question over which we will wrestle for a number of years.”
And not everyone supports the idea. Commenter Damian Thompson wrote in The Daily Mail that if the proposal is approved, it may chase many out of the church.
“Referring to God as ‘mother’ drives a horse and cart through Scripture. Such an innovation is guaranteed to split the C of E as never before,” he said.
“Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, has warned us that the church could be extinct in 25 years’ time unless services become more spiritually fulfilling. Calling God ‘she’ will not achieve that fulfillment,” Thompson continued. “The proposed twist of language will do nothing to stop the decline of Christian faith in this country. On the contrary, it will make worshippers squirm. And nothing empties pews faster than that.”
As previously reported, the Church of England is also considering a proposal to allow services to re-baptize transgendered persons in their new gender name.
Photo: Hans Musil