Posted by: smstrouse | February 13, 2018

Earth Shaken as God Is Stripped of “His” Masculinity

5546445563_87d37cc027God must be quaking in “his” boots. The masculinity of the Divine One is under assault.

In January, at its annual convention, the Episcopal Diocese of Washington passed a resolution concerning the use of gender-neutral language for God. Episcopal News Service delivered the scary news:
The Diocese of Washington is calling on the Episcopal Church’s General Convention to consider expanding the use of gender-neutral language for God in the Book of Common Prayer, if and when the prayer book is slated for a revision.

In other words, no time soon.


But that hasn’t stopped God’s protecters from coming to “his” defense As one article  explains for our benefit: “Throughout scripture, God continually refers to Himself as “Father” and presents Himself to humanity as masculine. Christ, who is also both man and God, called God the “Father” and ascended into heaven in a male body. For Catholics, the feminine aspects of the Church have always been represented in the Virgin Mary, whom they believe was crowned “Queen of Heaven,” and by the Church itself. Either way, God has never presented Himself as anything other than a masculine Father.” 

In other words, end of discussion. 

When the Lutheran Church of Sweden decided last year to change God language in its 41+G6WahyML._AC_UL320_SR212,320_worship handbook, it faced the same resistance. In “No, the Swedish Church Has Not Banned the Male Pronoun God, they tried to explain, 
“God is beyond ‘she’ and ‘he’, God is so much more.”

That’s in alignment with the Episcopal resolution which recommends using “expansive language for God from the rich sources of feminine, masculine, and non-binary imagery for God found in Scripture and tradition.” 

The ELCA has been struggling with this issue for years. We were trying to get inclusive language into worship when I was at seminary over thirty years ago!  But now we’ve received the draft copy of the new “Social Statement on Women and Justice” for our study, discussion, and response (What are social statements in the ELCA).

Of particular interest to me are sections addressing the issue of language.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America commits to: 

  • Use inclusive language for humankind and inclusive and expansive language for God
  • Encourage the use of language for God that expands rather than limits our understanding of God’s goodness and mystery
  • Support developing liturgies, hymns, prayers, and educational materials that broaden our language beyond primarily male images
  • Promote scriptural translation and interpretation that support gender justice, acknowledge the patriarchal context in which the Scriptures were written, and reject the misuse of Scripture to support sexist attitudes and patriarchal structures.
  • Call upon our leadership and members to enlarge the dialogue about and practice of expansive language and images for God. 

Well, alright! Maybe there’s hope. It remains to be seen, however, how many pastors and congregations will heed the call. 

Note the use of words like expansive, expands, broadens, and enlarge.

Hmm. Maybe it’s not an assault on God that people are so worked up about after all.
Maybe it’s the assault on patriarchy. 


See also:
How Can We Dismantle Patriarchy and Still Call God Exclusively “He”?
How Can We Dismantle Patriarchy While Still Having a Theological Hierarchy?

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