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The Church of England Confirms Gender-Neutrality Is ‘Nothing New’—Even For God

God (He/She/They)

Canterbury Cathedral, UK

The Church of England has announced plans to look into the use of gender-neutral terms to refer to God in prayers and religious discussions. While there are no plans to abolish current services, the Church made it clear that this is not a new line of thought, according to Reuters.

“This is nothing new. Christians have recognized since ancient times that God is neither male nor female,” a spokesperson for the Church said. “Yet the variety of ways of addressing and describing God found in scripture has not always been reflected in our worship.”

The comments were sparked by an exchange in the General Synod, the Church’s governing body. A priest asked about finding more inclusive language in authorized forms of worship, seeking options to provide for those who wish to speak of God in a “non-gendered way”. Bishop Michael Ipgrave, vice chairman of the Church’s liturgical commission, said during the Synod that the Church of England had already been “exploring the use of gendered language in relation to God for several years.”

Traditionally, God would be referred to as “he”, but now it seems at least some priests and bishops are asking permission to use other terms. A commission will be launched to look into the matter, of which any decisions would need to be run past the Synod before being put into action. While the Church made it clear that no changes would be coming into play yet, this could affect terms like “Our Father” in the Lord’s Prayer, as well as various other dedications and prayers.

However, this discussion has not been without disagreement. Reverend Dr Ian Paul told the Telegraph that changing the language around God would represent a departure from the Church of England’s own doctrines.

“The fact [is] that God is called ‘Father’ can’t be substituted by ‘Mother’ without changing meaning, nor can it be gender-neutralized to ‘Parent’ without loss of meaning,” he declared. “Fathers and mothers are not interchangeable but relate to their offspring in different ways.”

The Church of England is technically headed up by the British monarch, King Charles III, but the most senior member of the clergy is the Archbishop of Canterbury. With King Charles just recently stepping into the role as part of his new position as monarch following the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth II, this could well be a sign of the ongoing modernization of the Church, although there’s no official confirmation of that.

King Charles is known to have a great love of language and a strong belief in its importance, as well as being known as one of the more modern and progressive royals in some ways (while still being the head of one of the most successful colonizing families in Europe that is currently embroiled in a racism scandal).

(featured image: Lisa Valder/Getty Images)

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