In a bizarre turn of events, the Church of England bishops will meet to discuss making God gender-neutral this Spring.
Despite its Protestant identity, the Anglican’s home church is pondering to go directly against both biblical texts and also tradition.
While Jesus describes God the Father as His Father numerous times, with the Virgin Mary being His mother, some in the Church of England believe that believers need a less gendered way to experience God.
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Therefore, the Church of England will use a synod to discuss a potential change in the way Anglicans, at least in England, can describe God.
This means, as you guessed it, that yes, the Our Father may be changed as well.
The efforts for these changes arose after Reverend Joanna Stobart asked if there was any progress on the Church of England’s Liturgical Commission on finding appropriate gender-neutral terms for God the Father and He and Him. She inquired:
Please could the Liturgical Commission provide an update on the steps being taken to develop more inclusive language in our authorized liturgy and to provide more options for those who wish to use authorized liturgy and speak of God in a non-gendered way, particularly in authorized absolutions where many of the prayers offered for use refer to God using male pronouns?
The Bishop of Lichfield, The Right Reverend Michael Ipgrave, responded to this question by stating how a “new joint project on gendered language will begin this spring.”
Conservative clergy in the Church of England had some interesting responses, most notably Reverend Ian Paul. He wrote,
The fact that God is called ‘Father’ can’t be substituted by ‘Mother’ without changing meaning, nor can it be gender-neutralised to ‘Parent’ without loss of meaning. Fathers and mothers are not interchangeable but relate to their offspring in different ways. If the Liturgical Commission seeks to change this, then in an important way they will be moving the doctrine of the Church away from being grounded in the Scriptures.
Uproar will surely persist as Church of England membership and attendance continues to dwindle. In fact, many reports suggest young adult membership is as low as 2 percent in England while 10-to-24-year-olds in England report only a 30 percent membership in any religion. Over 50 percent of English people, according to many surveys, are now non-religious.
To make matters worse for the Church of England, it is now estimated that more Catholics attend weekly Mass than Anglicans in England, let alone in the United Kingdom.
And now, the Church of England wishes to explore gender-neutral language to grow their church.
This reminds me of a very critical article of religion written by Martyn Percy in Prospect Magazine that stated how “[t]he emerging generation will get behind movements that address the political, ethical and global challenges that society faces,” but how this “excludes most churches.”
Percy went even further in the article by writing these very insightful sentences that preceded the previous at the beginning of the same paragraph:
Values may well be the new religion of the 21st century. They are formed out of a simple equation: ideologies + passions = values. By values I mean integrity, transparency, equality, justice, accountability, kindness and honesty. Institutions and organisations that fail to exemplify these are unlikely to be trusted by most under-35s.
While the Conservative Party continues to win elections in the United Kingdom and England itself, it displays the perfect test tube for our own Church.
If we stick to our values and improve on following our Faith even better, we can survive and thrive even in a climate where the media and popular culture are against us.
One simply has to look at our work across many nations on topics that affect the whole world and align with our Faith. We cannot be static and nor have we been. We must keep evangelizing.
But, likewise, if we fail to have any values to stand on and lose all our credibility, then we, too, will likely falter because we will become like another company, service, or NGO.
For the Church of England, considering and potentially changing the Our Father that Jesus Himself taught us to appease a radical and small minority is about as valueless as one can get. We must remember that God is all-knowing, and this includes Jesus. His teachings must be infallible.
I hope the Anglicans that wish to keep their Christian Faith with Anglican tradition ponder joining one of the three personal ordinariates for former Anglicans (and Methodists) within the Catholic Church: the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham for England and Wales, the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter for the USA and Canada, and the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross for Australia and Japan.
You may find comfort in the fact that the most important parts of the Faith we share, or used to share, are unchangeable. These personal ordinariates are barely over a decade old, so they are subject to large-scale expansion if new members join.
[Photo credit: Getty Images News]