The Church of England is considering using gender-neutral terms in its prayer service.
“Christians have recognised since ancient times that God is neither male nor female,” a spokesperson for the Church said in a media statement on Wednesday. “Yet the variety of ways of addressing and describing God found in scripture has not always been reflected in our worship.”
The statement added that there are “absolutely no plans to abolish or substantially revise” authorised services and that no changes could be made without “extensive legislation”.
The announcement comes in the wake of a discussion at the General Synod, the Church’s governing body, in which Rev. Joanna Stobart, vicar of Ilminster and Whitelackington in Somerset, suggested the use of more inclusive language in authorized forms of worship and sought options for those who wish to speak of God in a “non-gendered way”.
The Church spokesman said: “Christians have recognised since ancient times that God is neither male nor female, yet the variety of ways of addressing and describing God found in scripture has not always been reflected in our worship.
The Church’s Faith and Order Commission – which advises on theology – will work with the liturgical commission on looking at questions around gender terms, the spokesperson said.
Last month, the Church of England decided against same-sex marriages but allowed for holding a church service after a civil marriage in which there would be “prayers of dedication, thanksgiving or for God’s blessing on the couple”. Gay marriage was legalised in Britain in 2013.
In November 2018, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said that “God is not a father in the same way that a human would be” and that descriptions of God are always “to some degree metaphorical”.
“So, what does it mean for me to call God father, having had a rather confusing experience of fathers?” he continued. “It means that here is one that is perfect, that loves me unconditionally, that reaches out to me and knows me better than I know myself and yet still loves me profoundly. That loves me enough to make redemption and blessing possible and open. That offers me a way through life that can be very complicated and painful, and can be overwhelming and wonderful, but is always father… is always the one who in love embraces, draws, heals, blesses and will eventually call me to be present to God.”
In comparison, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “He is neither man nor woman: he is God.”