U.S. Episcopal diocese votes to stop using masculine pronouns for God

Delegates at the Episcopal Diocese of Washington’s 123rd Diocesan Convention, Jan. 27, 2018. Episcopal Diocese of Washington / website

Fr. Mark Hodges

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 1, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The Episcopal church in the Diocese of Washington, D.C., passed a resolution last week to stop using masculine pronouns for God in future updates to its Book of Common Prayer. 

The resolution to stop using "gendered language for God" was passed quickly by delegates to the Diocese's 123rd Convention.  

“If revision of the Book of Common Prayer is authorized, to utilize expansive language for God from the rich sources of feminine, masculine, and non-binary imagery for God found in Scripture and tradition and, when possible, to avoid the use of gendered pronouns for God,” the resolution stated. 

“Over the centuries our language and our understanding of God has continued to change and adapt,” the drafters of the resolution stated. The drafters said that referring to God using masculine pronouns is to "limit our understanding of God." 

"By expanding our language for God, we will expand our image of God and the nature of God," they stated.

But Clergy delegate The Rev. Linda R. Calkins from St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Laytonsville, Maryland,  challenged the delegates to go further. 

Calkins read from Genesis Chapter 17, in which God tells Abraham “I am El Shaddai.” She said that if Episcopalians "are going to be true to what El Shaddai means, it means God with breasts.”

“Having studied much feminist theology in my masters’ degrees, I wrote a thesis on liberation and freedom and non-equality in feminist theology and existential counseling,” Calkins told the delegates, as reported by The Institute On Religion & Democracy.

“And I am still waiting for the Episcopal Church to come to the place where all people feel that they can speak God’s name. Many, many women that I have spoken with over my past almost 20 years in ordained ministry have felt that they could not be a part of any church because of the male image of God that is systemic and that is sustained throughout our liturgies. Many of us are waiting and need to hear God in our language, in our words and in our pronouns,” she added. 

Christians, following the teachings of Jesus Christ, have prayed to God as "Our Father" from the very beginning. Theologians explain that the masculine word “Father” indicates a relationship.

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“Jesus did not call God ‘Imma’ (Mother), but always and exclusively ‘Abba’ (Father),” Dr. Paul Tarazi of St. Vladimir Orthodox Theological Seminary explained. Indeed, “Father” is the only way Jesus ever referred to God, and the only way He taught His followers to do so.

The Church Fathers attest to this. St. Gregory the Theologian explained the name “Father” is proper to God, not a figurative concession to humanity. St. Athanasius the Great stated that only the specific names “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit” belong “to God’s own essence and being.” St. Gregory of Nyssa taught that deviation from the names “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit” causes deviations from the one true faith. Any other names, St. Gregory wrote, “serve as a starting point for the deflection of sound doctrine.”  

Delegates to the Episcopalian convention also passed a resolution without debate or discussion to include "transgender people" in all aspects of "congregational life ."

The resolution called on diocese to “encourage all parishes to remove all obstacles to full participation in congregational life by making all gender-specific facilities and activities fully accessible, regardless of gender identity and expression.”

"Fixed boundaries of gender identity are being challenged and churches need to respond.  This resolution is a clear response to the systematic oppression and violence that transgender people experience on a daily basis," the resolution drafters stated.

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