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Church of England priests push for non-gendered prayers, including changes to ‘The Lord’s Prayer'

 February 14, 2023

The Church of England has been wrestling with what gender to assign to God for nearly 10 years now.

The question has been pushed to the forefront of discussion again at the request of The Rev. Joanna Stobart, an Anglican vicar of Ilminster and Whitelackington in southwestern England.

Church of England debates developing 'more inclusive language' for liturgy purposes

Her question came up because members The Church of England's General Synod met in London last week to debate such issues, according to The Washington Post.

She asked the Liturgical Commission to 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, " according to Angelus News.

Anglican Bishop Michael Ipgrave of Lichfield, vice chair of the commission responded to her question.

Ipgrave acknowledged that the use of gendered language is something that the Church of England and the Faith and Order Commission have been exploring ever since 2014.

"...A new joint project on gendered language will begin this spring," he said.

Ipgrave also indicated that there are other potential changes that are being considered in connection to "authorized liturgical provision," and that, "changing the wording and number of authorized forms of absolution would require a full synodical process for approval."

One of those changes could include permission for bishops to have a "blessing service" for same sex marriages, according to the Daily Mail.

It hasn't been clearly indicated what word choice would replace "Our Father" when praying "The Lord's Prayer," according to The Guardian.

Liberal group believes God as gender-neutral will solve church discrimination, sexism issues

Referring to God in a more gender-neutral way is especially resonating with a group called Women and the Church (WATCH).

WATCH campaigns for 'gender justice' in the Church of England, according to the Daily Mail.

"We hope that a proposal will be brought to Synod soon, as we believe that a theological misreading of God as exclusively male is a driver of much continuing discrimination and sexism against women," they said.

However, discrimination and sexism are forms of sin. The Bible is clear that the best way to deal with sin is to call for repentance. (Matt. 9:13, Luke 15:7, Acts 2:38, Acts 3:19, 1 John 1:9)

There are two main liturgical sources The Church of England incorporates into its services:

The book of Common Prayer, which consists of writings in England  during the 16th century; and Common Worship, which is looked on as a more contemporary book series, according to The Washington Post.

Referring to God as 'Father' is Scriptural, encouraged by Christ

Synod member Rev Dr. Ian Paul's response to WATCH was, "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 seek to change this, then in an important way they will be moving the doctrine of the Church away from being 'grounded in the Scriptures'."

He also pointed out that while Christians may refer to God as "He," it's generally understood that God is neither male nor female.

That being said, Jesus Himself referred to God as "Father" when the disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray. (Luke 11:1-4)