The Church of England is weighing up whether the Christian God should no longer be referred to as “he”. While the news has sparked blind outrage in the British tabloids, the idea of a gender-neutral God is nothing new.
The church said it would launch a commission in a few months that will investigate the idea of using gender-neutral terms to refer to God, Press Association (PA) reports. Any suggested changes to official protocol will then have to be approved by the synod, the Church’s decision-making council.
The announcement made front page news in the UK, with right-wing newspaper The Daily Mail running with the enraged headline: "NOW EVEN GOD COULD BE GOING GENDER NEUTRAL.”
Conservative priests also hit out at the news, fretting that any change in pronouns could drastically change the meaning behind some of the stories. Inevitably, some commentators have weaponized the story as an example of “woke madness” to serve in the never-ending culture war around gender identity, discrimination, and tolerance.
However, this debate is nothing new. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the Church of England, has previously suggested that God should not be seen as a male figure, arguing that human language is too limited to describe God.
“God is not a father in exactly the same way as a human being is a father. God is not male or female. God is not definable,” he said in 2018.
The post about his statements added that “His comments on God being neither male nor female in a human sense reflect ancient traditions and teachings of the Church.”
The Catholic Church, often known for its conservative attitudes on sex and gender, is also open-minded on the issue. In their teachings, they argue: “He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood”.
In a statement given to PA this week, a spokesperson for the Church of England said: “This is nothing new. 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.
“There has been greater interest in exploring new language since the introduction of our current forms of service in contemporary language more than 20 years ago.
“There are absolutely no plans to abolish or substantially revise currently authorised liturgies, and no such changes could be made without extensive legislation.”