There’s usually a debate over inclusive language in the worship service, liturgy, or hymnody. In an established congregation, moving them to use an inclusive version of a hymn or the Lord’s Prayer takes a lot of time and grace. In new or planted congregations, using inclusive language from the get-go usually makes for a smooth transition as people know if they attend that congregation that this version will be used.
I do respect that for some people, using the traditional language and masculine references to God are deeply personal and comfortable. There’s also the orthodox position which holds tradition and biblical references sacrosanct so changing the gender is out of the question for them. Thus movements towards inclusive language of God and humanity have a lot of conversation partners!
To this chasm, I think the Scottish Episcopal Church has a good way of going about it: exploring non-masculine language liturgies as an option for priests who want to use them.
The new form of worship, which removes words such as “Lord, he, his, him” and “mankind” from services, has been written by the church in an attempt to acknowledge that God is “beyond human gender”. Episcopalian bishops have approved the introduction of more “inclusive” language, which deliberately removes references suggesting that God is of male gender.
The alterations have been made to provide an alternative to the established 1982 Liturgy, which, like the Bible, refers to God as a man. The new order of service, which can be used by priests if they have difficulties with a male God, has been produced by the church’s Liturgy Committee in consultation with the Faith & Order Board of General Synod and the College of Bishops.
There’s no top-down dictation of “this is how your service should be run.” There’s no throwing away of tradition in churches that want to hold tight to the traditional liturgy. Instead there’s official blessing for an alternative order of worship and liturgy that allow priests and worship leaders to use them if they choose.
What’s wrong with exploring the different liturgies and presenting them as options? As United Methodists, we have four version of the Word and Table: some with music, some with long liturgies. Why not one with inclusive language for those that want it?
Thoughts about alternative liturgies that you don’t HAVE to use but are made with official blessing for the diversity of the church body?
(picture credit: Womanist Musings)