Episcopalian judges have ruled on the controversial new revision to worship that excludes masculine terms such as “Lord,” “He,” and “Mankind” from the service in order to provide an illustration that God is above gender. While some welcome the move, suggesting inclusive language is beneficial to the church’s image, others are calling the move merely blatant political correctness.
Traditionally the gender of a religious figure has been of major significance in defining that religion. Various religious traditions hold that their god or goddess carries with it many attributes that are either definitively masculine or feminine. And these traits, like the gods or goddesses involved are to be either mimicked when possible or closely studied. Ancient statues point to feminine goddesses of fertility as an emerging feminine pantheon. Is this move to make religion less gendered going to make the church more accessible? Or will it harm long held traditions?
The philosophy behind the move, according to Episcopalian bishops is not that masculinity is no longer considered a valid gender for God, but rather that an all encompassing force that would be present in all things cannot be defined in terms of gender. Something that not only created femininity but is also present in all things feminine would not be categorized as a masculine figure since there would be nothing juxtaposing it with a feminine counterpart. Without a female god to go along with the male god there would be no ability to consider God masculine.
The Episcopalian church has been the center of controversy in the past too. In 1991 the church ruled that the general practice of racism was a sin, a move some considered progressive while others wondered if it was mixing political matters with matters of religious significance unnecessarily. The Episcopal church also made moves to include homosexuals and in 1989 the first openly gay priest was officially ordained.
To date, the Episcopal church has over two million in its ranks in the United States with another three hundred thousand elsewhere in the world. Since its inception in 1604 the Church of England in the American colonies has arguably been at once one of the most progressive and controversial branches to have ever existed.
What do you think about the loss of gender in church services? Is this something that will push the church into a downward spiral, losing its traditions when times change? Or will this move prove to be important in progressing toward a more gender neutral and inclusive way of life? The names and genders of other figures have not been affected, though complaints over the years say the religion is biased toward males. Of course this is one aspect of ancient tradition many different religions are dealing with these days, not just Christianity.
Only time will tell if the changes to the text and service will catch on. And similarly only those following the religion will be able to tell if it changes the experience significantly or not.