Bridey Heing
June 05, 2015 8:09 am

Let’s talk. A group in the United Kingdom is looking to change the way the Church of England talks about God, particularly the way the Church uses pronouns. WATCH (or Women and the Church) have already made huge strides for gender equality within the Church of England, having successfully campaigned for the ordination of female bishops. But now, they want male and female language used when talking about the Almighty.

“Often people are asking us ‘what now?’, as they thought we were a one aim group (to get women Bishops legislation passed),” Rev. Jody Stowell told the Huffington Post via email. “Our message is that there is still a lot to do with regards to gender justice . . . People often see God as an old white man in the sky, and you can see how this will impact how you view God and how you think God views you, either as a man or a woman.”

Enter, their latest campaign: To make female pronouns as commonly used as male when talking about God. Although the campaign is still very new (having started this week), it’s already making global headlines and causing a lot of debate in the UK. The Church of England, however, is no stranger to making change and, in fact, has been doing so for more than half a century. The Church itself came about due to a split with the Roman Catholic Church way back in the 1500s, and has incrementally introduced greater and greater roles for women over the course of the past few centuries. The latest — the aforementioned ordination of female bishops — came in 2014. This most recent campaign, if successful, would be another huge step toward gender equality in religion.

“Orthodox theology says all human beings are made in the image of God, that God does not have a gender,” Rev. Stowell told The Guardian. “He encompasses gender — he is both male and female and beyond male and female. So when we only speak of God in the male form, that’s actually giving us a deficient understanding of who God is.”

Rev. Emma Percy put it this way in the Sunday Times: “When we use only male language for God we reinforce the idea that God is like a man and, in doing so, suggest that men are therefore more like God than women. This means that women can see themselves as less holy and less able to represent Christ in the world. If we take seriously the idea that men and women are made in the image of God, both male and female language should be used.”

Although it will take some time for the debate to unfold and for any official changes to the liturgy to be made, it’s a seriously interesting and exciting conversation to be having. For a long time and to this day, many religions bar women from the highest ranks of the clergy — not to mention the linguistic assumption that God is male. If the Church of England, which is the official church of the country and the foundation of the Anglican community, were to make this change it could start similar debates in other religious communities. Only time will tell whether WATCH will be able to help this idea take hold.

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