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UK: Our Mother who art in heaven: Group of Church women want to refer to God as a 'She' to combat sexism

UK: Our Mother who art in heaven: Group of Church women want to refer to God as a 'She' to combat sexism
Campaign group claim calling God a man suggests men are 'more god-like'
Want both male and female language to be used in religious services
Group at 'preliminary stage in terms of shifting the language of worship'

By CLAIRE ELLIOT FOR THE DAILY MAIL
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news
May 31, 2015

A group of women in the Church of England want to start referring to God as 'She' to combat sexism -- with critics deriding the proposal as a case of political correctness gone mad.

Former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe, who left the Anglican Church following the decision to ordain women priests, called the proposal 'plain silly' and 'the work of a few lunatics'.

But the women priests behind the idea argued that using 'He' suggests men are closer to God and called for the tables to be turned on sexism in the Church.

One of the supporters of the idea, the Rev Emma Percy, chaplain of Trinity College, Oxford, said the dominance of male language makes women feel that they are less holy.

The chaplain, who is also a member of Watch (Women and the Church), the pressure group that helped win the argument for female bishops in the Church of England, said using the word 'She' for God would be more inclusive.

'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,' she told The Sunday Times.

'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.'

The Rev Kate Bottley, vicar of St Mary and St Martin's, in Blyth, Nottinghamshire, told the paper that she and other priests had quietly dropped references to 'He' and 'Him' when referring to God.

And Hilary Cotton, chairman of Watch, said the idea had been discussed by a Lambeth Palace committee exploring the experiences of women in the Church, known as the 'transformations steering group'. She added: 'We have conversations among that group and we are working towards working with those who are involved in liturgy in the Church of England.

'We are at a very, very preliminary stage in terms of shifting the language of worship.' She went on to say: 'The question of how might we rewrite the services of the Church of England in a way that broadens our understanding of God is a difficult question over which we will wrestle for a number of years. This has arisen now because of a change in gender culture.'

She said the fact that Christianity emerged during the Roman empire meant the ideas of King, Lord and Father were central to the Church, adding: 'If we continue to address our worship to an almost exclusively male God then we are failing God, because God is so much more than anybody can ever understand.'

But she insisted that a female God was 'not a campaigning issue in the same way that getting women bishops was', adding: 'This is more about experiment. To encourage people to expand their imagery of God.' A spokesman for Lambeth Palace said: 'The transformations steering group is an independent group made up of women clergy exploring issues relating to the reception of women in ministry.

'The Archbishop of Canterbury offers a meeting space at Lambeth Palace, but does not have a formal role in the group or participate in its discussions. Any change in the formal liturgy of the Church of England would require consent, revision and final approval of the General Synod. Even prior to that point, there would need to be substantial consultation with the Liturgical Commission.'

It is now more than 20 years since the first woman was ordained as a Church of England priest, and the first woman bishop -- the Rev Libby Lane -- was consecrated this year.

Yesterday Miss Widdecombe, who left the Church of England and became a Catholic over the decision to ordain women as priests, said: 'God clearly isn't a She as a She can't be a father. This is plain silly, unbiblical and ridiculous. I think it's the work of a few lunatics.'

END

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