Friday, July 29, 2011

All Inclusive

One of our St. Paul's members has enrolled in the United Church program for lay preachers and worship leaders and I'm glad because I think she will be good at it. She has purchased a raft of required resources in preparation, including a book on inclusive language. Inclusive language is gender neutral, whenever possible and this will be encouraged in her program, This can be something of a challenge because a lot of biblical language is male-oriented and patriarchal. But it's far from impossible to use language which attempts equality and I have used it all during my ministry because of my seminary training and my own convictions.

It's interesting that many people don't realize that I choose to use inclusive language. Many years ago a UCW questionnaire asked if the minister used inclusive language and one member wanted them to put down "no" as the answer. Other members pointed out that I did use it, even if she hadn't noticed.


Using terms such as "man" to describe humanity are long gone, and I just don't refer to God as "he." I'm inclined to use other Trinitarian formulas than Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, although most of the time we use the traditional Lord's Prayer. I'm careful about the hymns we sing, although both Voices United and More Voices have made the job of choosing much easier.


There is apparently a new gender neutral version of the bible, the Common English Bible, which is several years in the making and involving several hundred scholars. http://vimeo.com/14552988 While it won't be published in paper for a few months it is availabe digitally. I also read this week that the Southern Baptist Convention has condemned a new gender-inclusive version of the New International Version of the bible, a version very popular in evangelical circles.Honestly, I think the New Revised Standard Version which we use already does a really good job, but maybe this will further the cause.


Where are you with all this? Do you even notice how language is used in worship? Would you prefer the older style of language and words for hymns? What about inclusive language in the bible?

4 comments:

Susan said...

I am very aware of how language is used in worship, speaking and through the bible. Words and stories are powerful image builders. I have used the NRSV for the last 15 - 18 years. It will be interesting to compare the similarities and differences between the NRSV and the NCE bible. I volunteered to buy the confirmands bibles and I purchased the NNIV bibles. For people who have never read the bible, it makes sense to have bibles that are inclusive and gender friendly. When choosing bible stories for children's programming, I always include at least 2 stories that have a child and a named woman as the featured characters. I feel the same way about our hymns, and I feel fairly comfortable with the gender friendly changes made in the hymns I learned as a young child although, once in a while, I just have to sing This is My Father's World.

Paul Franklyn said...

The Common English Bible is now shipping in print to individuals and retail stores.

Paul Franklyn, project director

Jonathan said...

I'm of the unpopular George Carlin school of philosophy on language. Words are not in and of themselves racist, sexist, or homophobic and simply changing the words will not change the racist, sexist, homophobes who use them. Dont get me wrong, I love the NRSV and I think that using inclusive language can enrich the spiritual expeience as it has for me. But in places like hymns, songs, psalms, art changing the words does nothing for me and in some cases (Psalm 23 in the NRSV) modernizing/neutralizing the language ruins the poetry that got me to love them in the first place.

sjd said...

Freedom to choose is what makes Canada great! I can choose to read what ever Bible I want.
I have no problem with the old language because I take it in the spirit it was intended. Keep in mind the time and the culture that existed when it was written.
If you are more comfortable with a new version, then I'm happy that there are alternatives.
I'm currently reading "The Message" a more modern language version of the Bible.