Tuesday, January 24, 2017

God & Other Talk

Image result for sistine chapel ceiling adam and god

Early in my ministry, which began in 1980, the UCW of my congregation was asked in a survey about the use of gender inclusive language in worship. One member offered that this wasn't used at St. James, and she was glad. Another member disagreed, and suggested that I was quite committed to using inclusive language, including the version of the bible we employed in worship. Some of the others were surprised, so they consulted me and discovered that this was true, but I just hadn't made an issue of it. While we still used the traditional  Our Father Lord's Prayer, for the most part, we used other versions as well, and the same was true of the Trinitarian formula for baptism.

This was part of my seminary education in the late 1970s and through the decades I have been committed to inclusive language in every way possible, including hymn choices. The language we use says a lot about who we are as a Christian community.

I was interested to see that two prominent seminaries, or divinity schools, Duke and Vanderbilt, ''have issued statements about the use of language. The faculty of two esteemed divinity schools have been asked to use more inclusive language to talk about God in their classrooms. At first I wondered,    where have they been? But this has been the encouragement for years at Vanderbilt. At Duke they have issued very specific guidelines.

Today we are more acutely aware that our use of language is gendered, and that use of exclusively gendered language ... can be harmful and exclusionary. "Man" is now viewed as what we call an "exclusive" use of language; that is, it is seen as excluding women. Therefore, we recommend that you find other ways to refer to humankind in general and use terms that are inclusive.

When we look at the United Church Song of Faith statement of faith we find this about our God Talk:

With the Church through the ages,
we speak of God as one and triune:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We also speak of God as
    Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer
    God, Christ, and Spirit
    Mother, Friend, and Comforter
    Source of Life, Living Word, and Bond of Love,
    and in other ways that speak faithfully of
the One on whom our hearts rely,
the fully shared life at the heart of the universe.

It jars me when I hear news commentators, or politicians referring to mankind rather than humankind, and I wouldn't attend a church (I'll be retired soon!) that hasn't made that commitment.

What are your thoughts? It is this important to you? Are you glad to be a part of a denomination which has made inclusivity a priority?



Lori Graham said...

Although I no longer attend a church, I have to agree with you on the importance of the language we use. When I was young I never thought to question these things. A part of growing up for my sister and me was the slow painful understanding of what the language of our Catholic upbringing implicedly spelled out about our place in the world.

David Mundy said...

Good to see your comments on a couple of blogs Lori. Of course I came back from the dead just for you!

Lori Graham said...

Much appreciated David :)