Thou shalt not refer to God exclusively as “He.”
While it’s not a commandment, it’s the suggestion of the the Church of England’s first female diocesan bishop, Rev. Rachel Treweek.
“I don’t want young girls or young boys to hear us constantly refer to God as He,” Treweek told the Sunday Telegraph, noting it was important to be “mindful of our language.”
She explained some non-Christians could feel alienated from the church by sticking with only masculine references to the Almighty.
“For me particularly in a bigger context, in all things, whether it’s that you go to a website and you see pictures of all white people, or whether you go to a website and see the use of ‘He’ when we could use ‘God,’ all of those things are giving subconscious messages to people, so I am very hot about saying can we always look at what we are communicating.”
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The paper noted research by YouGov indicating nearly half of 18-24 year-old Christians believe God is male, with just one in three over 65 believing the same.
Treweek, who is the bishop of Gloucester, is receiving some support for her view from other women in the clergy.
Rev. Jo Bailey Wells, the bishop of Dorking, told the Telegraph: “When I lead prayers or preach, I try to get around the problem by using both male and female imagery, and also by avoiding the need to say ‘His’ or ‘Him’ too often.”
Rev. Sally Hitchener, Anglican chaplain at Brunel University, said: “No academic theologian in the U.K. would objectively say that God is male, and yet that is the common parlance in a lot of the church and definitely the message that is coming across in lots of the media communications that we’re sending out there.”
Theologian Ian Paul told the Telegraph we live in a culture where “sex identity is ever present.”
“I think it makes it increasingly hard for young people to think of personal being without thinking of sex identity – and so if God is the ultimate ‘person’ then God must be sexed – i.e. male or female.”
“This view contradicts orthodox Christian teaching – but many young people don’t have enough contact with the church for actual Christian teaching to counter the thinking they pick up from culture.”
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