In Depth

Should the Church of England refer to God as a woman?

The Church needs to debunk the myth that God is an 'old white man in the sky', say campaigners

There are growing calls within the Church of England to refer to God as both a man and a woman in an attempt to make the language of worship more inclusive.

Many priests already use words like "She" and "mother" in their services - or omit gender pronouns altogether – as a way of challenging the use of exclusively male language and imagery in the Church. But although the first women bishops were recently ordained (pictured above), many argue there is a long way to go when it comes to changing the perception of women in the church.

"What would it mean if we could talk about God as 'Her' without sniggering or stropping, but as evenly as we talk about God as 'Him'?" asked Reverend Lindsay Llewellyn-MacDuff, chaplain to the Bishop of Rochester.

She argues that language and attitudes to women in the church are clearly linked. "Centuries of keeping women linguistically out of the picture has helped keep them out of the picture politically, financially and legally," she says.

Reverend Jody Stowell, a vicar from Harrow, said it was not untraditional to refer to God as a 'She' because the Bible often describes God using female terms. "The debate is not about making God a woman", but embracing the use of both genders and stepping away from the myth that God is an "old, white man in the sky", she told the BBC.

But the proposal has drawn sharp criticism from some, with the Daily Mail reporting that opponents have criticised it as "a case of political correctness gone mad". Former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe, who left the Anglican Church after it voted in favour of ordaining women priests, also criticised the plan, calling it "plain silly and unbiblical" and "the work of lunatics".

While there is widespread support within the Church for the liturgies to be rewritten, any change would need to go through the General Synod of the Church of England, reports website Christian Today.

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