So, The Church Of England Is Considering A Gender-Neutral God, But Resisting Same-Sex Marriage?
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has acknowledged that the CoE is divided over LGBTQ+ issues.
The Church of England is considering introducing a gender-neutral approach to the Christian deity, God, in a move towards “inclusivity”.
However, that very claim misses out something rather obvious: the Church of England’s (CoE) current attitude to same-sex marriage.
Reports on Wednesday suggested that the CoE was considering moving away from “gendered language” – where God is referred to as He or Him – although any permanent changes or rewriting of scriptures would have to be agreed by the CoE lawmaking body.
It was praised by Women and Church, a campaign group for gender equality in the CoE, as a move towards “more inclusive language in our authorised liturgy”, according to The Telegraph.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the CoE said that “this is nothing new”, because Christians have long acknowledged “God is neither male nor female” – something recognised in scripture but not always “in our worship.”
He added: “There are absolutely no plans to abolish or substantially revise currently authorised liturgies, and no such changes could be made without extensive legislation.”
The details of the project on the language will begin in spring, according to the Liturgical Commission’s the Bishop of Lichfield.
It comes after decades of debate around the use of male pronouns He and Him to describe the deity, in favour of gender neutral or female equivalents, as appears in the Bible.
The potential change also chimes in with the backlash trans and non-binary people have faced for trying to change their pronouns or adopt gender-neutral ones – leading to headlines such as the Daily Mail’s on Wednesday: ′Now Even God Could Be Going Gender Neutral’.
But it seems to be one step forward, two steps back, for the CoE has been heavily criticised for its attitude towards LGBTQ+ people, as it has refused to marry same-sex couples.
The CoE, part of the world’s oldest Christian institutions – the Anglican Communion – still claims that marriage is between “one man and one woman”.
As former CoE priest and Labour MP Chris Bryant pointed out on 2 February, this position is still “causing very real pain and trauma” for LGBTQ+ Christians.
He actually quit the CoE in 2016 over its attitudes towards homosexuality.
The Church of England Bishops position on same-sex marriage is causing very real pain and trauma. If the church won’t act then parliament should give it a push just like we did over the delay in female bishops. pic.twitter.com/xVS7xpyzJp
— Chris Bryant (@RhonddaBryant) February 2, 2023
The CoE is conscious of the frustration over its stance on same-sex marriage.
It even apologised to the LGBTQ+ community in January, with bishops writing in an open letter: “We have not loved you as God loves you, and that is profoundly wrong.
“We affirm, publicly and unequivocally, that LGBTQI+ people are welcome and valued: we are all children of God.
“The occasions on which you have received a hostile and homophobic response in our churches are shameful and for this we repent.”
But LGBTQ+ lobby group Stonewall told Reuters news agency: “An apology only goes so far when so many LGBTQ+ Christians have faced hostility and discrimination for who they are.”
The Synod, the lawmaking body of the CoE, took part in a historic vote on blessings for same-sex couples later this week. It now allows blessings for same-sex couples, but continue to ban marriages within the CoE.
And even the prime minister’s LGBT envoy, Lord Herbert of South Downs, has accused the institution of “lagging behind” other Anglican churches, especially as gay marriage is legal in the UK.
This isn’t the only conflict the CoE has had with the LGBTQ+ community recently.
It has come under criticism for its claims that gay sex is a sin too, as noted by QI host Sandi Toksvig.
As the Actress said to the Bishop… #comeoutforlovepic.twitter.com/fIFJkGVZzr
— Sandi Toksvig (@sanditoksvig) January 26, 2023
After speaking to Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby about the issue, she said: “It is very clear that the state Church of England and the society it purports to represents are not remotely in step.
“Justin was keen for me to see that they are moving forward, but conceded that any progress, as I would see it, if it happens at all, will be glacial.
“It was very clear that opposing factions of the worldwide Anglican Communion are being in part, held together at the expense of the human rights of the LGBT+ community. It’s not OK. And I said so.”
It’s worth noting that the CoE did issue new guidance to welcome the trans community in 2018, amid the backlash from conservative corners – but, again, stopped short of fully welcoming trans Christians by not offering a transition blessing.
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