Female clergy propose referring to God as 'She' to counter idea only men are made in his image

Rev Emma Percy says only using 'He' may make women feel less Christian

The Rev Emma Percy, chaplain of Trinity College, Oxford, said the current exclusive use of 'He' might make women feel less Christian
The Rev Emma Percy, chaplain of Trinity College, Oxford, said the current exclusive use of 'He' might make women feel less Christian

Leading Anglican women are discussing referring to God as “she” as well as “he” to counter the idea that only men are made in his image.

The idea was raised by a group of female clergy who meet at Lambeth Palace to “explore the lived experience of women in ordained ministry”.

The Rev Emma Percy, chaplain of Trinity College, Oxford, said the current exclusive use of “he” might make women feel less Christian. “When we use only male language for God we reinforce the idea that God is like a man and, in doing so, suggest that men are therefore more like God than women,” she told The Sunday Times.

“This means that women can see themselves as less holy and less able to represent Christ in the world.

“If we take seriously the idea that men and women are made in the image of God both male and female language should be used.”

She is a member of Women and the Church (Watch), a pressure group which campaigned successfully for female bishops in the Church of England.

Watch’s chairwoman, Hilary Cotton, added: “We are at a very, very preliminary stage in terms of shifting the language of worship.

“The question of how might we rewrite the worship services of the Church of England in a way that broadens our understanding and perception of God is a really difficult question over which we will wrestle for a number of years to come.

“This has arisen now in part because of the change in gender culture but actually it has emerged at all sorts of points in Christian history.

“We seem to attach ourselves to the Roman Empire — to the particular images of King, Lord, Father. If we continue to address our worship to an almost exclusively male God then we are failing God … because God is so much more than anybody can ever understand.”

The Church of England consecrated the Rev Libby Lane as the first female bishop in January and has since appointed two more women bishops. A Church of England spokesman said the group of female clergy who meet at Lambeth Palace, the transformation steering group, was an independent body.

“The Archbishop of Canterbury offers a meeting space at Lambeth Palace, but does not have a formal role in the group or participate in its discussions,” he said.

“Any change in the formal liturgy of the Church of England would require consent, revision and final approval of the General Synod. Even prior to that point, there would need to be substantial consultation with the Liturgical Commission.”

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