Episcopals May Make God ‘Gender-Neutral’ in Book of Prayer

‘As long as ‘men’ and ‘God’ are in the same category, our work toward equity will not just be incomplete…’

Wil Gafney/PHOTO: Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth

(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) The Episcopal Church is considering removing the male pronouns for God in its prayer books, and instead clarifying that God is genderless.

A board of Episcopal priests will meet at its 79thGeneral Convention on Thursday to decide whether a major overhaul of the Book of Common Prayer — last revised in 1979 — is necessary.

The church has said that a revision would take years, meaning a new prayer book wouldn’t be available until 2030.

Switching to gender-neutral language is the main reason these changes would take place.

“As long as ‘men’ and ‘God’ are in the same category, our work toward equity will not just be incomplete. I honestly think it won’t matter in some ways,” said the Rev. Wil Gafney, a female professor of the Hebrew Bible at Brite Divinity School in Texas who is on the committee recommending a change to the gendered language in the prayer book.

Gafney said changing the prayer books is important because it will show that Episcopal theology teaches that God is “bigger than gender,” despite biblical references to God as a “Father,” “King,” and “Lord.”

Gafney said she often calls God a “She” in her classroom, and avoids referring to God as a “Father” entirely.

“‘Our Father,’ I won’t fiddle with that,” she told the Washington Post, referring to the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer.

Bishop Jeffrey Lee said only referring to God as a male shows an “incomplete picture of God,” and that women’s demands for gender-neutral language are important.

“In the culture, the whole #MeToo movement, I think, has really raised in sharp relief how much we do need to examine our assumptions about language and particularly the way we imagine God,” he said.

Gafney said refusing to change the prayer books to gender neutral language would be “harmful” to women.

“As long as a masculine God remains at the top of the pyramid, nothing else we do matters,” she said. “We construct a theological framework in which we talk about gender equality … then we say that which is most holy in the universe is only and exclusively male.”