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Anglican Leader Says Opening Of Lord’s Prayer Is ‘Problematic’ For Some

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YORK, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 12: The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell addresses the congregation as the Very Reverend Dominic Barrington, is Installed as the 77th Dean of York during a special service of Choral Evensong at York Minster on November 12, 2022 in York, England. The service of prayers, readings and music was sung by the Choir of York Minster and included a special hymn composed for the new Dean. At the service, Dean Dominic gave his first sermon in York Minster and was commended in his new ministry by the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell. The Very Reverend Dominic Barrington succeeds The Right Reverend Dr Jonathan Frost who was installed as Bishop of Portsmouth in March.
Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images.

An archbishop in the Church of England said the opening of the “Lord’s Prayer” is considered “problematic” to some people because the 2,000-year-old prayer starts by addressing God as “Our Father.”

Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell told the General Synod, the legislating and ruling body of the Church of England, that referring to God as “father” might be offensive to some people because of the negative connotations of patriarchy. 

“I know the word ‘father’ is problematic for those whose experience of earthly fathers has been destructive and abusive, and for all of us who have labored rather too much from an oppressively patriarchal grip on life,” Cottrell said, according to The Guardian.

Cottrell was referring to the prayer that Jesus Christ taught his disciples in Matthew 6:9–13 and Luke 11:2–4.

Conservatives within the church took issue with Cottrell’s words, while liberals supported the sentiments expressed by the archbishop. 

“Is the archbishop of York saying Jesus was wrong, or that Jesus was not pastorally aware? It seems to be emblematic of the approach of some church leaders to take their cues from culture rather than scripture,” said Dr. Chris Sugden, a church official and chair of Anglican Mainstream, a conservative organization within the church. 

Calvin Robinson, a conservative commentator and deacon in the Free Church of England, also critiqued Cottrell’s comments.

“We call it the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ because it is the prayer the Lord gave us. He taught us to pray it. We call God ‘Our Father’ because that is how he instructed us to address him. Is the Archbishop saying Christ was wrong? That God made a mistake?” Robinson said on Twitter. 

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Currently, the Church of England is looking at using “gender-neutral” pronouns for God, instead of the masculine pronouns used in the Bible. 

“Christians have recognized since ancient times that God is neither male nor female,” a spokesperson for the church said in February. “Yet the variety of ways of addressing and describing God found in scripture has not always been reflected in our worship.”

The Bible refers to God using masculine pronouns throughout both the Old and New Testaments. Jesus, who Christians believe to be fully human and fully God, came to Earth in bodily form as a man, and Christians believe that he still has a physical body.

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