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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.
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.