God will no longer be referred to as He or Him in the Episcopal Church Diocese of Washington, D.C., which passed a resolution last week barring all use of masculine pronouns when referring to the Almighty. They will be updating their Book of Common Prayer as a result.
“If revision of the Book of Common Prayer is authorized, to utilize expansive language for God from the rich sources of feminine, masculine, and non-binary imagery for God found in Scripture and tradition and, when possible, to avoid the use of gendered pronouns for God,” the resolution stated.
“Over the centuries our language and our understanding of God has continued to change and adapt,” the drafters of the resolution stated, emphasizing that masculine pronouns “limit our understanding of God.”
“By expanding our language for God, we will expand our image of God and the nature of God,” they stated.
Some members of the clergy feel the radical measure did not go far enough. Rev. Linda R. Calkins from St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Laytonsville, Maryland, cited scripture that allegedly says God has “breasts.” According to her understanding of the verse in Genesis Chapter 17, when God tells Abraham “I am El Shaddai,” that means “God with breats.”
“Having studied much feminist theology in my masters’ degrees, I wrote a thesis on liberation and freedom and non-equality in feminist theology and existential counseling,” Calkins told the delegates.
“And I am still waiting for the Episcopal Church to come to the place where all people feel that they can speak God’s name,” Calkins continued. “Many, many women that I have spoken with over my past almost 20 years in ordained ministry have felt that they could not be a part of any church because of the male image of God that is systemic and that is sustained throughout our liturgies. Many of us are waiting and need to hear God in our language, in our words and in our pronouns.”
That could not be further from the truth. Throughout scripture, God continually refers to Himself as “Father” and presents Himself to humanity as masculine. Christ, who is also both man and God, called God the “Father” and ascended into heaven in a male body. For Catholics, the feminine aspects of the Church have always been represented in the Virgin Mary, whom they believe was crowned “Queen of Heaven,” and by the Church itself. Either way, God has never presented Himself as anything other than a masculine Father.
In 2017, the Church of Sweden also elected to call God only by gender-neutral pronouns.