The Church of England May Go Gender-Neutral

Church of Cyprus

Will “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” be replaced with “Mother, Daughter, and Holy Spiritess?” Or none of the above? The Church of England is debating going gender-neutral, not because there is biblical precedent for it, but probably because all of the cool kids are doing it.


By way of total disclosure, I was born and raised in the Episcopal Church, which is a direct descendant of the Church of England. I was an altar boy, a term that was changed to “acolyte” when girls started serving on the altar. I was a member of the church well into my 30s when I began dabbling in agnosticism and Buddhism, before becoming an Evangelical and eventually Greek Orthodox.

As someone who grew up in the Episcopal Church with a feminist mother, I honestly never gave the idea of women priests a second thought. At one point, a prayer addressed to the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” had the phrase “and of Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel” spontaneously added. It didn’t phase me in the least.

And as I entered the ordination process, I occasionally went to conferences and retreats, because that’s what everyone does. Often I was one of the few men there. On one occasion, I was the only man at one of these gatherings. I got a distinct impression that I was being tolerated, but not welcomed. One of the speakers stood up and asserted that Jesus did not begin his ministry at the direction of God, but rather of Mary. She cited the wedding in Cana in which Mary asks Jesus to fix the wine situation as proof. In her estimation, Jesus could not start his work until his mother told him to do so. Well, whatever works for you, I guess.


Some of you have heard this next story before, so sit tight for a few. I eventually left the Episcopal Church when I found out my bid for ordination was dead in the water. Via back channels, I learned that my diocese was not ordaining “straight white men.” After I was done licking my wounds, I came to the realization that it wasn’t me the diocese was rejecting; it was men in general. The church had fallen under the control of women who were forever bitter toward the patriarchy. But the men they hated were dead or retired. So they turned their ire on guys like me, who oddly enough, were on their side. Well, I was until they gave me the boot.

So when the Church of England announced that it was migrating toward gender-neutral language I was probably one of 12 people in the Western World who went, “Meh.” This kind of stuff has been going on for years. The only surprise is that it took them until 2023. I had 2005 at the latest in the pool.

Just the News reports that the Right Rev. Dr. Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Lichfield, will lead a commission to oversee the transition to neutral language this spring. Ipgrave says that priests have been wrestling with the issue of gendered language for years. Some priests have altered the Lord’s Prayer to say “Our Father and Mother” and have decided that God’s pronouns are they/them. The Rev. Chantal Noppen commented, “God is not male. Certainly not the white cis male with a beard, sitting on a cloud we seem to reduce and limit God to so often. God is far bigger than a binary sense of gender allows.”


Meanwhile, Rev. Ian Paul has warned that playing the pronoun game with God would move the doctrine of the church away from the Bible. He also noted that changing “Father” to “Mother” or some sort of neutral designation would create a loss of meaning.

Fox News said that Rev. Joanna Stobart wrote:

Please could the Liturgical Commission provide an update on the steps being taken to develop more inclusive language in our authorized liturgy and to provide more options for those who wish to use authorized liturgy and speak of God in a non-gendered way, particularly in authorized absolutions where many of the prayers offered for use refer to God using male pronouns?

A group calling itself Women and the Church or WATCH, which wants “gender justice” in the Church of England, is excited about the prospect of neutering the Almighty. It stated, “WATCH welcomes the start of another project in the Church of England to look at the development of more inclusive language in our authorized liturgy.”

At its heart, this movement isn’t about creating or fixing anything. It is about the airing of grievances, tearing things down, asserting power, and marking territory like a cat in heat. It’s about ego. It’s about people making God in their own image. If anything, it is an attempt to bring God down to the level of not just people but woke people, and in the process, reduce Him to a mere idea.


Related: ‘Woke Jesus’ Is Not Jesus at All

The fact that the western portion of the Anglican Communion is officially sanctioning what it has been doing for years means nothing. But while the church on both sides of the Atlantic runs full-tilt at the Altar of Gender and Equity, it is emptying the pews of the faithful. Check out an online broadcast of a service from the Episcopal Church or the Church of England. More often than not, you will see a sanctuary so bereft of worshippers that it would be better off being repurposed as a trendy eatery or a racquetball court. God knows they have the room, even at 10:00 on a Sunday morning.

Worshippers are looking for a transcendent experience, not another rehash of the same crap they see on TV and the web. Joseph Campbell, whatever his liberal leanings may have been, understood that the function of ritual/liturgy was to “pitch you out” of everyday life and the mundane. It is meant to be a time during which man aspires to reach the divine, not drag the divine down to the level of man. Pronoun debates are available everywhere. People want something better out of worship and for that matter, God.

I read an article this morning on The Free Press by Shadi Hamid called “Embracing Islam to Own the Libs.” The focus of the piece was the current poster boy of toxic masculinity, Andrew Tate. Specifically, Tate’s claim that he was a convert to Islam. Hamid makes an interesting observation:


As the culture continues to secularize, to become more detached from any underlying moral vision, right-wing intellectuals have responded by gravitating toward more demanding forms of Christianity, particularly Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholic integralism. Among the more prominent converts has been the conservative author Sohrab Ahmari, who grew up in a secular home in Iran, immigrated to the United States, and eventually embraced Catholicism, which Ahmari credits with imposing a “tremendous order and metaphysical direction” to his life. Like Islam, these religious orientations are perceived to be tougher, more masculine, more grounded in rules rather than sentiments. They order freedom by constraining it. They not only entail exacting rites and rituals; they are explicitly about not making concessions to secular modernity.

Judging by the empty pews, it isn’t just right-wing intellectuals. My guess is that those who have not found a spiritual home in the mainline religions and the increasingly woke Evangelical churches have simply given up like I once did. “Uncle Jesus,” “Boyfriend Jesus,” or even the Jesus who “gets us” are advertising schemes designed to ward off the critics of Christianity while at the same time, making the faith culturally relevant. They are attempts to play both ends of the spectrum.


But culture is never static. Chasing it is a fool’s errand. People do not want or need a God who caters to their whims. They need the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not the God of Silly Putty that can be stretched, molded, and even pressed into a comic strip to create a cute picture. Thou shalt not reduce the Lord thy God with an Instagram post.


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