Faith

Church of Sweden to Use Gender-Neutral Pronouns for God

©Cosmin-Constantin Sava/123RF

Do you consider God male, female, or something that transcends either (or both)? The Church of Sweden says it will use gender-neutral pronouns for God.

The Church of Sweden decided it will officially begin using gender-neutral pronouns when referring to God.

I imagine this is a story that will upset a great many conservative Christians who are able to recite by rote numerous Bible verses that refer to God as “the Father.”

Sweden’s Evangelical Lutheran church has decided its clergy should stop using terms like “He” and “Lord” when referring to God and said the changes should take effect on May 20, 2018, during the Christian holiday of Pentecost.

One critic, an associate theology professor at Sweden’s Lund University, claims the change undermines “the doctrine of the Trinity and the community with the other Christian churches.” I’m not sure how it remotely undermines the Trinity, in which God exists as God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost, three separate entities existing as one. God can be part of the trinity whether we refer to God as male, female or all-encompassing. And I’m not sure it would necessarily cost the community with other Christian churches, either.

Newsweek put it this way:

“Most Christian churches accept that God does not have a gender, but still refer to the supreme spiritual deity with male pronouns. Even the Catholic Church catechism is confused on the topic, ‘God is neither man nor woman: he is God,’ it says.”

Archbishop Antje Jackelén, the primate of the Swedish Church, and leader of more than six million registered Lutherans, said this is not a case of “giving up tradition,”&nbsp pointing out that these elements are already present:

“Like Julian of Norwich in the 14th century said, as sure as God is our father, God is our mother. So, I mean, this is not something that’s newly invented. It’s part of our tradition.”

It’s worth noting, and I’m sure Jackelén’s critics surely will note, that the archbishop is a female.

I’m sure there are those who would insist that a female archbishop, in this day and age in which gender issues are more often discussed, would certainly be in favor of changing the gender of God. But she insisted to PBS News Hour that the church isn’t trying to worship political correctness.

And I’ve already read criticisms about any attempt to remove the notion of the “fatherly” or “patriarchal” persona of God.

I get that.

I agree that God, as the Creator, must transcend any one single gender. God must certainly be more than only male or only female.

The Bible, of course, was written by man and man was naturally going to cast God the leader as a male, whether they were directly inspired by God to do so or not. But at the same time, those references also help us begin to understand a glimpse of the nature of God. In that respect, I don’t find that there’s anything particularly damaging and certainly nothing limiting in referring to God in that way.

I don’t find it offensive to refer to God with gender-neutral pronouns provided that such efforts don’t create distracting constructions that interrupt the flow of scripture just to make the change. It’s a change, I mean to say, that shouldn’t be noticed as such. And if it’s still an accurate description of God, it shouldn’t be that noticeable.

This is certainly not something I’d leave a church over if I were a Lutheran in Sweden.

How do you feel about gender-neutral pronouns for God?

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.