With all the gender debates and controversies going on, the Church of Sweden too has found itself in the center of one. In many religions GOD the supreme deity is referred to as “Lord” or “He”. The church of Sweden did the same until recently where they urged their clergy to use a more gender-neutral language when referring to God. They specifically dictated to their clergy that they should at no point refer to God as “Lord” or “He”.
One Of The Many Changes
This move was one of the many changes made by the National Evangelical Lutheran Church. They had to update their very own 31-year old handbook that outlined how the services should be done in terms of hymns, language and other activities of the church.
Actually, the new guidelines were introduced on 20th May, the Christian holiday of Pentecost.
How They Refer To God
Archbishop Antje Jackelen is a priest in the Church of Sweden ordained in 1980 and then later became a Doctor of theology in 1999 at Lund University. Ms. Jackelen is quoted saying, “Like Julian of Norwich in the 14 century said, as sure as God is our father, God is our Mother.” She further says, “So I mean, this is not something that’s newly invented. It’s part of our tradition. God is our father, GOD is our mother,”
She further points out that according to theology God is beyond gender determinations, He is definitely not human.
Decision Met With Criticism
This decision to refer to God in gender-neutral terms has been strongly met with criticism. Christer Pahlmblad who is a Lund University associate theology professor spoke to Kristeligt Dagblad newspaper in Denmark. He says, “It really isn’t smart if the Church of Sweden is known as a church that does not respect the common theology heritage.”
Church of England’s New Advice
On matters gender and orientation the Church of England too seemed to take an unusual stand when it issued new advice to its 5,000 schools indicating that children should be allowed to try out, “the many cloaks of identity” without fear of being bullied or getting criticism. The advice also urged schools to allow children to “accept difference of all varieties and be supported to accept their own gender identity or sexual orientation and that of others.
Will other churches follow suit in softening their firm stand when it comes to matters of gender and sexual orientation? Time will tell.