Tuesday 17 July 2018

Church to stop using 'he' and 'Lord' in move towards more gender-neutral language

A church in Uppsala in Sweden
A church in Uppsala in Sweden

Lydia Smith

The Church of Sweden has urged its clergy to use more gender-neutral language when referring to God and to avoid referring to the deity as “Lord” or “he”.

The move is one of many made by the national Evangelical Lutheran Church, which is in the process of updating a 31-year-old handbook, which outlines how services should be conducted in terms of language, hymns and other aspects.

The new guidelines will be introduced on 20 May on the Christian holiday of Pentecost.

A former state church, headquartered in the city of Uppsala, some 37 miles north of the capital, the church has 6.1 million baptised members in a country of 10 million.

It is headed by a woman, Archbishop Antje Jackelen, who was ordained a priest in the Church of Sweden in 1980 and became a Doctor of Theology at Lund University in 1999.

Speaking to Sweden’s TT news agency, Ms Jackelen said the use of more gender-inclusive language had been discussed several decades ago, as early as 1986.

“Theologically, for instance, we know that God is beyond our gender determinations, God is not human,” she said.

The decision has been met with some criticism, however.

Christer Pahlmblad, an associate theology professor at Lund University, told the Kristeligt Dagblad newspaper in Denmark: “It really isn’t smart if the Church of Sweden becomes known as a church that does not respect the common theology heritage.”

Earlier this month, the Church of England issued new advice to its 5,000 schools stating children should be able to try out “the many cloaks of identity” without fear of being bullied.

Guidance for the schools on homophobic bullying, first published three years ago, now includes transphobic and biphobic bullying.

The advice urges 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.

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