[lg policy] More words for God
haroldfs at gmail.com
Sun Feb 25 15:50:36 EST 2018
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More words for God Making language of liturgy more inclusive a debate worth
By: Brenda Suderman
Posted: *02/24/2018 3:00 AM* | Comments: 1
[image: Max Rossi / The Associated Press Files</p><p>Lutheran Archbishop
Antje Jackelén at an ecumenical mass in Lund’s Lutheran cathedral in Sweden
in 2016. The Church of Sweden is revising its liturgical handbook.</p></p>]
Max Rossi / The Associated Press Files
Lutheran Archbishop Antje Jackelén at an ecumenical mass in Lund’s Lutheran
cathedral in Sweden in 2016. The Church of Sweden is revising its
A recent uproar around theological language in the Christian church
demonstrates that how people speak about God can be extremely personal and
deeply entrenched, a Winnipeg-based Lutheran bishop says.
"It’s hard to change the language in those things that are internalized and
part of the rhythm of their faith," says National Bishop Susan Johnson of
the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
"It’s like changes to *O Canada*."
Unlike the recent modifications to the Canadian anthem, revisions to make
the Church of Sweden’s liturgy more inclusive led to international
headlines and cries of fake news by church officials.
News agencies reported that the Church of Sweden, which has about six
million baptized members, was banning male pronouns for God, removing the
name "Lord" in reference to the deity, and insisting on gender-neutral
Not true, says the head of the church’s service of worship committee, which
is working on a new liturgical handbook to be released in May.
Instead, the updates will use more inclusive language and options for
various ways to speak about the deity, says Sofija Pedersen Videke in a
statement released late last year.
"The old handbook is from 1986 and the new edition is much more in line
with the Swedish Bible translation made in 2000," Pedersen Videke told
Swedish news agency the Local.
"God is beyond ‘she’ and ‘he’; God is so much more."
She says what the new liturgy will do is provide more options referring to
the deity, including using the words "in the name of the triune God" as an
alternative to "Father, Son and Holy Spirit."
That’s an option already available to Canadian Lutherans, Johnson says,
adding her denomination is reviewing its inclusive-language guidelines.
"Language is living and as we have new ideas, we need to be more precise,"
she says about the updates expected next month.
Johnson says Archbishop Antje Jackelén of Sweden recently sent a message to
other Lutheran groups playing down the changes and explaining the
misrepresentation in the media.
"I think the Church of Sweden is under more scrutiny because of their
actions around human sexuality and they were misunderstood" about the
liturgy changes, Johnson says.
The Swedish Lutheran church marries and ordains people from the LGBTTQ*
community, which Johnson says resulted in criticism from more conservative
groups within the wider Lutheran church.
Whatever the context, varying references to God can create deeper and
broader understanding of the deity, Johnson says.
"When we use different language for God and for people, we think about our
prayers and singing in a different way," Johnson says in a telephone
interview from her Winnipeg office.
"We think about what messages we are trying to communicate and what we are
trying to understand. It refreshes and renews the relationship."
And people relate differently to images, says a local United Church of
Canada minister, underlining the importance of using a variety of names and
metaphors for the deity.
"Our multiple images of God try to house all the ways of seeing God," says
Rev. Loraine MacKenzie Shepherd of Westworth United Church, referring to
biblical terms for God such as father, mother, light, rock and bread.
She says the United Church has an inclusive-language policy, but individual
congregations decide how to implement it.
MacKenzie Shepherd believes that the discussion around theological language
needs to move beyond God and gender to include all types of diversity.
"If we’re all created in God’s image, that suggests God would encompass all
of our diversity," she says.
"God is so much bigger than we can even dream or imagine."
Harold F. Schiffman
Professor Emeritus of
Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305
Phone: (215) 898-7475
Fax: (215) 573-2138
Email: haroldfs at gmail.com
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