An Episcopal Church resolution calling upon the denomination's General Convention to "avoid the use of gendered pronouns for God" is gaining increased attention and prompting some church officials to defend the move.
First covered on this blog January 29, the resolution was adopted by the Episcopal Diocese of Washington's annual convention on January 27. Episcopalians are expected to begin revisions to the Book of Common Prayer at the denomination's triennial General Convention this July in Austin, Texas. The resolution is directed at the national church's governing body should such a process begin.
The resolution, titled "On the Gendered Language for God" has since garnered critical coverage in several conservative or Christian outlets including The Daily Caller, The Blaze, Breitbart, Christian Post, Life Site, Washington Times, American Family Radio and at least 15 other publications.
Tucker Carlson Tonight on the Fox News Channel featured an interview with Fr. Alex Dyer, a sponsor of the resolution, on the February 5 broadcast. Even the Christian satirical news site The Babylon Bee chimed in with the headline "37 Episcopalians Remaining On Planet Vote To Stop Using Male Pronouns For God".
Liberal blog Episcopal Café made note of the resolution on February 2 as a push for "wider inclusion". The denomination's official mouthpiece, Episcopal News Service, eventually acknowledged the story February 7 with a positive spin of its own, portraying the legislative effort as expansive rather than reductive.
Reports from some publications confused proposed text for the resolution with an amended version passed by the diocesan convention. The original proposed resolution directed General Convention "to eliminate, when possible, all gendered references to God and to replace them with gender neutral language, and if necessary, to alternate gendered titles when referring to God." The amended resolution softened the directions, "to utilize expansive language for God from the rich sources of feminine, masculine, and non-binary imagery for God found in Scripture and tradition and, when possible, to avoid the use of gendered pronouns for God."
The decision to change from "eliminate" to "avoid" gendered pronouns/references for God may be a subtlety lost on some readers, however.
Episcopal Bishop of Washington Mariann Budde was quoted by ENS noting "vitriolic" reaction in a handful of e-mail reactions received.
"It's clear they didn't read the resolution," Budde told ENS.
Part of the push back may be in the context of debate about gender and language in the current national political conversation. Following passage of the diocesan resolution, both Dyer and Budde have pivoted towards characterizing it as merely an expansion of the church's liturgies, rather than address avoidance of God's preferred pronouns and titles when speaking of himself in scripture.
Budde told ENS that she sees the resolution's push for "gender-inclusive" language as a spiritual matter, not a cultural or political issue.
Carlson is a lifelong Episcopalian who has written before about his participation at a church in the Diocese of Washington.
Jeff Walton is Communications Manager for the Institute on Religion & Democracy and directs the Anglican program. He graduated in 2001 from Seattle Pacific University and is a member of Restoration Anglican Church in Arlington, VA.
Originally posted at Juicy Ecumenism.