Now that the Church of England has ordained its first female bishops, it is considering changing the Book of Common Prayer and catechetical materials to refer to God as “she” and as “mother.” (This will probably be in formulations like “father and mother” as some liberal churches are already doing.)
Here is a good response to this effort from a Roman Catholic perspective: Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Twelve Reasons Why You Can’t Call God “Mother.”
Support is growing within the Church of England to rewrite its official liturgy to refer to God as female following the selection of the first women bishops.
Growing numbers of priests already insert words such as “she” and “mother” informally into traditional service texts as part of a move to make the language of worship more inclusive, it has been claimed.
But calls for a full overhaul of liturgy to recognise the equal status of women have already been discussed informally at a senior level.
It comes after the “Transformations Steering Group”, a body which meets in Lambeth Palace to examine the impact of women in ministry on the Church of England, issued a public call to the bishops to encourage more “expansive language and imagery about God”.Hilary Cotton, chair of Women And The Church (Watch), the group which led the campaign for female bishops, said the shift away from the traditional patriarchal language of the Book of Common Prayer in already at an “advanced” stage in some quarters.
“The reality is that in many churches up and down the country something more than the almost default male language about God is already being used,” she said.
“Quietly clergy are just talking about God as ‘she’ every now and then.
“The response you often get at one end is ‘why does it matter because God is beyond all this?’
“At the other end the reaction is ‘you mustn’t because Jesus calls God father.”
Mrs Cotton said that while congregations were already experimenting with new terminology, it was time for the issue to be considered by the Liturgical Commission, the body which drafts official service books, as well as those drawing behind a planned new catechism.
“Until we shift considerably towards a more gender-full expression in our worship about God then we are failing God and we are missing something,” she said.
“We are [also] going to miss some of the opportunities that otherwise particularly women might feel themselves called to.”
Her comments came following a discussion at the Westminster Faith Debates on whether the consecration of women as bishops would “change” the Church of England.