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Diocese of Washington pushes for wider inclusion

Diocese of Washington pushes for wider inclusion

At its recent diocesan convention, the diocese of Washington (D.C.), approved a resolution calling on General Convention to expand the imagery used for God and to avoid gendered pronouns in any prayer book revisions it might authorize.


Here is the actual resolution from the convention materials;

Resolved, the Convention of the Diocese of Washington submits to the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church the following resolution:

 Resolved, the House of ____________ concurring, that the 79th General Convention direct the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, if revision of the Book of Common Prayer is authorized, 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.


Lifesite’s report quotes clergy delegate Linda R. Calkins support for the resolution;

“Having studied much feminist theology in my masters’ degrees, I wrote a thesis on liberation and freedom and non-equality in feminist theology and existential counseling,” Calkins told the delegates, as reported by The Institute On Religion & Democracy.

“And I am still waiting for the Episcopal Church to come to the place where all people feel that they can speak God’s name. Many, many women that I have spoken with over my past almost 20 years in ordained ministry have felt that they could not be a part of any church because of the male image of God that is systemic and that is sustained throughout our liturgies. Many of us are waiting and need to hear God in our language, in our words and in our pronouns,”


Several conservative and reactionary websites, such as Juicy Ecumenism and Breitbart picked up the story and excoriated the liberal bent of the resolution (and two others addressing sanctuaries (for migrants without documents) and inclusion of transgender persons); linking such decisions to the declining attendance across the diocese.


image from diocesan Facebook page


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Marshall Scott

I think we should note that Lifesite is itself a conservative site (if perhaps not “reactionary”), started by a Canadian pro-life organization. If you read the article you will see just how carefully they found voices out of Roman and Greek Christian tradition (important, but we may not find them compelling on this) in opposition to this action.

I work with folks who, when reading from Scripture, say “God” to replace every instance of “he” that is not referring to the incarnate Jesus. Sometimes that’s clumsy; but that’s not a good justification for not broadening our language. I find myself thinking how often in the Psalms we could say “who,” instead of “he” – look at Ps. 147: 14-21 (BCP p. 805). Or, sometimes we could just eliminate a pronoun – so, say, change 148:3 from “Praise him, sun and moon;* praise him, all you shining stars;” to “Praise God, sun and moon;* praise, all you shining stars.”

Sure, there are harder decisions to make, but why let that stop making easy ones?

Tom Sramek+.Jr.

I believe that any revision to the Book of Common Prayer 1979 should both reflect and form the experiences of as many Episcopalians as possible. We should retain what we have and add a more inclusive Eucharistic Prayer E and F. If we eliminate gendered terms from the entire BCP, we say to huge swaths of the church “you’ve been praying it wrong.” Not an either/or, a both/and.


[Please use your first and last name when commenting. Thanks, Editor]

When we stop referring God the Father and God the Son, the creed is meaningless, and we might as well John Shelby Spong.

Ed Higginbotham

Maybe I’m missing something, but the resolution does not suggest anything like that. Encouraging any revision of the BCP to use ” expansive language for God from the rich sources of feminine, masculine, and non-binary imagery for God found in Scripture and tradition” doesn’t even suggest using only images and terms that are not gendered, and doesn’t call for changing the Creeds at all. Avoiding gendered pronouns for God (not for Jesus, who is gendered) “when possible” doesn’t call for the elimination of all gendered pronouns, either. Still, there are lots of places where it is possible to do so, and where it won’t be obtrusive. Look at this–
President: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
All: It is right to give [God] thanks and praise. (“God” replaces “him”)

The gendered pronoun is avoided, and the response is neither clunky nor tendentious. This is no attack on traditional Christian faith.

Prof Christopher Seitz

“Avoiding gendered pronouns for God (not for Jesus, who is gendered) “when possible” doesn’t call for the elimination of all gendered pronouns, either.”

You have an irenic take on this but it seems to disagree with what is being reported. Who is right? The Diocese has voted for avoiding gendered pronouns. When is it “not possible”?

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