The Episcopal Church has decided that an immediate revision of the Book of Common Prayer was needed because they wished to include a more “expansive and inclusive language” for God and humanity. What does that mean? The revision to the book came from the dissatisfaction with the books “overwhelming use of masculine language”. The clergy- which has several transgender members- feels strongly that it is wrong to claim God is a man as God is often referenced using masculine nouns, pronouns, and imagery (He, His, Father). Members had been pushing for a revision since 2015, and now the church is prepared to move forward.
The move came at the mainline denomination’s 79th general convention in Austin, Texas. The House of Deputies voted to adopt a resolution that approved the revision to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer which would remove the masculine language for God. Resolution AO69 was passed on Saturday with clergy voting 63 yes, 26 no, and 15 divided. If passed by the House of Bishops, the investment to change the book will be estimated to be close to £7 million.
It has been speculated that the revisions will not stop at just generating more gender-neutral language in reference to God. Another goal is to widen the marriage rite to include same-sex ceremonies which is permitted in the Episcopal Church. The Book of Common Prayer has not been edited to include these rites.
Sentiment on this subject has been divided among the clergy. Rev. Jane Johnson (deputy, Fond du Lac) says that humans in all of their diversity, are made in the image of God. She feels the church must remove the image that God is both white and female. “God’s pronouns are them and their, not he,” she said.
Louisa McKellaston (deputy, Chicago) echos Rev. Jane Johnson’s sentiments. She is concerned that the language in the prayer book is unwelcoming for congregants and seekers alike.
Those who oppose note that changing to a more neutral language is contrary to Scripture and tradition. “Who are we to change … references to God? The Jews have used the male pronoun Elohim to refer to God for thousands of years,” commented one Episcopal News Service reader.
The change is expected to be completed by 2030 and may take longer for the Episcopal Church to fully complete with revisions.