A gendered God

Have you heard about this, from the Guardian?

Let God be a ‘she,’ says Church of England women’s group

“A group within the Church of England is calling for God to be referred to as female following the selection of the first female bishops.

“The group wants the church to recognise the equal status of women by overhauling official liturgy, which is made up almost exclusively of male language and imagery to describe God.

“Rev Jody Stowell, a member of Women and the Church (Watch), the pressure group that led the campaign for female bishops, said: ‘Orthodox theology says all human beings are made in the image of God, that God does not have a gender. He encompasses gender – he is both male and female and beyond male and female. So when we only speak of God in the male form, that’s actually giving us a deficient understanding of who God is.’”

Let’s stop right here . . . Rev. Stowell uses “He” to describe God while suggesting that “She” should be used to describe God.


Evidently, old habits may be more difficult to change than Rev. Stowell realizes.

It’s also curious that Rev. Stowell doesn’t mention, (or the article fails to report), that God already is referred to in feminine terms in the Hebrew scriptures. (Unless you read Hebrew, you probably don’t know this. It’s easy to blame your pastor for not teaching the etymology of some words, but if Rev. Stowell can’t mention it in this context, who will?)

In Hebrew, Wisdom and Spirit (ruach, or breath) are feminine words. So any verse in the Hebrew scripture that speaks to the Wisdom or Spirit of God is referring to the feminine aspects of God.

I agree with these clergy that God is more than male terms. I would assert that even more than a “deficient” understanding of God, male words to describe God makes it easier to accept bad, patriarchal theology that can easily marginalize women.

But using feminine words to describe God really doesn’t do much good, either.

All language falls short, so why would we willingly persist in using a failed vernacular when overhauling the official liturgy?

Rather than add feminine words, why not remove the male words?


The Lord

The Creator

The Divine

The Holy Spirit

the Spirit


Breath of God

sounds much better than


Doesn’t it?

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5 Responses to A gendered God

  1. Aaron says:

    I find the Rev. Dr Cynthia Bourgeaults insights relevant here. When asked about using feminine pronouns with the trinity she stopped and said (and I’m paraphrasing) “Sure, use masculine, feminine, neuter, use whatever language you want that opens up your heart space and helps you encounter the divine. It doesn’t matter what you use because they, like all names of God, are metaphor. What’s most important isn’t the names used but the relationship between the persons of the trinity and us. So use whatever metaphorical language helps open you up to that relationship.”

    So maybe instead of changing the language they should put in brackets or something that lets people change the service as needed with metaphors as needed that speaks to that particular person, group, or service.


  2. This denies Matthew 6:9 and Luke 11:2, where Yahshua Jesus the Son teaches His disciples how to pray. The very first things He teaches them is to address YaHVeH as “Our FATHER which art in heaven”. I am offended if people purposefully address me in a way that I do not wish to be addressed, and it is foolish to address YaHVeH differently than He taught us to address Him.


    • jim says:

      Thanks for your comment.

      I’m guessing that there’s not much I can say to explain to you the nuances of language.

      For example, your use of YaHVeH isn’t how God is referred to, at all, in the New Testament.

      So, while maintaining that it “is foolish to address YaHVeH differently than He taught us to address Him,” that’s actually exactly, EXACTLY what you’re doing.

      You’re referring to God one way, as one people did, in one context, and ignoring your own example, of how God is referred to in another context, thousands of years later.

      So, if you want to address God the way you think God should be addressed, then you’ll want to use this spelling:

      πάτερ ἡμῶν

      Thanks again.


  3. How we perceive God determines the fate of females. As Mary Daly said, if God is male then men are Gods. Even those who don’t believe in God are deeply influenced by the collective belief in God as male, as it deeply permeates all facets of our world. My experience in the church is that most Christians are not that familiar with their Bible, and specifically any female reference to God. Therefore using female language for God in the church and out in the world is critically important if we care about the fate of women and girls.


    • jim says:

      I agree.

      Perceptions are shaped by language — and generations of men have oppressed women and blacks, because of gender- specific language in the Bible.

      And how we speak of God ultimately describes how we speak of each other.

      My concern is that using female language is a step sideways, rather than a step forward.

      In the long run, describing God as the Mother of Creation will help us interact with each other differently, but so, too, will we interact with each other differently if we interact differently with the Creator.

      Rather than continue to bring God down to human terms, I’d like to see us try to elevate ourselves to a level closer to the One who created us.


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