Calling God ‘Father’ may be ‘problematic’, pronounced the Archbishop of York at Friday’s formal opening of the General Synod. Watching the live stream, I did a double take and had to rewind a few seconds to play it back. Did he really just say this? Archbishop Stephen Cottrell explained his reasoning: ‘For all of us who have laboured too much from an oppressively patriarchal grip on life…’ Who is the ‘us’ here? Is it too personal to ask what in Cottrell’s history has been oppressive? Can he really claim to have laboured under the patriarchy?
The calculation is that there needs to be a revolution so that the unchurched masses, especially the young, will flock back
But more importantly, do we really need a gender-neutral makeover of our sacred liturgy? Why can’t the Church have faith in the intelligence of its congregation and, indeed, the word of God written in the Bible? Surely you don’t need to be a Cranmer or Aquinas to grasp that there is a world of difference between the fatherhood of God and a human father? It’s obvious that interchanging the divine name to ‘mother’ or reducing the same to the anodyne ‘our parent’ is not only theologically dubious and disrespectful to the authority of Holy Writ but also aesthetically awful. No one in their right mind would consider editing Shakespeare or Dante, so why is the Bible fair game? How is this not cultural and theological vandalism?
Though the Synod, back in February, gave the green light to a liturgical commission to work on gender-neutral terms for the Almighty, the truth is that it has been open season for yonks. Pity the congregant who has to endure a vicar who every Sunday crafts one of these kinds of services, which often end up sounding like those 1960s protest songs that went out with Woodstock. Calling God ‘mum’ is now almost staid compared to apologising to plants for climate change or solemnly consuming jam doughnuts in the name of period poverty. I kid you not. I am waiting for the day when a vicar passes ‘the pipe of peace’ around the pews.
Read it all in the Spectator