By Bob Hulteen, Director of Communications and Stewardship
I have a confession to make, like a real confession: I don’t say the first line of the Lord’s Prayer. (It’s not the only slight edit I make, but it is the most noticeable one, probably.) Yep. I don’t say “Our Father, who art in heaven.”
I am fine for folks to make a different choice. I mean, context and conscience certainly interact with how we as individuals approach liturgy. I find it powerful when we all say words together in confession or prayer.
But, I don’t find that limiting God into a particular gender to be helpful to my spiritual growth. Now, if we started “Mothering Hen, who art in heaven,” who knows what I’d do.
How we envision God does seem to be worthy of conversation for all of us.
Don’t get me wrong. My dad was incredibly wonderful; amazing even. But that is not true for all of my friends. And aligning God’s personage to a human sexual or gender identity really feels like worshipping graven images to me.
Our last Ministerium speaker, Elizabeth Johnson, writes, “that only if God is named in the more complete way, only if the full reality of historical women of all races and classes enters into our symbol of the divine, only then will the idolatrous fixation on one image of God be broken, will women be empowered at their deepest core, and will religious and civic communities be converted toward healing justice in the concrete” (from Quest for the Living God). That makes a lot of sense to me.
THE ELCA IS ENGAGED now in preparing a social statement on gender justice. The preparation materials are titled “Faith, Sexism, and Justice: Conversations toward a Social Statement.” The Faith, Sexism, and Justice Task Force, which includes Bishop Ann, has created a seven-session study to facilitate discussion within congregations and conferences. Churchwide staff would like feedback from individuals and congregations by August 31, 2017, in order to continue the process of writing the social statement which we will be considering at the 2019 Churchwide Assembly.
A subcommittee of the Minneapolis Area Synod’s Public Voice Committee is currently making plans to facilitate this conversation within the synod. There will be encouragement and resourcing that will help congregations discuss the material, and at least one synodical event will feature an opportunity to engage issues of gender justice and language. (Keep reading the synod’s weekly enews for more information.)
It’s not always clear what to do in issues around justice and God language. We can stumble over pronouns and worry about how new visitors will respond – one way or the other – to new ways to envision our Creator.
But how we envision God does seem to be worthy of conversation for all of us. Each of us can likely be stretched by the experience of our sisters and brothers. Thank God for a denomination that is not afraid of such interactions as we seek to be communities of faith engaged for the sake of the world.