“The Church of Sweden will begin using more gender-neutral language when referring to ‘God’, it has said. Members of the church will be encouraged to use the general term ‘God’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘the Lord’.
The new changes, announced by the national Evangelical Lutheran church, comes as part of an effort to modernise the church’s 31-year-old handbook on services. The clergy announced the move on November 23 and said it aims to become more gender inclusive. The new updates to the handbook will offer new options on what to name God during services. For example, the phrase ‘in the name of the Father, son and Holy Spirit’ used at the start of service can be changed to ‘in the name of God and the Holy Trinity’.
Lena Sjostrand, chaplain of Lund Cathedral told PBS NewsHour: ‘We have a consciousness about gender questions, which is stronger in our time than it has been before. ‘Of course, this has had an impact on theology and on church life and pastoral reflection.’
She added: ‘I don’t think that God is a big mother or a father sitting up in the sky. I don’t think that makes sense. ‘God is something much bigger than this.’ Church leader, Archbishop Antje Jackelen, said that the changes were already ‘part of tradition’. She said: ‘Like Julian of Norwich in the 14th century said, as sure as God is our father, God is our mother. This is not something that’s newly invented.
‘It’s part of our tradition.’ But the changes have criticised by some, with Pastor Mikael Lowegren telling the site: ‘God being the father means he has a son.’ The changes are due to come into force in six months time, but the church has said the clergy will not be forced to adopt the language, according to reports.”