Church leaders say the tendency to describe God as “he” is a growing problem, some even going so far as to argue calling God a man is heresy.
The calls come after a YouGov survey found almost half of 18-24 year old Christians believe God is male, with one in three over-65s believing the same. Only one percent of respondents believed God was female.
The Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Rev Rachel Treweek said: “I don’t want young girls or young boys to hear us constantly refer to God as ‘he’.”
She warned it is important to be “mindful of our language” so as to avoid alienating non-Christians from the Church.
She told the Sunday Telegraph: “For me, particularly in a bigger context, in all things, whether it’s that you go to a website and you see pictures of all-white people, or whether you go to a website and see the use of ‘he’ when we could use God, all of those things are giving subconscious messages to people.
“I am very hot about saying we can always look at what we are communicating.”
Bishop Treweek became the first female bishop to sit in the house of Lords in 2015 and famously sent back the initial version of her writ of summons because it referred to her as a “right reverend father in God”.
The Rt Rev Dr Jo Bailey Wells, The Bishop of Dorking said using male language is a “growing problem” as language generally becomes more gender neutral.
Rev Wells said: “When I lead prayers or preach, I try to get around the problem by using both male and female imagery, and also by avoiding the need to say ‘his’ or ‘him’ too often.”
She said she doesn’t “avoid male language altogether”.
But the Rev Sally Hitchener, Anglican chaplain at Brunel University, said it is “heretical” to say God is only male.
Rev Hitchener said: “No academic theologian in the UK would objectively say that God is male, and yet that is common parlance in a lot of the Church and definitely the message coming across in lots of the media communications that we’re sending out there.”
According to Rev Hitchener, a movement is growing within the Church featuring events organised to “emphasise the feminine nature of God”.
Responding to the survey results, the Rev Dr Ian Paul, the theologian and member of the Archbishops’ Council, said he thought the results were partly due to a culture where: “Sex identity is ever present”.
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