Presbyterians Consider Triune 'Mother, Child, and Womb'

Presbyterians this June will be asked to ratify a new report on Trinitarian theology that describes the cornerstone doctrine in various metaphorical terms, including a controversial description of the triune God as “Mother, Child and Womb.”

“[The report] aims to assist the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in reclaiming the doctrine of Trinity in theology, worship and life,” the introduction to the 40-page report, “God’s Love Overflowing,” states.

The report, which has been underway since 2000, includes theological and liturgical sessions that are meant for use in study sessions on the doctrine.

“The doctrine is widely neglected or poorly understood in many of our congregations,” the statement reads. “The members of our work group are convinced that the doctrine of trinity is crucial to our faith, worship, and service.”

Describing the Trinity has often proved contentious in mainline denominations, with some adhering to the classical Biblical description of the Triune Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and others adopting more liberal terms such as the Triune “Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier.”

From the onset, the report acknowledges such differences over “new ways of speaking of the Trinity,” but goes on to say that no name, no metaphor, no set of words or phrases – however thoughtful, poetic or profound – will ever be able to say everything that could be said about the mystery of God's love made known to us above all in Jesus Christ and sealed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit."

In what is likely the report’s most controversial segment, the panel explores the “female imagery of the Triune God” – a suggestion that is sure to draw fire from conservative Christians.

"The overflowing love of God finds expression in the biblical depiction of God as compassionate mother (Isa 49:15; 66:13), beloved child (Mt 3:17), and life-giving womb (Isa 46:3),” the report states. “The divine wisdom (hochmah in Hebrew, Sophia in Greek) is portrayed in the Bible as a woman who preaches in the streets, gives instruction, advocates justice, builds houses, and acts as a gracious hostess (Prov 1,8,9)."

In other descriptions the report uses other biblical terms to name the Triune God.

“We may use words that speaks of the inner relations of the Godhead – Lover, Beloved, Love, and those that speak of the loving activity of the Three among us – Creator, Savior, Sanctifier, Rock, Redeemer, Friend, King of Glory, Prince of Peace, Spirit of Love."

The report includes six recommendations for the denomination to approve during its 217th General Assembly in June, including a call for the document to be published and be made available for further study.