Some Catholic schoolgirls in Australia are being taught that God is gender-neutral. They're banned from using the words “Lord,” “Father,” and “Son” in prayers in efforts to be “gender inclusive.”
Top-tier Catholic schools in Brisbane, some of which charge up to $40,000 a year, are teaching their students to use “gender inclusive language” when referring to God, The Sunday Mail reports.
Students at Stuartholme School are taught to use gender-neutral language – including the word “Godself’’ in place of “himself.”
“As we believe God is neither male or female, Stuartholme tries to use gender-neutral terms in prayers … so that our community deepens their understanding of who God is for them, how God reveals Godself through creation, our relationships with others and the person of Jesus,” a spokeswoman said.
Similarly, Loreto College in Coorparoo has removed the word “Lord” from its prayers, as it is regarded as a “male term.”
“Loreto, as a leading school for girls, has a commitment to using inclusive language. There are occasions where gendered language may be appropriate, including references to specific religious and biblical figures,” Principal Kim Wickham said.
According to its website, Loreto’s mission is to “transform the Church and the world particularly by empowering women to seek truth and do justice.”
St. Rita’s also uses gender-neutral terms for God. “We strive to use gender-neutral terms for God, for example, ‘God and God’s people’ rather than ‘God and His people.’ ‘Spirit’ is also gender-neutral,” said Assistant Principal Richard Rogusz.
Brisbane’s top Catholic boys’ school, St. Joseph’s College, has replaced the term “brothers” with “sisters and brothers” and switched the term “brotherhood” with “international community.”
“This has been an area of growth for us in recent times,” a spokesman told Sunday Times. “We have made changes to a number of prayers to be more gender-inclusive.”
Andrea Dean, Catholic Office for the Participation of Women director, told the Sunday Mail she was “thrilled” that schools were using gender-neutral prayer.
“It’s terrific that they’re sensitive to the implications of how God is named,” she said.
“God is not of any gender. In the times the scripture was written, (Lord and Father) were terms of honor – most of the terms of honor were related to men,” she added.
However, Australian Christian lobbyist Lyle Shelton criticized the move, telling the Sunday Mail: “This is further evidence of the agenda of those who sought to ‘de-gender’ marriage – now they want to de-gender religion."
“In Christian theology, God expresses himself as a father in the male gender. The scriptures clearly explain God to us as a father," she said.
In recent years, a number of denominations have pushed for more "gender-inclusive" language for God.
In 2017, the Church of Sweden encouraged clergy to use gender-neutral terms for God instead of "He" or "the Lord" in an attempt to "modernize" church services.
And last year, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rev. Justin Welby, said: "All human language about God is inadequate and to some degree metaphorical,” according to the Mail Online.
"God is not a father in exactly the same way as a human being is a father. God is not male or female. God is not definable. It is extraordinarily important as Christians that we remember that the definitive revelation of who God is was not in words, but in the word of God who we call Jesus Christ. We can't pin God down."
Some Protestant denominations, including the Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, have also debated the use of gendered language for God.
In 2017, two of the top divinity schools in the United States — Vanderbilt and Duke — asked faculty to use "more inclusive" language when talking about God because the masculine pronouns “have served as a cornerstone of the patriarchy," the National Review reported.
But reformed evangelist John Piper, among a number of other prominent Christian theologians, have argued that the Bible leaves very little room for debate on the subject of God’s gender.
"God revealed Himself in the Bible pervasively as king, not queen; father, not mother," Piper said back in 2012 at the annual pastor's conference hosted by his Desiring God ministry.
"Second person of the Trinity is revealed as the eternal Son, not daughter; the Father and the Son create man and woman in His image and give them the name man, the name of the male," he added.