The Church of Sweden has voted to stop its leaders from referring to God as “He” or “The Lord.” The reason? To be more gender-inclusive.
The church’s 251-member decision-making body decided on Thursday to update its 31-year-old handbook that directs leaders how to conduct a service. The manual instructs leaders the proper language to use during services, the liturgy to be used, hymnals to sing, among other aspects of a service, according to the Telegraph UK.
“We talk about Jesus Christ, but in a few places we have changed it to say ‘God’ instead of ‘he,'” Church of Sweden spokesperson Sofija Pedersen Videke told the Telegraph.
Now, for instance, the church will refer to the Trinity — which consists of God the Father, Jesus Christ the son and the Holy Spirit — as “God and the Holy Trinity.” Typically, the Trinity is referred to as “the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
The decision will officially take effect on May 20, during Pentecost, a Christian holiday. The church first discussed gender-neutral language as early as 1986.
What did the church say?
The church’s leader, Archbishop Antje Jackelen, defended the change.
“Theologically, for instance, we know that God is beyond our gender determinations, God is not human,” she said.
What did detractors say?
Christer Pahlmblad, an associate theology professor at Sweden’s Lund University, told a Danish newspaper that the change wasn’t wise.
“It really isn’t smart if the Church of Sweden becomes known as a church that does not respect the common theology heritage,” he said, according to the Guardian.
Other churches, including those in Europe and in America, have made an effort in recent years to become more progressive. For instance, the Church of England decided recently to use gender-neutral language during its services. However, that rule doesn’t apply when discussing God.