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Leading Church of England archbishop draws ire after concern-mongering about the 'oppressively patriarchal' terms used in the Lord's Prayer
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Leading Church of England archbishop draws ire after concern-mongering about the 'oppressively patriarchal' terms used in the Lord's Prayer

A top official in the Church of England has raised concerns about the wording of the prayer gifted to Christians by Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4, Jesus taught his disciples how to pray. In both accounts, he began the prescribed prayer with "Our Father."

Stephen Cottrell, the archbishop of York and the Anglican church's second-highest ranking prelate, suggested in his address to the CE's general synod Friday that references to God as "Father" can be "problematic," particularly for those who've had less-than-stellar parents during their tenure here on earth, reported the Times.

Cottrell, who previously underscored the need to "celebrate and affirm same-sex relationships," emphasized the fraternity of man, noting that all "sisters and brothers" are ultimately part of the same family with God as its head.

The archbishop then turned to the matter of the Lord's Prayer, saying, "If this God to whom we pray is 'father' — and yes, I know the word 'father' is problematic for those whose experience of earthly fathers has been destructive and abusive and for all of us who have labored rather too much from an oppressively patriarchal grip on life."

Cottrell proceeded to suggest that divisions between Christians were hazardous, adding, "At our peril do we underestimate the terrible damage our visible disunity does to our proclamation of the Gospel."

Cottrell's progressive critique of the Lord's Prayer was not well received by some fellow Anglicans who reckon Christ got it right the first time, reported the Guardian.

Canon Dr. Chris Sugden, a CE minister and chair of the conservative Anglican Mainstream group, said, "Is the archbishop of York saying Jesus was wrong, or that Jesus was not pastorally aware? It seems to be emblematic of the approach of some church leaders to take their cues from culture rather than scripture."

"If people have had a difficult relationship with their human fathers then the option open to them is to say you can rediscover the true nature of fatherhood through Christ," added Sugden.

Cottrell managed to strike a chord with revolutionaries inside the Anglican church.

Christina Rees, a minister and former synod member who advocated for female bishops, sided with Cottrell, noting that calling God "father" was "hugely problematic."

"There are multiple layers why the term 'father' is really difficult for people in the church. It's the way it's been set for so long and so we're stuck," said Rees. "Because Jesus called God 'daddy', we think we have to call God 'daddy'. And the big question is, do we really believe God believes that male human beings bear the image of God more fully and accurately than women? The answer is absolutely not."

Reuters reported earlier this year that the CE has been looking into whether to use gender-neutral terms to refer to God in prayers such as the "Our Father," ostensibly presuming an oversight on the part of Christ.

Fox News Digital indicated that Joanna Stobart, a CE vicar in Surrey, was among those who had pushed for "an update on the steps being taken to develop more inclusive language in our authorized liturgy and to provide more options for those who wish to use authorized liturgy and speak of God in a non-gendered way, particularly in authorized absolutions where many of the prayers offered for use refer to God using male pronouns?"

The Edina Community Lutheran Church in Minneapolis recently demonstrated how far the CE could go in terms of conforming Christian faith to modern designs with its "Sparkle Creed," wherein parishioners stake their belief "in the non-binary God whose pronouns are plural."

Concerning the CE's contemplation of more gender-neutral phrasings, a spokesman for the church said, "Christians have recognized since ancient times that God is neither male nor female. ... Yet the variety of ways of addressing and describing God found in scripture has not always been reflected in our worship."

Conservative Anglicans stressed that "male and female imagery is not interchangeable," reported the Telegraph.

While the archbishop of York did not explicitly recommend a change to the Lord's Prayer in his remarks Friday, his provocative critique nevertheless comes at a time of great instability for the Anglican church.

In February, the conservative heads of numerous Anglican member churches renounced the primacy of the archbishop of Canterbury, citing the "recent decision of the Church of England's General Synod to legitimise and incorporate into the Church's liturgy the blessing of same sex unions" as cause.

The Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches said in a statement that the "Church of England has departed from the historic faith passed down from the Apostles by this innovation in the liturgies of the Church and her pastoral practice (contravening her own Canon A5), she has disqualified herself from leading the Communion as the historic 'Mother' Church,'" and "has chosen to break communion with those provinces who remain faithful to the historic biblical faith expressed in the Anglican formularies."

Despite the GSFA's renunciation earlier this year, Cottrell said in his remarks that the Anglican church was "not splitting" but does "face enormous challenges."

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