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In this age of “Political Correctness”, it seems that many people now frown upon the use of he as a gender-neutral pronoun with which to refer to the Christian God, though it was universally used for centuries before the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s. Julian of Norwich and Hildegard of Bingen both referred to “Mother God” in the Middle Ages, but there seem to be no other notable examples throughout history.

Are there any traditions which avoid the wrath of those who object to male-dominated language and refer to the Christian God as she, it or they? Or is God always male and he?

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  • Christisns generally don't mind if you refer to God as "he"; they're really not that much into political corrrectness or gender-neutrality. – Brian Hitchcock Jan 8 '15 at 4:20
  • This question asks about domain-specific language and is more suited to a domain-specific SE site, since there is one. I've adjusted it to make it even more fitted here (and probably should have edited it here rather than on ELU -- sorry about that). – Andrew Leach Jan 8 '15 at 7:57
  • A key point is that the Bible refers to God as "He" and never "She". This applies to the Father, Son and Spirit. True Christianity has always run counter to secular philosophies, and it always will. It should not be changed to accommodate non-Christian biases. It is not ours to tell God what gender He is. It should be noted, though, that God's masculinity is not biological. The Son did become a Man biologically, but even the Son's masculinity was before His incarnation. – Narnian Jan 9 '15 at 13:12
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    Starting from the snarky assumption that the only reason a church might move to gender-neutral pronouns is to "avoid the wrath" of "Political Correctness" doesn't seem like a good way to solicit a real answer to the question. – Chris Sunami Jan 9 '15 at 21:00
  • @BrianHitchcock There are 2.4 billion Christians in the world, are you speaking for all of them? – Chris Sunami Jan 9 '15 at 21:02
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At least two churches have decided to abstain from referring to God exclusively as "he".

The United Church of Christ.

The Eleventh General Synod instructed that a Book of Worship be developed and characterized by language that is truly inclusive with respect to God and to people. Although the generic use of masculine terms has been accepted practice, it is exclusive and viewed as offensive by many. Further, the use of only masculine nouns and pronouns for God and of masculine generic terms for humankind has hidden the rich feminine imagery for God and God's people in scripture. Scripture contains many gender neutral metaphors for God such as shepherd, rock, or Holy One. The rediscovery of the complementary female and male metaphors in the Bible and the literature of the early church encourages Christians not to settle for literary poverty in the midst of literary riches.

And the Metropolitan Community Church.

Many of us, when we first come to MCC, are so accustomed to using male pronouns for God that even when we come to understand God as beyond gender and other human categories, even when we come to view God as Spirit who is neither male nor female, it is still difficult not to say "he," "him," and "his" for God. This male terminology, however, limits God to our cultural view of the Divine, which is a male-dominant point of view.

~Reverend Dr. Jeffrey Pulling, "More Than Just Words: A Study & Reflection Guide to the Issues of Inclusive Language Within MCC"


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