Recently, I was asked to substitute "souls" for "men" in the hymn, "Good Christian Men, Rejoice," in order to be more gender-inclusive. In this same congregation, I caused quite a stir by suggesting we sing "Onward Christian Soldiers," for much the same reason.

I was reading through "The Faith We Sing" (a Methodist hymnal) and seem to remember seeing several substitutions like this.

This seems to be more of a left-wing / right-wing thing, but I'm wondering if there are denomination stances. Specifically, what do Catholics, Presbyterians, and Lutherans do in this regard.

I'm also curious whether or not this type of hymnody exists in Mormon and JW churches, and how widespread the practice is there.

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    Seriously, some people have lost sight of how English works as a language. Even in secular usage, woman are often included in male gender terms (guys, mankind, etc.), and surely in Christian usage the gospel by which we are saved is for all men (including women)
    – Caleb
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 22:50
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    @Caleb in part, because how English works as a language has changed constantly over the years, especially lately. Additionally: Christianity has a particularly patriarchal history, and still (often, not always) actively treats the genders differently (and certainly does in terms of the Bible). I personally think the hymnal thing is misguided, but: some Christians feel there is much to compensate for. Commented Feb 15, 2012 at 8:23

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I have seen Congregationalists and Episcopals do this most frequently (I've also seen Episcopals do the opposite). The modern Catholic abominations hymnals will often do things like that, but that can vary from parish to parish. When I was a singer in a PCUSA church the practice was to manually update, even though the hymnal didn't include it. I have seen similar updates in Lutheran and Baptist hymnals...

I think that my answer has to be, "most denominations do this to some extent." I hadn't originally started to say that, but I don't think I have an option.

Not to politicize this, but this happens to be a practice particularly common in the denominations and parishes to the left of center. I know a couple of Catholic parishes which use the right old words. I know that the Orthodox Pres. Church sticks with the old ones, as does the LCMS (very conservative Lutherans). Anglican Catholics use the old words as well (the most conservatives among the Episcopals generally fall in that category).

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    As a side note: I don't care which denomination you are, that practice is grotesque and offensive. Commented Feb 15, 2012 at 3:51
  • It is also a bad idea: I get confused and stop singing when words changed (I have been singing these words for the better part of 30 years... WHY WOULD YOU CHANGE THEM???) Commented Feb 15, 2012 at 3:52
  • And, as a matter of inclusiveness and progression in the liturgy, the line from O Come all Ye Faithful, "Pleased as man with man to dwell" will now be "pleased as punch with us to dwell." Because, you know, the history of language means nothing compared to the whims of people who might be offended (if they existed). Commented Feb 15, 2012 at 3:53
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    Please tell me you are kidding about "pleased as punch". If not, please don't tell me the denomination that's being sung in. My life would not be better for having someone specific to deride for that absurdity.
    – Caleb
    Commented Feb 15, 2012 at 4:52
  • @Caleb I'm joking, but I have heard my share of "inclusive" language before. I even heard of one person who went so far as to sing, "Glory to the Mother and to the Daughter and to the Holy Spirit." (Sad part was that that was at Princeton U. (but not PTSEM thankfully)) Commented Feb 15, 2012 at 5:52

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