After several millennia it has taken a positively luminescent insight from Women and the Church WATCH to point out that the Almighty’s own self-disclosure has, hitherto, been woefully lacking.
Our, and indeed, Our Lord’s failure to identify the Heavenly Father in female terms via the “inclusive language” of female or non-gendered pronouns has apparently short-changed both Him and us.
Little did we realise as we lifted our voices to cry, “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost”, that we could have done so much better. Apparently in doing so we are, “failing God and we are missing something”.
Likewise, if only Our Lord had responded to his disciples’ entreaty for instruction in prayer, by saying “When you pray, say: Our Mother…”, then we could have avoided the liturgical elephant trap that, “…to continue to refer to God purely as male is just unhelpful…”
No matter that our omniscient, immutable God has described his glory in masculine language; no matter that Our Lord thought that the best way to help us understand him was as “the Son of Man”: if only God could have prophetically grasped what WATCH now understands how richer all Christian worship would have been since the time of the Apostles!
Immensely grateful, as doubtless the Almighty is for WATCH’s words of wisdom there may also be reason for He/She to feel a little miffed at the lack of “equal treatment”, nay, the naked discrimination to which He/She has been subjected.
Amidst the clamour to “reimagine” God by the ditching of the language of “patriarchy” there has been silence as to our Father/Mother’s defeated and yet greatest foe. When will there be a “Princess of this World” and a “Mother of Lies”? When finally will dispensing with male personal pronouns for the Devil lead us into richer insights about him/her? How long will it be before we, “renounce the Devil and all her works”?
The Heavenly Father/Mother may even feel that the same discrimination is abroad when revisionists are so eager to replace the pronouns in Psalm 23 with female ones but never seem to get around to doing the same in respect of say, the 54th or 94th Psalms.
It might be thought that these inconsistencies could, perhaps, hint at “hidden agenda”. Surely WATCH couldn’t want to alter Anglican liturgy in order that all that is good, including God, can be feminine but all that is bad is left with the nasty perpetrators of patriarchy? There couldn’t be an expedient ignoring of the fact that “equality” is two-edged and that women are equally fallen as men could there? Surely WATCH’s aim isn’t actually simply to appropriate liturgy, Scripture, even God, as feminist propaganda?
It is, of course, also possible that WATCH’s “insight” has nothing to do with helping Christians worship and everything to do with reverse-engineering theology. Abolishing linguistically God as “Father” altogether does rather conveniently get around the problem of the liturgy requiring female bishops to be a “Father in God”. Presumably this is what the “chair” of WATCH meant when she said, “We are [also] going to miss some of the opportunities that otherwise particularly women might feel themselves called to.” It is not difficult to see how many women would, indeed, find it difficult to pursue being a father with integrity. What tricky things words can be! Rather than grapple with the obvious oxymoron it is, of course, somewhat easier to simply abandon the concept of “Fatherhood” as narrowly outdated.
And for those in the church whose mantra is “relevance” to the secular world what could be more desirable? There are over one million children in this country that have no contact at all with their birth fathers. How can it be that only now has WATCH realised how the terrible surfeit of Fatherliness in the Church has caused the church to be so missiologically out of step with this growing trend in secular society? Should our gratitude not be with them once again for their attempts to bring the church so relevantly into line with modernity?
Or maybe, just maybe, we have a God who still prefers to be known to all as “a Father to the Fatherless”.