The Archbishop of York stirred things up at his recent opening address to the General Synod by suggesting that the phrase “our Father” is problematic.
The Radio 4 program “Sunday” gathered together a range of very brief opinions on the topic, including mine, and broadcast them last Sunday morning. They can be heard on BBC Sounds here. The piece begins at around 19m and 30s in and includes contributions from Christian and non-Christian experts.
As this piece was heavily edited down, the full text of what I said is reproduced below
The question: Is God male, female or ungendered, and how should liturgy address the Deity?
My name is Chris Goswami. I am a Baptist minister, and blogger, and former Christian Blogger of the Year. On this question:
Firstly the Bible. It’s crucial to recognize that God embodies both masculine and feminine traits — and we should try to celebrate all of these in worship. As far back as Genesis Ch 1, the “spirit of God brooding over the waters”, is a feminine word. And then there are all the analogies of God as a mother hen, as a lioness, as a mother eagle etc.
Nevertheless, God chose to reveal himself as a man, Jesus referred to God as Father we’re invited into that same relationship. Invited to call God “Father”. I think that surpasses patriarchal culture.
Secondly, we do need to appreciate those who have had difficult relationships with their own father. My own father left us when we were young – others have endured much worse. But equally, some people even struggle with the idea of God at all because their life has been so difficult, so … should we stop mentioning “God” in church?
But, to finish the biggest single argument for me to continue using “father” is that, while this topic is important, it is yet another colossal distraction. We are supposed to be demonstrating compassion for the poor, challenging unjust systems, bringing good news.
There are so many needs the church should be meeting, here is yet another way for us to become massively distracted and disunited.
If you enjoyed this, try Why does God allow earthquakes — Radio 4’s Moral Maze