Arecent resolution out of the Diocese of Washington has advocated genderless talk about God. This is not a new thought (though its association with gender neutrality is). In the wake of strong criticism, the bishop has replied that this resolution should be taken not politically but theologically. To honor this distinction, I offer the following theses.
1. God is not a creature, and hence is not male or female. God is beyond our knowing, and were we left to our own devices we could only project our notions upon him.
2. But God has revealed himself to us in Scripture and pre-eminently in Jesus Christ. In this light we can rightly understand how creation too reveals his glory.
3. Naming is different from describing. Jesus calls God “Abba,” and he is addressed as “my beloved Son.”
4. The official liturgies of the Church derive from this revelation and must make sure they address the true God truly.
5. As a result we are commanded directly by the risen Jesus to baptize in the name of the “Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
6. In the relation thereby restored, we are given the space to describe God in many ways. Jesus described himself as a hen gathering her brood. The proper places for such descriptions include private prayers, poems, songs, and even sermons.
7. The question of how we address one another is a different one, dependent on custom, language, and usage. It should be debated separately.
8. The use of he for God is a linguistic accommodation to the Incarnation within the grammatical structures of English. It makes no metaphysical claim.
9. Male and female God created us. But these roles have been the subjects of great historical and cultural change, and are an appropriate topic of discussion.
10. For these reasons God should be addressed without exception or change in an orthodox manner in the worship of our Church, to his praise and glory.