The Episcopal Church will consider whether to add gender-neutral language regarding God to its Book of Common Prayer at its 79th General Convention in Austin, Texas, which starts Thursday.
The debate is centered on making sure that the faith’s prayer book is clear that God, the supreme being, is genderless. The proposed changes will be considered at the eight-day convention, the Washington Post reported.
The church has always addressed God through the use of masculine terms such as Him, Father, and King, among others.
In the New Testament, Jesus taught his disciples to pray using male pronouns.
“And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth,” Jesus said in Luke 11:2.
One resolution asks for a complete overhaul of the Book of Common Prayer. The most common reason for the changes is gender-neutral language, according to the Post.
Others want to add language that includes a Christian’s duty to conserve the Earth; a ceremony to celebrate the adoption of a transgender person’s new name; same-sex marriage ceremonies since the church has been performing such weddings for years; and updating the calendar of saints to include important figures named as saints since 1979, the Post reported.
Don Green says
Pathetic. I’m an agnostic, but I read music and have substituted at the organ at several Episcopal churches in Accomack County. With one exception, the Rectors have been musically learned people. Most are leftists, though one whom I played for, now retired, is fairly far-right. The service and the music are aesthetically beautiful. Speaking as an agnostic, it’s sad to see a once-proud and populous organization willfully commit suicide, as the Episcopal Church in the US is doing.
Chas Cornweller says
Not sure pathetic is the correct word here. Being an agnostic Don Green, you really aren’t in the position to proselytize your opinion on what god isn’t or is. As an agnostic, truthfully, you just don’t know. But, had you said you were non-religious, but spiritual, I would have taken your opinion with a bit more than a grain of salt.
The patriarchal aspect of God, or God Head, or Collective Consciousness, has, for centuries, kept an entire segment of humanity at bay. It is still being used, today, for this very purpose. Anyone, with an ounce of spiritual awareness, realizes that GOD, or whatever is the greater norm of our existence, is neither male nor female, but both. And ALL, at the same time. We here, stuck in our duality mode, in this physical plane, cannot begin to comprehend this concept. We have limited our gods in such small, limiting boxes, attached stars, crosses, moons and stars, again to stigmatize that which represents our notion of god. Nothing, religion has created, even comes close to what GOD represents. The nearest we can experience who GOD is written the lives of the prophets. The closest we can come to achieving what his supposed son experienced, up until that dark Thursday/Friday, is to live the way of Christ/Buddha. Complete resignation and supplication to the greater power that drives this duality from within and without. Greeting every aspect of this life as a divine moment. Living every divine moment as a revelation and accepting every choice as a final destiny with Karma. Until you live and achieve this way of living, you are generally going through the motions. GOD is a finality, a destination, a higher purpose. Anything less, is pretty much wasting your time. Heard that in church lately?
This non-sense of god the father, or god the mother is a duality. A trap. Interestingly enough, the earliest forms of Judaism portrayed God as both, male and female. But, you don’t hear that in Sunday school, either. It was the early pagans who realized (and worshiped) the duality of both male and female in nature. Not surprisingly, they were closer to nature and the rhythms of both the earth and the skies. Their religious precepts surpass ours by thousands, if not tens of thousands of years. It is no coincidence that the collective species began to build civilizations (Cities-Pyramids), move and lift tremendously large rocks, and plant and sow agricultural food, instead of hunting and foraging, all at around the same time. The theory that collective consciousness may have had something to do with this, is not lost today, in intellectual society. But, your churches do not teach this. They are too busy deciding on whether their god has a long flowing beard, or wears a dress or both. Too busy telling you, just how disappointed god is in you. Most all churches and religions are so fixated on survival, that the true meaning of GOD has been lost to dogma, hate and animosity to others, justification of war, slavery and oppression. There is no room for uniting and raising up others, outside your small congregations. I am no religious scholar, but I know an untruth when I hear it. I am not an Agnostic either, but I do not pretend to know ALL the ways of GOD. It is all a mystery to me. But, I have read extensively on other religions besides Christianity. And the historical fact of ALL religions is this; at one time, the worship of the Creation and the Creator was ALL inclusive and gender neutral. But, once the power of the male priest became evident, that inclusivity was lost. A connection had been broken, and the world today suffers, collectively and individually. I chose to take my own path. And I discovered the further from others’ opinions on GOD I get, the closer to my Creator I feel. The more I read, the less I know. Without looking through stained glass windows, you can know the ways of Heaven.
Paul Plante says
How about “strange,” Chas Cornweller?
Isn’t that a better word than pathetic?
Will they call God “it?”
That is very gender neutral.
Or maybe “that”?
Laura Smith says
Stuart Bell says
Instead of worrying about ‘gender’, they should start with prayer.
Don Green says
Mr. Cornweller, my rather short and glib comment engendered your reply, which I read several times, and with which I largely agree. Of course, regardless of ones religious beliefs, most learned people would agree that making god in OUR (male/female) image is religiously misguided. My argument is for adherence to the Book of Common Prayer as we know it. Compiled by the Reformer Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in 1549, it has been periodically revised to accommodate changes in English as used, most notably in 1662 and, beautifully, in 1928. Of course, later revisions ensued. If you are theologically learned, you must be familiar with the 1928 version, which is beyond magnificent. Wikipedia speaks of the Book of Common Prayer as follows: ” Together with the King James version of the Bible and the works of Shakespeare, the Book of Common Prayer has been one of the three fundamental underpinnings of modern English”. My sense of the Episcopalian laity is that it does not want changes pushed by a group of leftist bishops whose efforts, I believe, have and are continuing to drive congregants out of the Episcopal Church.
Regarding agnosticism, you appear to assume that it stems from a glib denial of a higher spirituality. This assumption is often not true. I had a 12-year Presbyterian catechism, have sung religions choral music for more years than I’d like to admit–I’m 73. I read music and have sung in choirs in Old Slavonic, Latin, French, and German, as well as, of course, Italian. I can probably recite the Apostles and Nicene Creeds, as well as the Ordinary of the Roman Catholic mass, backwards. I really TRIED to believe in an all-powerful, benevolent, and caring god. When, after much study of church history, I could no longer believe that a deified Jew was God, or a “person” of God, I studied Hebrew at a synagogue school in Washington, D.C. I learned Hebrew and of course, the required Aramaic, well enough to be able to join the chants in the three+hour service fairly well. I loved the Conservative form of the Jewish service. Yet, when I continued study, it seemed that, sadly, a kind of leftist statism was more important to most Jews I met than the religion itself. I loved the service, but was still felt like an alien.
Certainly, part of my inability to believe comes from my own secular experience (Vietnam, 67-68) and my work since 1995 in animal rescue. Why would an all-powerful, caring god allow animals to suffer as they do? Regarding humans, why would this god allow the deaths in war, disease, and mass murder of 100 million people in a period of only 40 years, 1914 through 1954? Why did I emerge from Vietnam healthy, while my best friend has to manage with somebody else’s kidneys?
Many agnostics have struggled to believe and, finally, gave up the struggle, realizing that it’s better to try to remake for the better the things that one can.
A number of prominent composers for the church were agnostics. The father of the English Hymnal, first published in 1906, was Ralph Vaughan Williams, often referred to as the “cheerful agnostic”. Johannes Brahms, composer of the magnificent Deutsches Requiem, was an agnostic. Giuseppe Verdi, composer of another, and very different, Requiem, was an agnostic The modern English composer John Rutter, whose compositions are sung in churches all over the world, is an agnostic. Charles Camille Saint-Saens and Louis Vierne, composers of religious music for the Roman Catholic church and organists at the Madeleine and Notre-Dame in Paris,respectively, were admitted atheists. The sublime beauty of the music of all of these composers was not affected adversely by their lack of religious belief.
Basta! I tend to prefer to keep my comments short, because long arguments make the eyes glaze over. Again, I have studied a number of religions intensely, and I appreciate your own position on this subject.
Paul Plante says
Thanks for your service, Don Green, and welcome home, dude!
Chas Cornweller says
Don Green, thank you for your succinct and quite distinguished reply to my comment. You, sir, capture the art of dialogue, and for that, I am grateful. It is “refreshing” to receive a reply that doesn’t label me in categories that neither fit me nor apply to me. For that, thank you.
You seem to have found the true “reason” for accepting your agnostic beliefs. At the “youthful” age of seventy-three, you have earned the right to believe as you choose. I truly respect that. I respect even more how you came about accepting your stance on “God”. So many avenues, so many voices. Is it any wonder that this world is crazy? And I apologize for my glib dismissal of your opinion. I now understand, what you understand.
You and I do agree on several points. I also understand that the rigors of war can change a young man. Many come home, forever grateful to some unseen force or god, they are assured, brought them home safely. They live out their lives bowing down and thanking every day that very same force. Others come home, damaged and in despair, unsure of anything, much less a higher power. Sadly, many others…well, never come home. And as my good friend and fellow commentator/debater, Paul Plante says, welcome home.
I can understand how you feel. I see the lack of God every day in society. I see the lack of God in the actions and the words of those who, every Sunday sit in their pews, bow their heads and pray to their god for good works, for a good heart. Then turn around on Monday and go back to the ways they have always trod. I guess, in some way, that is why the world is the way it is. To see in writing your take on making the world a better place through animal rescue and through self-improvement is a revelation. And a better perspective for me.
In some ways, I could classify myself as agnostic, since I really don’t know who or why or where or how or what that big force driving all of this truly is. I really don’t think I will find it with science and religion. (although – most folks can’t see just how much science and religion relate, ironically) But, I have had a few spiritual experiences in which I came to realize that there is a higher power, greater than myself. Whether or not I manifest that higher power or it comes from somewhere beyond still eludes me. I am still working that one out.
Lastly, and I apologize for running long…I certainly appreciate your perspective. I would like to think that we are all looking for home. And that home wants those that truly seek its existence. Those that think they have found the answer here, are just resting along the way, or are trapped by this physical plane. You sir, are a seeker and I believe you will find what you are looking for, someday. As a final note, Joseph Campbell, wrote “Hero With a Thousand Faces” and in it he explores ethos as myth. And within that myth lies that every life with purpose is a life well lived. It is all about following our bliss. And one last parting shot…”To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else, is the greatest accomplishment.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Don Green says
Mr. Cornweller, again, thank you for your thoughtful paragraphs. I do owe apologies to first, the editor, then to contributors, and, finally, to general readers of the editor’s post. By a few careless words I diverted the entire dialogue from the editor’s chosen subject, the proposed review and changes in the language of the Book of Common Prayer. By using the word “agnostic” instead of the less personal “observer”, I changed the subject to which the editor hoped to elicit comments. Second, by mentioning my tour of duty, I brought up the subject of Vietnam which, of course, has no relation to the Book of Common Prayer and has led to long commentaries on that war, pre- and post-. I will certainly be more careful in composing comments in the future. Otherwise, our dialogue has been a pleasure.
Again, I enjoyed our dialogue, but, in retrospect, I completely regret words that changed the subject of the editor’s oost.
Paul Plante says
You don’t believe is streams of consciousness, Don Green?
And what really is the “subject” of the post?
You say that “By a few careless words I diverted the entire dialogue from the editor’s chosen subject, the proposed review and changes in the language of the Book of Common Prayer.”
I say poppycock.
You said what you said.
Where was the “diversion?”
What I got out of the post was this:
“The debate is centered on making sure that the faith’s prayer book is clear that God, the supreme being, is genderless.”
That seems to be something different from what you picked up on, or is it?
Where do those people get off telling God what his or her or its sexual persuasion is?
Seems kind of pretentious to me,
And I enjoyed reading your post, by the way.
So what is up with this statement of yours, then: “I do owe apologies to first, the editor, then to contributors, and, finally, to general readers of the editor’s post?”
What exactly is it that you are apologizing for?
Paul Plante says
With respect to this topic of the Episcopal Church considering whether to add gender-neutral language regarding God to its Book of Common Prayer at its 79th General Convention in Austin, Texas, I would say that it is or very much seems to be a continuation of the unisex movement in America, which itself coincides with “Viet Nam,” which both Don Green and Chas Cornweller mistake for a place, when it was so much more than that in terms of a re-ordering of society in America.
As a Viet Nam veteran, I don’t look at Viet Nam as a place; to the contrary, to me it is the beginning of a time of insanity in America that obviously continues to this day, with these Episcopalians peeking up under God’s robes to see what his, her or its package actually might be, assuming there even is one, a point they seem to feel needs some serious debate here.
The one thing that can be said for Viet Nam veterans is that for a period of time, we were not here.
We had no contact with America.
So when we were returned to “here,” and frankly, I have never been actually able to determine where “here” might even be, especially in light of these Episcopalians debating what gender God might or might not be, which makes God their creation, as opposed to the other way around, we were literally strangers in a very strange land, which strange land is the subject of an article in The Atlantic entitled “A Brief History of Unisex Fashion – Gender-neutral clothing is back in vogue, but the craze in many ways has mirrored broader social changes throughout the 20th century” by Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell on April 14, 2015, as follows:
In March, the London department store Selfridges gave itself a radical makeover, transforming three floors of its Oxford Street emporium into gender-neutral shopping areas.
Androgynous mannequins wore unisex garments by designers such as Haider Ackermann, Ann Demeulemeester, and Gareth Pugh, and the store’s website got a similarly sexless redesign, displaying the same products on both male and female models.
Dubbed “Agender,” the temporary pop-up shopping experience—or experiment—ultimately proved to be more successful as a marketing tool than a retail revolution; as some fashion journalists have pointed out, today’s clothes “are much the same for each sex anyhow.”
But that wasn’t always the case.
As Freud put it: “When you meet a human being, the first distinction you make is ‘male or female?’ and you are accustomed to make the distinction with unhesitating certainty.”
Had Freud lived through the 20th century instead of the 19th, he might have had good cause for hesitation.
In an era when gender norms—and many other norms—were being questioned and dismantled, unisex clothing was the uniform of choice for soldiers in the culture wars.
What Don Green and Chas Cornweller miss here is that we Viet Nam veterans were as much a part of those “culture wars” as anyone else in this crazed nation at that time, even if back then we lacked the words to express our own thoughts about it back then.
Getting back to the history of this “gender thing,” The Atlantic article continues thusly:
In her new book “Sex and Unisex: Fashion, Feminism, and the Sexual Revolution,” the University of Maryland professor Jo Paoletti revisits the unisex trend, a pillar of second-wave feminism whose influence still resonates today.
As Paoletti tells it, unisex clothing was a baby-boomer corrective to the rigid gender stereotyping of the 1950s, itself a reaction to the perplexing new roles imposed on men and women alike by World War II.
The term “gender” began to be used to describe the social and cultural aspects of biological sex in the 1950s—a tacit acknowledgement that one’s sex and one’s gender might not match up neatly.
The unisex clothing of the 1960s and 70s aspired “to blur or cross gender lines”; ultimately, however, it delivered “uniformity with a masculine tilt,” and fashion’s brief flirtation with gender neutrality led to a “stylistic whiplash” of more obviously gendered clothing for women and children beginning in the 1980s.
Viet Nam – not the place, but the times, as we see from the following:
As far as the American fashion industry was concerned, the unisex movement came and largely went in one year: 1968.
The trend began on the Paris runways, where designers like Pierre Cardin, Andre Courreges, and Paco Rabanne conjured up an egalitarian “Space Age” of sleek, simple silhouettes, graphic patterns, and new, synthetic fabrics with no historical gender associations.
As women burned their bras (symbolically if not literally), U.S. department stores created special sections for unisex fashions, though most of them had closed by 1969.
That coincides exactly with the time that Don Green was having his own secular experiences in Viet Nam in 67-68), as well as my own in 1969-70.
While Don Green ponders the existential question of why did he emerge from Vietnam healthy, while his best friend has to manage with somebody else’s kidneys, questions for which there never will be any answers, at least down here on the earthly plane, other than “that’s the way it is, for whatever reasons it is,” people in this country who didn’t go to Viet Nam were grappling with the equally intense existential question of what gender they were, a point made in the pop song “Rebel, Rebel” by David Bowie, as follows:
You’ve got your mother in a whirl
She’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl
Those are the people who were in charge of this country when we got back – mothers who did not know what gender their mown children were, and people call us Viet Nam veterans “confused.”
Go figure that on out if you can.
And with respect to the direct line between those times back then, when mothers in America no longer had a clue as to what gender their children were, and these times today, when the Episcopalians are now neutering, gelding or spaying God himself or herself, or itself, The Atlantic article provides us with this:
Children bore the brunt of the unisex craze: pants for girls, long hair for boys, and ponchos for everyone.
“Baby boomers and Generation Xers tend to have very different memories of the unisex era,” Paoletti notes, and her book allows readers to admire the progressive intentions behind the trend while cringing at the result.
Though parents feared that enforcing rigid gender stereotypes could be harmful to kids—fears stoked by emerging scientific evidence that gender roles were learned and malleable at a young age—the embarrassment of being mistaken for a member of the opposite sex left lasting psychological scars on many of their offspring.
Young children had worn gender-neutral clothing (and played with gender-neutral toys) for decades before “unisex” became a buzzword, but the aggressively “non-gendered” child rearing of the 1970s took neutrality to a new level; children’s books and TV shows made a point of showing boys playing with dolls and women tinkering with cars.
And now that they have grown up, it is time to emasculate God himself, herself or itself, to make God just like them.
Does it make sense?
Yes, it obviously does, to them, at least.
And that is about all that really can be said on the subject, as I see it, anyway.
Paul Plante says
Well said, dear friend Chas Cornweller!
And can you imagine somebody saying that this was where intelligent conversation go to die.
What could they have been thinking.
Paul Plante says
I had a chat with God in 1969 about Viet Nam while in Viet Nam, Don Green.
What he told me is “don’t lay that **** at my feet!”
“I didn’t start this stupid war, and I don’t agree with it, but I gave you fools free will, and this is what you have done with it, and I am stuck with it.”
Short, sweet and to the point.
And very well said on agnosticism!
Mike Kuzma says
If only Kennedy and Johnson could have restrained themselves starting that war, we’d have found that the Vietnamese would be ignoring the Communists and getting on with the business of business as they are now.
Thank GOD for Nixon, ending that debacle.
And a pox on the Democrat congress that left our South VN allies to hang by denying the funds necessary to survive. While I may disagree with the necessity of starting the war, there is no excuse to toss an ally into the fire deliberately.
Thank you both for your service to our Country.
Paul Plante says
Thanks for acknowledging our existence, Mike, that is very much appreciated.
Reminds me of going to a ceremony of sorts down towards New York City as a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart when they were rolling out the then-new Purple Heart stamp.
The main speaker was Hillary Clinton.
There she was, in all her splendor and arrogance, looking at a whole bunch of Purple heart recipients, and never once did she acknowledge anyone’s service there.
To the contrary, she told us how lucky we were that all these people she named off, including herself, of course, took time out of their busy lives to see to it that we had a Purple Heart stamp to use on our letters and bill payments, and such, as opposed to one with maybe Mickey Mouse or Pluto or Daffy Duck.
And there was absolutely no national security reason for going to war in Viet Nam.
And that goes back to WWII and Frank Roosevelt, who wanted to set Vietnam in its totality on the path to independence, given that there was no North Vietnam or South Vietnam at that time.
Those entities came into being as a result of Western meddling in the affairs of the Vietnamese people after WWII was concluded.
At p.80 of “The Best and The Brightest” by David Halberstam, FDR and those times are described as follows:
In Indochina itself, the collapse of the French had given enormous new momentum to political stirrings among the Vietnamese, and there was a belief that somehow the great war was being fought for them, as well, a view shared by some Americans, notably their president.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was a man before his time: anticolonialism had not surfaced yet as the great global movement (though the very war which he was helping to mastermind would speed the collapse of the old order and the end of colonialism), but Roosevelt had strong ideas about colonialism that were a reflection of his own – and his wife’s – domestic political egalitarianism.
He saw a role for the United States as a symbol of the new freedoms, and he was intuitively receptive to the idea that the many poor of the world would turn against the few rich.
Viet Nam was a colonial war fought in a period when the concept of colonies was really well past its shelf life, as the pitiful French were to prove to the world on May 7, 1954, in Dien Bien Phu.
As to that meddling, at p.78 of “The Best and The Brightest,” author Halberstam has it as follows:
But a decision was made at Potsdam (Jul 17, 1945 – Aug 2, 1945) about Vietnam, without any real consultation.
It concerned the surrender; the British would accept the Japanese surrender below the 16th parallel, the Chinese above it.
It appeared quite inconsequential at the time, but the matter of who accepts a surrender is a vital one; it determines who will control the turf and who will decide future legitimacy.
The British, uneasy about questions that Roosevelt (FDR) had raised in the past about independence in Asia, worried about what it might mean for Burma and Malaya, since they were anxious to control future colonial questions in Asia; the British, after all, were not eager to see the dissolution of their empire.
Truman, pushed by his military advisors who were wary of what anticolonialism might mean as far as the future of U.S. naval and air bases in Asia was concerned, urged that we go along with the British.
There had been no prior discussion among the Americans (though later evidence would show that there had been a good deal of collusion beforehand between the French and British on this issue).
Having accepted the surrender, the British would permit the French to return, and all subsequent events would flow from this: the French would reassert their authority, they would smile politely at all American requests to deal with the indigenous population, but they would pay no attention; the Americans, after all, had given away the leverage, the French Indochina war would begin, and the Vietnamese would gain their freedom by force of arms.
It was, of course, a minor point clouded over by great issues at the time, and the responsible political officer, John Carter Vincent, did not participate; in fact, he learned of it after the conference was over.
A fateful decision unfatefully arrived at.
It was, he would acknowledge many sad years later, the turning point, the moment at which it all began to go wrong.
They **** up everything they touch.
And then, they are too craven to take responsibility for the messes they have made.
God save us from the godless Democrats.