After an eight-day meeting that concluded on Thursday 23 November, the Church of Sweden has decided to refrain from using terms such as “he” and “Lord” to refer to the supreme deity. Instead, its clergy, as well as its members, are now encouraged and obliged to use less specific and gender-neutral terms, The Guardian reports.
The Church of Sweden, an Evangelical Lutheran national church, is the largest Christian denomination in Sweden and the third-largest Lutheran denomination in the world. With over 6 million baptized members, this is, by a large margin, the largest church in Sweden, a country with the population of 10 million. The Church of Sweden has a 251-member decision-making body, so the decision to proclaim the supreme being gender neutral was well-thought out, planned, and voted on.
Church’s archbishop, Antje Jackelén, told the Swedish TT news agency: “God is beyond our gender determinations, God is not human.” Antje Jackelén is the first woman to be appointed as bishop after a popular vote. She has published several works on the relationship between science and religious faith. Jackelén also endorses the theory of evolution and supports same-sex marriage in the church.
Apart from The Guardian, major news outlets, such as Metro and Chicago Tribune, have reported on this. A Danish newspaper, Kristeligt Dagblad, talked to an associate theology professor at Lund University, Christer Pahlmblad, who criticized the decision, claiming that it “does not respect the common theology heritage.”
This is not the first time the Church of Sweden has made headlines for what some would call bizarre controversies. For instance, in 2015, church’s bishop, Gerd Eva Cecilia Brunne, wanted to remove crosses and Christian symbols to make her church more inviting to Muslim migrants. Miss Brunne is also the first openly lesbian bishop of a mainstream church.
The decision to refer to the supreme being using gender-neutral terms is to take effect on May 20, 2018, on the holiday of Pentecost. The supreme deity will now be referred to as “God,” a term considered to be more gender-neutral than terms such as “he” or “Lord.”
It remains to be seen how the rest of the Christian World will react to this controversy. Social media websites are already buzzing with news and hashtags about the Church of Sweden and their decision to impose gender-neutrality on God.
[Featured Image by Andrew Medichini/AP]