The divine Trinity – “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” – could also be known as “Mother, Child and Womb” or “Rock, Redeemer, Friend” at some Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) services under an action Monday by the church’s national assembly.
Delegates to the meeting voted to “receive” a policy paper on gender-inclusive language for the Trinity, a step short of approving it. That means church officials can propose experimental liturgies with alternative phrasings for the Trinity, but congregations won’t be required to use them.
“This does not alter the church’s theological position, but provides an educational resource to enhance the spiritual life of our membership,” legislative committee chair Nancy Olthoff, an Iowa laywoman, said during Monday’s debate on the Trinity.
The assembly narrowly defeated a conservative bid to refer the paper back for further study.
A panel that worked on the issue since 2000 said the classical language for the Trinity should still be used, but added that Presbyterians also should seek “fresh ways to speak of the mystery of the triune God” to “expand the church’s vocabulary of praise and wonder.”
One reason is that language limited to the Father and Son “has been used to support the idea that God is male and that men are superior to women,” the panel said.
Apparently those of us be who believe that religion stands for eternal truths, not polling items, are just hopelessly naive.
Now, I’m all for a religious institution to have a certain flexibility. It’s that flexibility that means that we no longer have to live lives that reflect identically the lives of 6th Century B.C. Judeans. It also means, thankfully, that Jews no longer have to fear the Christian Church. But those changes go to practices, not core doctrines. That is, with the destruction of the temple, Jews abandoned the practice of animal sacrifice. We also no longer engage in the practice, from Leviticus that mandates that a man must marry his brother’s widow (a practical and humane idea in the days before women worked). Likewise, Christians recognize that, regardless of what happened 2,000 years ago, today’s Christians cannot and should not indulge in the practice of Jew hating and baiting.
Doctrine is different from practice. It goes to the core beliefs that animate a religion. You either believe that Jesus died for your sins, or you don’t. If you do, you are a Christian. If not, you’re not. (In this way, Jews for Jesus have always bewildered me. It seems to me that, once they accepted Christ as their saviour, they pretty much crossed that big, bright line distinguishing Christian from Jew.) Those who mouth platitudes about a nice teacher who got snatched by the Romans, was tortured to death, and had some good aphorisms that were collected and published later believe nothing at all. And yet this religious nihilism is precisely what the Presbyterians are heading towards: to them, Christianity is no longer about eternal truths, it’s about nice people (excluding men and Jews), good feelings (except towards men and Jews), and political correctness. I’m sure that, in a few years, there’ll be rumblings that Christ was really a woman (he was so sensitive, after all), or possibly homosexual (he never did get married), and that the whole history of the Church reflects a homophobic, male-dominated Church heirarchy that wilfully disguised Christ’s true nature.
By the way, if you’d like to see where liberal Christianity could go, check out this website, for the HerChurch in San Francisco. There, the followers of Martin Luther get this:
We are a diverse community, standing firmly within the Christian tradition in order to re-image the divine by claiming her feminine persona in thealogy, liturgy, church structure, art, language, practices, leadership, and acts of justice. Challenging the church’s restricted language of the past, we pay special attention to images and metaphors that attempt to embrace divine fullness and that offer a witness of holy nurture and inclusive justice, both to the church and to the world.
By the way, I do believe that religions should celebrate and accommodate women. Women are the home fires of religion, since they are the teachers of children. In other words, religions cannot survive without women’s buy-in. But religion is also the place of eternal truths and morality. If these are adjusted to suit every prevailing politically correct wind, you don’t have religions anymore — you have social clubs.