The Wartburg Seminary has addressed the topic of the use of inclusive language in a community-wide convocation each Fall for 25 years. That in itself is a milestone to be celebrated, and yet a sad commentary on society that it is still necessary. Some parts of church and society have been slow to learn and yet the seminary is persistent that the full use of inclusive language for humankind and expansive language for God is good, right and healthy. Once again the Wartburg community gathered and heard male and female voices address this topic, followed by much table conversation. Here are the words of Rod Wiese, second year M.A. student:
Before seminary, in the words I chose to speak about God, I defined God in a very narrow and convenient way that made sense to me. It was a little like putting God in a box. Now, it was a nice box; not too much decoration and just the right size. It was a good Lutheran box. It stored quite nicely on a shelf or in a closet. I could even bring it out on those occasions when I needed God. I could get that box, put God in the midst of my trouble and say, “Go to it God!” This was “my” God inside “my” box. The problem was that in my language for God, I not only defined God, I confined God, and God will not be confined by my thoughts, words, or deeds.
I realize now that my language about God matters. Through inclusive language, God breaks open the box in which I tried to keep God, or more accurately the box in which I tried to keep God to myself. Inclusive language reminds me that God, in Christ Jesus, came so that all might be saved, not just all people, but all of creation. For my words to properly proclaim the Gospel of Christ, I need inclusive language so that all people are part of the conversation. For when truly all are welcome, the kingdom of God begins to come here, in this place and in this time.