Using inclusive language for God is a matter of characterizing God—to use narrative theory language—and characterizing God as accurately as possible.
In my experience, using inclusive language for God is something that may well not necessarily earn you praise from many. But some do notice it, and it does send a message about who we believe God is.
Two people from my congregation stand out:
One was a young mother of twin daughters, a part of our church staff. One day she asked us pastor: “Can you please work harder at using inclusive language for God? …I don’t want my daughters growing up unnecessarily with the idea that God is male.”
The other was a retired gentleman from my congregation. Shortly before I left, he pointed out to me: “I notice that you use inclusive language for God in worship consistently. And I think it’s a very good thing.”
The most straightforward ways we do this is by simply using non-gender references to God:
- Instead of “he” and “him,” we use “God.”
- Instead of heavy use of “Father” (which we use a lot), we make a point to intersperse it with “Heavenly Mother” and “Creator.”
At the end of the day, simple gestures of this kind enable us to act in ways that do not continue to foster the idea of God with which many of us grew up: that of an old, bearded, white male in the sky.
It feels awkward at first. But with time it feels very natural. It felt just as awkward to the church people who first started to use “fishers of people” (vs. fishers of men). It probably felt just as awkward to those who changed from using “Thou” and “Thee” language in the Psalms to “you” language. But they made the change, and we are grateful.
I remember a good friend of mine who grew up in church hearing a non-gender inclusive Bible (as many of us did). She remembers one day then asking her mother: “Mom, is Jesus interested in having women disciples?”
It’s remarkable the things we say, without necessarily trying to say them. …as church leaders, we do well to consider more intentionally beforehand what we say, so that our words convey better what we mean to say.