Skip to comments.ELCA pastor drives ‘God talk’ initiative
Posted on 08/17/2010 2:00:48 PM PDT by lightman
ELCA pastor drives God talk initiative
By Susan Hogan* A UMNS Report
CHICAGO Can Christians discuss the language of faith without it becoming a battle over political correctness or theological orthodoxy?
The National Council of Churches hopes so.
To begin the conversation, its Justice for Women Working Group brought 28 people to Chicago in August for a three-day symposium, Language Matters.
S. Kim Coffing, the lone United Methodist participant, did not know what to expect.
The issue of how we talk about God and faith stirs up pain for many people, said Coffing, an executive with the denominations Commission on the Status and Role of Women.
From the minute I walked in, it was obvious what they wanted was to listen to us, she said. This was not about prescribing language or setting policies. They wanted to hear our stories. They wanted to know how the words used to talk about faith and God impacted us.
The Rev. Ann Tiemeyer, NCC program director for womens ministries, said the diverse gathering helped provide a direction for the councils effort.
This was the beginning of a process a time for listening and conversation, Tiemeyer said. We do not want to pit people against one another.
Stories of God
The first task assigned Coffing at the symposium: Describe a time when language restricted her understanding of God. She had three minutes to tell her story.
Drawing on a childhood memory, she described a question she posed after her mother bathed her.
As she was rubbing me dry, I asked, Mom, does God turn his back or close his eyes when Im naked?
Up to that point in her life, Coffing had only heard God spoken of as male. She wanted to make sure he was a gentleman.
As she listened to others, Coffing heard people not of one mind on the issues. Yet, their personal stories drew her in.
I saw how hungry people are to have meaningful conversations that are descriptive of their faith, she said. They want to connect with other people around these issues. If there was a common theme, it was our need to listen.
America is more diverse than ever before, Coffing said. The church draws people from a wide spectrum of races, ethnicities, cultures and customs.
How does a mother explain the blond-haired, blue-eyed Jesus at church to her dark-skinned child? she said. Faith language can alienate some people, while rendering others invisible.
As a United Methodist pastor in Duluth, Minn., in the 1990s, the Rev. David Wheeler routinely alternated imagery for God. Later, while serving as a pastor at a Minneapolis church, he encountered language obstacles starting a contemporary worship service.
We had to rewrite the words to be inclusive since much of the praise music out there was sexist, said Wheeler, who now works with a nonprofit agency assisting people with disabilities.
I dont want to de-sex God, he said. But for some people, male imagery and patriarchy gives them a sense of power and tradition. We need to be sensitive about using language that is inviting to people across cultures and faith traditions.
The NCC also says the issues are bigger than gender. It talks about using expansive language rather than merely gender-inclusive language.
Talking about the words of faith isnt new to United Methodists. It happens in Sunday school classes, Bible studies and other settings.
Weve had an active history in addressing inclusive language, Coffing said. Its not necessarily a history of agreeing on the issues. But there has been legislation to affirm language diversity and educational materials historically provided.
Efforts to raise sensitivity to language emerged on a large scale among mainline Protestants in the 1970s with the influx of female students and faculty and the development of feminist theologies.
Inclusive language lectionaries and Bibles emerged. Theologians produced a range of books on the issues.
Still, Inclusive language never really took root in the mainstream, said M. Garlinda Burton, top executive of the Commission on the Status and Role of Women.
Challenging traditional language for God was viewed by some as an attack on their faith.
Its a volatile issue, Burton said. Some in the church underestimated the value of having conversations with one another rather than having a policy dictated.
Starting the conversation
For many years afterward, the public conversations seemed to stop.
Part of the impetus to have a meeting on language is the impression of some observers that the use of gender-inclusive language throughout our NCC member communions has declined, the council said.
News of the gathering excited Heather Morgan Dethloff, though she wasnt invited to attend.
Dethloff, 30, a Lutheran doctoral candidate at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill., requires that students use inclusive language in the classes she teaches. At the same time, in the doctoral dissertation shes writing on the Trinity, she prefers to talk of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Father is a relational title, she said. God is only known as father in relation to Jesus, his son. For me, using inclusive language is not about abandoning all masculine language.
There are people like my mom, who doesnt want the words to hymns changed, she said. But shes also learning new hymns that dont use father language. You can use old and new.
The councils working group says the language used to talk about faith is a justice issue a view Burton shares.
Like any other Christian social justice issue, you continue to look at the Holy Spirit for transformation, she said.
The Rev. Ann Tiemeyer, an ELCA pastor, is helping to spearhead an inclusive language initiative by the National Council of Churches. She's the NCC's program director for women's ministry. (Courtesy photo)
* as of August 19, AD 2009, a liberal protestant SECT, not part of the holy, catholic and apostolic CHURCH.
Be rooted in Christ!
Indeed, our local Antiochian congregation finds most of its new members coming from Lutheranism. For that reason:
This is a cartload of horse manure. Social justice is a code word for socialism and wealth redistribution. G_D the Father is not a phrase to be toyed with.
There have been a couple of “inclusive language” bibles published (TNIV, NRSV) and they have been disasters. Luckily, they can’t give them away - the market is miniscule.
Are Protestant denominations backsliding when it comes to using inclusive language? Some members of the National Council of Churches think so. Read on.Just don't call this nonsense "politically correct".
Regarding the painting prophets and saints in the colors of culture and race: This is neither recent, nor is it exclusive to Christendom. I have seen depictions of Buddah in statuary from Afghanistan and the Middle East in which the statues look like those modeled of classical antiquity and far different from statuary I have seen in China and Japan. Diverse examples in Christianity not only include the works Michaelangelo but also include the portfolios of Albrecht Duerer and Fra Angelico.
Can anyone tell me, do all branches of Methodism affirm women in the priesthood?
That’s all I’ve got. When I see these “wimmen” in Western clerical collars...it’s such a ridiculous parody...
Lord, have mercy.
I read the material there, then a number of the comments (I couldn't manage force myself to wade through them all).
It saddened me to read about what some people spend their time, and apparently much of their lives, arguing about, as they try to reform God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost into something that they "can be comfortable with".
I pray that they will open their hearts to the light of Jesus, and let him lead them out of the darkness they now reside within, where they endlessly argue about (and against) the only one who can provide their salvation.
Sponsored by the National Council of Churches. ‘nuff said.
I highly recommend a smallish book, “The Seduction of Extremes,” by Peter Kurowski, a pastor in the LCMS, published by Torelion Productions LLC, 10005 Keith Inct. Ct., St. Louis MO 63114. See also www.lawgospel.com.
Rev. Kurowski’s chapter on female ordination is the best argument against it that I’ve ever seen, covering both scriptural and worldly/practical aspects.
One of my favorite Christmas songs from recent decades:
Some children see Him lily white,
The Baby Jesus born this night,
Some children see Him lily white,
With tresses soft and fair.
Some children see Him bronzed and brown,
The Lord of heavn’ to earth come down;
Some children see Him bronzed and brown,
With dark and heavy hair.
Some children see Him almond eyed
This Savior whom we kneel beside.
Some children see Him almond-eyed,
With skin of yellow hue.
Some children see Him dark as they
Sweet Mary’s Son to whom we pray;
Some children see Him dark as they,
And ah! They love Him too!
The children in each diff’rent place
Will see the Baby Jesus’ face
Like their, but bright with heavn’ly grace,
And filled with holy light.
O lay aside each earthly thing,
And with thy heart as offering,
Come worship now the Infant King,
‘Tis love that’s born tonight.
This conference is so 70’s. As a seminary educated woman, I would much rather see women clergy spending their discussions and time on learning how to revitalize churches that are struggling and need solid leaders to help turn them around.
Indeed, another reminder as to why I left the Lutheran Church to embrace and be embraced by Orthodoxy.
You’re right — it’s not “politically correct”, it is “brainless idiots who have nothing better to do and don’t even know how to pray”, or “idiots” for short :)
nice, where is it from? I’ve not heard it before
I’m Orthodox now, but I studied at a United Methodist seminary thirty years ago. They were big on “inclusive language” and had an alternative hymnbook called “Songs for the People of God.” It included “Come, Holy Ghost, Our Souls Inspire” which, in its traditional form, has the doxology, “Praise to Thine eternal merit, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” which was rendered, “Praise to Thine eternal merit, Mother-Father, Holy Spirit.”
I was talking about this to a friend, who wasn’t a Christian at the time, and I asked him what was wrong with this. He said, “They’ve left out Jesus.”
So I decided to bring this up in a class one day with a female professor. My question was what would cause the hymn-revisor to render it that way, and she admitted that some people “have problems with the second person of the Trinity,” AKA Jesus.
And thus is the ELCA warring against those pernicious masculine pronouns: “God so loved the world that God gave God’s only Son that whosoever believes in God’s Son shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
Godself so loved the world that God gave Gods only
Son Child that whosoever believes in Gods Son Child shall not perish but have everlasting life.
Fixed it--and I've seen that.
Should have included a hurl alert.
Out of that convoluted language come "theologians" who speak of the Eucharist as a "reinactment of Divine child abuse".
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