The Church of Sweden has voted to adopt a controversial new handbook which says masculine references to God, such as “He” and “Lord” should be scrapped so as to be more “inclusive”.
Despite heavy criticism from organisations including Royal Swedish Academy, on Thursday the church approved the new handbook with a large majority.
The Church Handbook — which was last updated in 1986 — sets out how services, baptisms, weddings and funerals should be conducted, in language, liturgy, theology and music, and is therefore central to the church’s activities.
According to local media, many priests have objected to directions in the new handbook regarding language, which have been added with the goal of making the church “more inclusive”.
This includes instructing clergy to refer to God in a gender-neutral fashion, without “unnecessarily” using the male pronoun “He”, or terms like “Lord”.
God should be referred to as “Mother” as well as “Father” in some prayers, according to guidelines in the manual, which gives the following as an example:
“God, Holy Trinity, Father and Mother, Son – Sister and Brother, and Spirit – Lifeguard and Inspirator, lead us to your depths of wealth, wisdom and knowledge”.
Sofia Camnerin, the deputy chair of Sweden’s Equmenia Church, defended “inclusive language” in the church, stating that the need for it “is based on an awareness of different types of discrimination and inequality in our society.”
“Referring to God as ‘Lord’ consolidates [gender] hierarchies and the subordination of women in a white, Western feminist context,” she argued in a blog.