Inclusive Language – again

I’ve been meaning to come back to the inclusive language question for the last couple of weeks and say something about it, but what to say at this point?

The story so far: after a great deal of shilly-shallying, one of the Scottish Episcopal Church’s liturgies has been given a few alternative texts which replace phrases which when intending to refer to people now do so using language that is inclusive of both men and women instead of simply referring to men or “mankind”. For example, in one of the prayers, we can now say, “which is your will for all the world” rather than “which is your will for all mankind.”

Oh, I know that some people react to this with the phrase, “political correctness gone mad” and refuse to think things through but to me its just a matter of politeness. Its rude to make people feel left out by using language which does not include their personhood and experience. I think that is a matter of etiquette at least as much as a matter of theology.

So far, so uncontroversial. (Well, almost, some people don’t like change and will get grumpety when it happens regardless).

The changes went a little futher than that though by allowing some changes to the way we refer to God. So, for example, we can now say, “…and peace to God’s people on earth” rather than “…and peace to his people on earth”.

When I looked through the changes I found that we had been using a number of them at St Mary’s for years and those other changes which have now brought in have come about without anyone saying anything. They have been entirely without controversy here, which is more or less as one might expect.

But what a furore this caused. Newspapers around the world led on “Scottish Episcopal Church declares that God is no longer male” (here’s the Telegraph article) despite the fact that we had not said such a thing nor said that God was male in the first place. It was all over the press and blogs like a rash.

Then came a statement on the SEC Website which I presume was written by the Primus saying that we were not changing the way the Church understands God.

It seems to me that if you move from a position of always referring to God in male-dominated language to something more subtle which does not treat God as necessarily male then you are indeed saying something about the fact that the church’s way of understanding and talking about God is developing. That seems to me to be both interesting and potentially full of good things. Do any of us think that our language encapsulates God. The idea of a God held hostage by our inadequate pronouns seems very far from whatever I’ve understood by God in the past.

Malcolm Round made a brave attempt to declare that God was in fact male and particularly that the Holy Spirit is male but I’m not convinced. One would think from the way he writes about it that none of us knew that some of the language for the Spirit in the Hebrew Bible uses words are grammatically female and always were. Malcolm also associates femaleness with gentleness. I’m not that sure my sisters would want to go all the way with that analogy.

I’m surprised that our bishops chose to make these changes by decree rather than going through a synodical process whereby we could talk about these things and come to something of a common mind about it. I agree with the changes but would rather have taken a bit longer and got more people on board. This very clearly changes the Church’s understanding of God and that’s a good news story not something to be shy of.

Now, what use of exclusive language is getting my goat and causes me to huff and puff whenever I hear it right now?

Its not gendered language at all. It is the phrase “family doctor” which seems to be constantly in use on the news and at the Tory party conference.

I don’t have a family doctor. I have a GP.

(GP = General Practitioner – for all our readers from furth of these shores).

Comments

  1. Agreed on all counts. I was particularly peeved with that reactionary denial-of-change news item – seems completely false to me. I find the idea of insisting on God as “he” completely outmoded.

    Well spotted, that `family __’ is exclusive to those not in families, even if not a gendered term. It also feels like an outmoded throw-back to the coal-fire days of the Victorian era.

  2. Tony says:

    Do pronouns indicate gender? Is a French bicycle female? (and is that word anyway, non gender specific ?) I thought James Barr had knocked that on the head years ago. And is referring to the Almighty as God the same as referring to ‘it’ using a pronoun? And is referring God’s will for the ‘world’ the same as referring to humankind? I think there is a difference, even if very subtle.

    I’m not against inclusive language, but I don’t think that all the implications are properly thought through.

    I take your point about family doctors, but I do wish the Church would stop referring to itself as ‘the church family!’

    • Thanks for the comments. St Mary’s is not a church in which you hear people speak of the Church Family and that is deliberate.

      Stewart – insisting that language is correct when someone feels offended and excluded by it is the problem not the solution.

    • Just backing up to Tony’s previous comment, I think that the world is not the same as humankind though each would work for me in this phrase from the liturgy. Poetics matter though and I think world works best here.

      Regarding French bicycles, all I can say is that James Barr is not the only French feminist commenting on what pronouns do to the way we think.

  3. Everyone is in a family, this term is inclusive.

    We all have parents / grandparents. Many of use have siblings and cousins. There are many who have partners (recognised by civil ceromonies, religious ceremonies or none). There are some who have the privilege and responsibility of bring new life into the world.

    All these come within the definition of family.

    Wikipedia has an article on the family.

    Dictionary.com has 15 definitions of what a family is

    Whether you live alone or with others, you are part of a family – so I maintain that family is an inclusive term, with any perception of exclusivity being related to selectively concentrating on a single part of the definition.

  4. fr dougal says:

    The media certainly made an utter hash by entirely misrepresenting us: these are permitted alternatives, not mandatory. If you want to continue to use traditonal language rather than the more gender neutral options then you can. I also agree utterly about the medics: in this instance the Tory Party are using “family friendly” language to mollify their core supporters who are alarmed at the loss of universal child benefit. And whilst it is true that everyone is part of a biological family (even those whose father was a test tube), it isn’t necessarily helpful to insist that the Church is primarily a family. If you live alone, the continual harping on about family and kiddies can be intensely irritating and alienating. A variety of metaphors for the nature of the Church is actually a good thing!

    • I’ve learned over the years that if a church uses the F word on its noticeboard then I’m unlikely to feel welcomed. Indeed, its quite likely that some kinds of families won’t be welcomed either. I confidently maintain that church should be for everyone.

      I don’t entirely agree with John about the media. We could easily have got very good coverage on this story had those who had decreed change been up for coming out and talking positively about it. Its not entirely fair to blame the journalists.

  5. ryan says:

    ‘Family Values’ very much is, and always has been, code for anti-gay rhetoric. Certainly one can understand people making a point of reclaiming the term (contrary to e.g. Section’s 28’s denunciation of ‘pretend’ family relationships), but, until such reclamation is achieved, I’d agree that it’s wrong to use language that offends and excludes irrespective of the intention behind a particular word.

  6. Kelvin – taking your response to its conclusion means that because people do not understand language / mis-interpret (intentionally or un-intentionally) means that we can end up totally skewing the meaning of our language. If there is a perception of exclusion due to an lack of understanding of meaning, then surely education of the excluded is the appropriate response, rather than changing the language.

    And yes – there are many words which change meanings over the years, and in youth culture words are use partly to exclude elders or other not in the same social circle.

    Some word which have changed their meaning in recent years include – wicked, cool, gay, hot…….. I am sure that your readers can add many others. Surely we should not stop using they for fear of excluding others who have a different understanding of them. The answer is to ensure that revised or multiple meanings are understood by those who feel excluded.

    • No Stewart – offering to re-educate people does not make them feel included.

      The answer is not to persist in using language which one already knows can be misunderstood and sometimes offensive, but to use language that includes everyone. As I said, its not theology, its a matter of politeness and trying not to be rude to other people.

  7. PamB says:

    Families can be toxic. So can Family Services.

  8. Kelvin – I disagree with you.

    Going back to the original comment about family – the term is inclusive and the perceived exculsion is leading us to see exclusion where none exists.

    This worries me more than areas where genuine exclusion exists.

    • No, Stewart, family is not inclusive when applied to doctors because all kinds of people have to go to doctors who don’t live in families, don’t want to be defined by family language and don’t feel included by the word. (The fact that someone else in very similar circumstances does not feel this makes not a blind bit of difference).

      There’s a perfectly good alternative – “GP”.

      Its worth remembering that my doctor does not want to be called a family doctor – I’m pretty sure he is happy being my GP. In the context I’ve been hearing the term this week, its been used by the right-wing press and the right-wing Tory party. These two constituencies have an agenda and it is not one I like.

  9. Coxy says:

    Personally I am not against the ‘humankind’ (or similar) replacements – “For us and our salvation” etc. But Jesus called God Father – Abba – Daddy. And Jesus, ascended to the Father’s right hand, remains male. So we should not be afraid of and should continue to call our heavenly Father exactly that, and our brother Jesus “Him”.

    As for ‘family’. I hear and realise that many people have been hurt by the use of this word. But I hope and believe that its true meaning could be redeemed and that all who love Jesus as their Lord and Saviour could experience the joy of being members together of His family.

    • I really don’t want to be a member of God’s family, Nick. (And generally speaking, I like my family).

      • Oh and by the way, Nick, I’m happy enough recognising that Jesus was male. In his human nature he clearly was male. However, as we know from the doctrine classes which we so loved, the church through the ages has confidently claimed the paradox that there were two natures involved, one human and the other divine. I’m far less sure that the divine nature is definitively, exclusively and absolutely male in the way that I understand the human one to be.

        I’m also not entirely sure that Jesus’s relationship with the One he called “Abba” is necessarily the same as my relationship with God. How could it possibly be?

    • Zam Walker says:

      When I was studying Hebrew the rabbi taking the class pointed out that Jesus, in referring to God as ‘Abba’, was using a term that an adult uses of their parent – intimate but much more equal than we might have traditionally thought. And it is the intimacy that is important, not the gender.

      And with regard to the debate on family I would refer to the passage where Jesus states that those who do the will of god are his mother and brothers and sisters. I am one of those who would happily reclaim ‘family’ for church. My blood family could keep EastEnders going in storylines for months and there has been little contact nor care. Jesus summarised it for me, saying that it is by care not blood that family is defined.

      I would agree that ‘family service’ is not a great term. For me it indicates a lack of intellectual depth and a lowest common denominator approach.

  10. stew says:

    I suppose some people might find the ‘family’ imagery helpful without ever meaning to, or realising that it might, offend anybody. Should we regret the loss of this usefulness, if we nevertheless together decide that it is exclusive language? This is the first time I have thought about this, and it has never occurred to me before but now I can see how it might be unhelpful and offensive.

    Your point about making decisions through discussion vs decree is interesting. Is the ideal way to ask around and try to see if there are any people who are offended by a language use and outlaw it, or do we together have a conversation to decide whether it is reasonable to suppose someone may be offended, or does there need to be some kind of set criteria that would provide for the rejection of a language-use even if most people didn’t mind it, e.g. possibly in the ‘family’ case? You said that St Mary’s is not a church in which you hear people speak of the Church Family and that is deliberate. The use of ‘deliberate’ implies a kind of decree or design but how do would you deal in a situation if the consensus was around Stewart’s views mentioned above – would you allow people to use it?

    • Thanks Stew – that’s an interesting question. I’ve no doubt that there are folk at St Mary’s who take Stewart’s view – not least because Stewart is one of them! However, I think that church cultures develop around language and ours is currently such that we are not in the habit of hearing family used as a metaphor for the household of faith and it kind of jars when you do hear it.

      There was also quite a good debate around inclusion issues within the Vestry which originally appointed me here. It was clear then that they were hoping for someone to help take a lead with an agenda which has debates around inclusion at its centre. We don’t print the words, “open, inclusive and welcoming” on every bit of paper here without trying to live up to those words somehow. Like most slogans and mission statements, that is aspirational rather than a statement that we’ve already arrived.

      Incidently, I find it odd that often it is those who are most keen to think of themselves as “Biblical Christians” (presumably distinct from the rest of us whom they presume not to be) who use the F word most in reference to the church and yet its not a particularly Biblical metaphor. I can’t think that Jesus uses it much. The NRSV has only one such use in the gospels and that is in Matthew 25. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family…” – but that is just because the translators are rightly squeamish about the more literal “these my brothers”.

      I do encourage people to bend over backwards to use language which will not leave people feeling left out and I suspect that the dominant linguistic usage at St Mary’s has developed because I’m not the first person to do so. That doesn’t mean that we get it right all the time but we do try.

      We also try not to sing hymns with obviously exclusive language. There are tiny number of exceptions to this. “Dear Lord and Father of mankind” is still sung here because I don’t think as a community we could bear to lose it. However, that is a pragmatic decision rather than a dogmatic one!

  11. ryan says:

    Nick,
    I remember an ‘Any Questions?’ event at St.Silas where one of the ””experts”” (!) said that , not only is God not necessarily gendered male, but that the Holy Spirit is probably female. And your successor as Fr.Gadgetvicar’s Sith Apprentice ( ;-)) once told me that St ”Paul was a feminist” – presumably because, being inspired by God, he had to be. So your own view and Rev Round’s posts aside, I’m not sure that maintaining the necessarily male nature of God is, unlike other issues, something that evangelicals generally regard as key to orthodoxy and necessary to uphold in the face of liberal progress. Evangementalism’s semi-embrace of feminism – whether for pew-filling or hopefully nobler reasons – has of course obvious (however delayed or ignored) implications for full LGBT inclusion and in and of itself is of course very much to be applauded :-)

    Incidently, saw a photo of your ordination, and hope that such fabulous robe-rockin’ wasn”t a one-off! :-D

  12. Kennedy Fraser says:

    I got the impression that the press furore happened when someone noticed that the draft minutes of the Synod were published and decided to read them. The thrust of the press coverage seemed to conflate the discussion that happened around the Gender Audit rather than the notice of the inclusive alternative texts being issued by the College of bishops.

    I’m not sure I would have dignified the coverage with a response.

    Kennedy

    • Yes Kennedy, there is something in that. Though its certainly true that the use of language in liturgy was a strong theme in the debate. Indeed it rather surprised me. The apparent tardiness of the Bishops’ decree (which had been trailed as coming soon by +Mark at the previous Synod in answer to one of my questions) was a subtext to that debate.

  13. I find there is something incongruous about Christians wanting to accommodate every nuance of of peoples sensitivities, when Christ could hardly open his mouth without offending people. And from a worldly point of view the Pharisees had him killed for offending them.

  14. Coxy says:

    Regarding family: whilst I agree with your implication that our relationship with the Father will never be exactly as Jesus’s was (He was in perfect and constant communion with the Father in a way that we never are) I don’t think that we can do away with the picture of family for those who follow Christ. I (once again!) agree that the word “family” is not extensively present, but the units which make up a family are: Father, brother, sister, mother.

    For example: “Abba, Father” is used, as we all know, not only by Jesus in Mark but by Paul in Romans (8:15) and Galatians (4:6) seems to suggest that the early church was following Jesus’ lead and calling God “Father”. The NRSV also says (Romans 8:15) that we have “received a spirit of adoption.” It may be me reading my understanding of adoption into this text, and if that is truly the case I am prepared to be corrected and change my understanding, but a ‘plain reading’ would suggest some sort of family understanding here – children are adopted into families.

    Similarly in Hebrews (2:10ff) we see not only that we have the same Father as Jesus but that Jesus calls those “who are sanctified…brothers and sisters.” (NRSV) The word “family” is not present. But “brothers and sisters” are part of a family unit, add “Father” to this and is a family picture not starting to develop?

    Also, the constant use of “brothers and sisters” (NRSV – although the footnote recognises that in Greek it was only “brothers”) in the writings of the early church suggests some sort of ‘family’ link between those who followed Jesus.

    I said above that mother imagery is also found, although I accept that, given the context (i.e. it’s a picture of Jesus’ feelings for a whole city, not just of His feelings for/relationship with His followers), this may be more readily discounted. But in Matthew (23:37), Jesus does use the image of a hen gathering her brood under her wings. As I’ve admitted it isn’t a statement which, at least in its plainest sense, is as clear as some of the ones I’ve listed above. But might there not be some suggestion of a motherly/parental type relationship between Jesus and Jerusalem? At the very least it is another family type picture (albeit involving chickens!).

    So, incase it got lost in there, whilst “family” is not used much at all, as Kelvin has rightly pointed out, I would want to suggest that family imagery is and that, therefore, this picture of what it means to be followers of Jesus – and there are others, e.g. body – should not be lost from the language of the church.

    • Oh, its there, Nick, but erm, was Jesus always positive about family?

      Matthew 12:46-18 and all that.

      Never mind what they thought of him – Mark 3:21

  15. Coxy says:

    He certainly didn’t always seem to be that positive about His own family due, it seems, to their misunderstanding of who He was. But that doesn’t mean that family imagery is wrong, afterall in the Matthew account “brother and sister and mother” are not done away with, but are shown to be a wider group than just those to whom Jesus is genetically related.

  16. Why the desperation to use a metaphor for God’s companions which seems to meet with a resounding ambivalence when tested against Scripture though?

    Politics not theology, I’ll be bound.

  17. ‘I’m far less sure that the divine nature is definitively, exclusively and absolutely male’. For my part, I’m pretty sure that it is not! Maleness/femaleness is an attribute of human persons, and God is not a human person, but something much greater, who transcends gender.

    I take the point that Jesus addressed God as ‘Father’, but as a good Jew he was using the metaphor which predominated in the scriptures he had learnt.

    Jesus obviously was male, but transcended gender when he became the Risen Christ, and it is surely the latter that Christians worship.

  18. Gilly says:

    We have a family doctor, I’m not sure its (I daren’t say “he”) not really a general practitioner since there seem to be a whole lot of general things it doesn’t know about and I have never seen it practising anything.

  19. Beth says:

    I feel that it’s worth pointing out that the term ‘family doctor’ is not one that’s used by the NHS. It’s done some weird and wacky things with job titles in the last few years, but GPs are still GPs. I’ve never met a patient who didn’t understand what a GP was, I’ve never met a GP who wanted to be called a “family doctor”, and I’ve never met a non-GP who wanted to call their GP colleagues “family doctors”. The term seems to be exclusively the domain of politicians who think that GP is too complicated a term for some people to understand. Codswallop.

    Stewart, at the risk of flogging a dead horse, my problems with the term are:

    1) It isn’t inclusive. It excludes me and it excludes all other single adults who live any number of miles away from their relatives. I have no family members with whom I share a doctor, therefore I cannot possibly have a family doctor no matter which definition of family is being applied.

    2) I think if it were to be adopted as a term, it would have a real risk of negatively impacting patient care. (Yes, I know that this isn’t entirely related to the subject of inclusive language. It is related to the idea that words mean stuff.) There are many things that people are already uncomfortable talking to their GP about and it’s very often because they have valid concerns about their confidentiality. If they have to talk to something called a “family” doctor, nobody will ever seek help for sexual health problems, mental health problems, or alcohol and drug abuse ever again.

  20. gilly says:

    Beth, I don’t actually use the term “family doctor” either. The term I am currently using for the person who supposedly gives us local medical care is much ruder, since his general practice of a member of my family’s health has indirectly led to that family member being seriously ill in hospital. Nevertheless he is the doctor to all my nuclear family and I can call him that if I wish since it is factually correct.

    Either way the more important thing is whether he/she/it can do their job.

  21. Muriel Draper says:

    I have always thought that I was a member of the “family” at St. Mary’s Cathedral. However,I am sad that this word appears to be no longer acceptable. For me, however, it is a harmless little word, but then I am an old-fashioned (?) innocent (?) type of person who values friendships and family commitments. I DO use the term “GP” so perhaps I am not all bad.
    What word should I not use next? Perhaps I should just keep quiet in future but I am afraid that there is no guarantee of that!

    • Thanks Muriel

      I think I feel more that I belong to a great community at St Mary’s – one where we are trying to make everyone feel welcome.

  22. Ann Glenesk says:

    I support the use of inclusive language, but recognise difficulties arise due to the inadequacies of language to describe the mysteries of God. I am also mindful of St Francis’ words of following the (inclusive)gospel and where necessary use words. All our efforts – words and actions needed to convey God’s love for all.

  23. From the whole experience of my life to date, taking into account everyone I know both straight and gay, I can only come to the conclusion that your problem with the word “Family” is for you an idiosyncratic personal foible.

  24. ryan says:

    Assuming that your own experience is necessarily more representative – and ‘accurate’ – sounds a lot like a personal foible, Jimmy.
    I’m reminded of an excellent essay, The Family Curse, by Stephen Fry. Some excerpts :
    “The word is used these days much as the word ‘Aryan’ was used in Germany during the 1930s. Anything that isn’t Family is ‘unfamily’, and anything that is unfamily is unrepresentative of the joyful majority. The ruthless condemnation of unfamily values is therefore a populist democratic imperative.
    Family schamily, I say. What is it with us at the moment that this word should be transmogrified into a shining banner borne ‘mid snow and ice that will lead us into a new golden age?It can hardly be a defence against the rise in the crime rate. After all, something like eighty per cent of murders are domestic in origin, child molestation and physical abuse are almost entirely family crimes and I believe there is only one recorded cass of incest being practised outside a family and that turned out not to be incest after all”

    ”Obedience, complusion, tyranny and repression are family words as much as love, compassion and mututal trust. It rather depends. on the family. I wonder which sort of ‘family values’ we most readily associate with our government? Well, I don’t really wonder : it’s all too plain. ”

    —–

    It does crack me up when nominal Sola Scriptura types make a big point of saying that, in fact, Paul must have been married. Our Lord’s asceticism has to be grumbily conceded, but obviously we can’t put such faith in Paul unless he’s a Normal Family Man.

  25. Ryan, the reason so much that is good and bad occurs within the context of “Family” is because practically everyone of us is in or from a family. Even people who have no family are from a family. If by some Orwellian misadventure we were to change the word “Family” to the word “Cabbage” within a short time the word cabbage would take on the full meaning of the word family because family accurately describes the structure of human life. I have also experienced that the truth is usually to be found in the possession of those who do not crack up at errors of others.

  26. ryan says:

    That ‘full meaning’ is hardly a positive one, nor one necessary to a church context. Tangentially,I’m pretty sure that your opinion of the connotations of the word ‘traveller’ is , to say the least, quite different from that in the middle/upper class culture that worships most devoutely at the Shrine of The Family, so it’s odd that you either don’t know or don’t care about the fact that ‘family’ is a problematic word for many (irrespective of what they ‘should’ feel). Not sure what your last sentence is getting at ,unless its tuning up for some more ‘poetry’.

  27. Peter says:

    The F word is not Family. At its best the f word is a vacuous expletive, which can well be replaced by something like ‘sugar!’ As an adjective it suggests an inadequate vocabulary. At worst it is demeaning, belittling abusive and thoroughly impolite.
    I think that you have outrun your cleverness on this one. This is, of course, not a matter of theology, but simple courtesy and politeness. To take a word which may be unhelpful for you, but is clearly full of positive values for others, and hitch it to possibly the coarsest word in common usage risks causing offence. I find it offensive.
    I accept entirely that some people’s experience of family may not be entirely positive. I accept that most people’s experience of family may indeed be mixed, but I would argue that in itself makes the family metaphor entirely appropriate to describe the Church.
    I have never yet served in a Church which was like a perfect family. But we go on aspiring. The more we insist on the imperfect nature of family as we experience it, the more appropriate it is to use family as a metaphor for the Church. The struggles and battles and disappointments, the envy and jealousy, the hurts and slights and so much more are all replicated in the life of the Church. So course are the delighs and joys in each other, the achievements singly and together and the often unnoticed and unremarked kndnesses and acts of caring and affirmation which we call love. I see them in the family and I see them in the Church.
    I wonder what it is that people find so difficult about the idea of a perfect family? Is it something of the idea of closeness, the togetherness, which I find largely lacking in ‘community’ or ‘household of faith.’ I find these two rather cold, business-like. The first is so vague that it could refer to any bunch of folk not actually fighting each other, or perhaps to a gathering of thinkers… The second sounds like a property qualification for the vote (and was)
    Frankly I struggle to find another metaphor for the Church which expresses both the success and the failure which is the Church.

  28. ryan says:

    Nonsense, Peter! Christians might have to believe that swearing isn’t Big or Clever, but as Stephen Fry (again!) pointed out, the idea that swearing indicates a poor vocabulary is an utter myth, on a par with those other schoolmarm dimbulb truisms like ‘you’re not allowed to start a sentence with But’ or ‘people who speak in RP are more intelligent than those who speak scots ‘. The greatest novel of the 20th century (Ulysses) is pretty sweary.

  29. This may not help, but several times I’ve led or contributed to seminars on the effect of attaching the word Cathedral to a building and the consequent positive and negative expectations and mission imperatives of such a designation.

    The name I give to these seminars?

    Obvious, really – “The C Word”.

  30. Poem for Ryan.

    Careless Words.

    They talk about them
    like they are not there
    they talk about them
    like they do not hear
    they talk about them
    with a wink and a nod
    as though everyone agrees
    and everyone knows what they mean
    when they say “traveller”

    They make grandiose statements
    career ending statements
    hounded out of public office statements
    if they made them about any other group
    any other group in the world
    apart from “travellers”

    They would gladly load the cattle trucks
    all that’s lacking is a law
    all that’s lacking is the paper work
    the corporate abdication of personal responsibility
    and the police would obey the law
    and the army would obey the law
    they could muster an Einsatzgruppen in a day

    And if you stand perfectly still
    in this slip of the lip
    you can feel Humanity slip
    you can feel the Earth slip
    toward oblivion.

    • ChiquiChic says:

      Thank you for this. This is what I think People should be caring about – the plight of our fellow man when we know in our deepest conciousness that injustice is being done

  31. ryan says:

    Kelvin – that cracked me almost as much as your last tweet on the left of your blog ;-)!

  32. Ryan, although you address your comment to Kelvin like I am not there. I assume you are referring to my poem, I can assure you that it does not crack me up watching you making any opinion you may have untenable.

  33. Thank you Kelvin and Sorry Ryan.

  34. ryan says:

    No worries! Was indeed referring to the v.amusing coming out day tweets at the side.

    I’m not sure there’s ever existed anyone, anywhere,at any time, of whom it could be said that *all* their opinions are ‘untenable’, so such rhetoric is dehumanising at best. Apropos nothing, I was moved to google the poetic stylings of the great David Brent. Who needs Auden? ;-)
    http://murfinsandburglars.com/2009/04/14/bad-poetry-for-tuesday-david-brent-edition/

  35. Peter says:

    Kelvin; no, I think it distracts. It simp;ly reminds us that this is how your mind works: you make connections and delight in that sort of word-play. However, to sharpen up my point. Thank you for helping me to realise that, for some, ‘family’ is not a positive word in the way in which I experience it. For my part, this willl mean that I will be more careful about its use when others might feel excluded (and therefore hurt). Mutatis mutandi can you accept that I feel offended by what seems to be merely a casual linking between family and the f word? These are sensitive areas, but sensibilities are by no means confined to those who find family a painful or unhelpful concept.

  36. Simon says:

    I am slightly nervous aboaut the alternatives to the 1982 Liturgy, not because I don’t share the inclusive sentiments expressed above (I do). I fear that, as so often in the history of the church, the steps we take to avoid one kind of mistake in the way we talk about God can lead us into another. The avoidance of pronouns as a measure to achieve inclusivity produces inelegant, strained and stilted English. How would it be if one were to use it in day-to-day speech? ‘I saw John this morning. I asked John’s how John’s health was. John said that John was over his flu, and hoped to be back at work on Monday’. This may not in itself seem to be a problem. But in fact, what very quickly happens when we adopt this idiom in addressing/expressing God, is that the very idea of a personal God begins to recede. My basic instinct is that the church’s language of pulbic prayer is properly anchored in that of the scriptures. There are dangers in departing from this. The perceived problem (rightly perceived) is perhaps better tackled by good teaching about the nature of God, than by linguistic contortions that produce stilted prayers, and possibly a less real and vivid idea of God.

  37. Melissa says:

    About the family imagery – another reason to drop it in church is for the sake ones who, like me, do actually have the signifying family relationships.

    There is too much pressure on day to day life with children when that life is forced to serve as some kind of example or testimony or witness to the world – or more likely one’s church friends – about the nature of God.

    I think it sours love because in that kind of scheme loving children is more fundamentally a means to an end.

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