During his opening address at the Church of England’s General Synod last week, the Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell suggested that opening the Lord’s Prayer with “Our Father” may be “problematic” for some, The UK Guardian reported.
Cottrell said he recognized that using “Our Father” might be problematic for those who had “destructive and abusive” relationships with their “earthly fathers” and for those who labor “too much from an oppressively patriarchal grip on life.”
Not everyone in attendance appreciated the archbishop’s comments.
Canon Dr. Chris Sugden, who chairs the conservative Anglican Mainstream group, noted that Jesus instructed his followers to pray in this way, using “Our Father,” and asked if Cottrell was suggesting that Jesus was either wrong or “pastorally unaware.”
Sudgen suggested that leaders in the Church of England appear to be taking their “cues from culture” rather than following the Scriptures.
However, a Church of England cleric who campaigned for allowing women to serve as bishops lauded Cottrell for putting “his finger on an issue” that has been important to Christians for years.
Rev. Christina Rees suggested that Christians do not believe that God thinks men more fully bear His image than women.
It was reported earlier this year, that the Church of England said it was considering replacing the traditional masculine pronouns used to describe God with gender-neutral terms.
After its General Synod in February, the Church announced plans to launch a commission tasked with looking into the use of gendered language both in its liturgy and general use. The Church explained that early Christians recognized that “God is neither male nor female,” however, the ways God is described “has not always been reflected in our worship.”
In 2018, the archbishop of Canterbury, the most senior bishop in the Church of England, said descriptions of God should be considered metaphorical since “God is not a male or a female. God is not definable.”