After priests asked to be allowed to use gender-neutral terms instead of referring to God as “he,” the Church of England announced that they are now considering alternatives.
The Church stated that it would launch a new project on the subject in the spring to determine whether or not to propose changes.
Any potential changes that would deviate from millennia-old Jewish and Christian teachings would have to be approved by synod, the Church’s decision-making body.
The Rt Rev Dr Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Lichfield and vice-chair of the liturgical commission responsible for the matter, said the Church had been “exploring the use of gendered language in relation to God for several years”.
“After some dialogue between the two Commissions in this area, a new joint project on gendered language will begin this spring,” he said.
“In common with other potential changes to authorised liturgical provision, changing the wording and number of authorised forms of absolution would require a full Synodical process for approval.”
The bishop’s remarks came in response to a question at synod from the Rev Joanna Stobart, vicar of Ilminster and Whitelackington in Somerset, about progress towards “more inclusive language” in services.
It is currently unknown what would take the place of the phrase “Our Father” in the Lord’s Prayer, the central Christian prayer that Jesus Christ is said to have instructed his disciples to say together down the generations.
Conservative critics have reacted angrily to the possibility of changes, with Rev Dr Ian Paul telling the Telegraph that they would amount to an abandonment of the Church’s own doctrine.
He said: “The fact that God is called ‘Father’ can’t be substituted by ‘Mother’ without changing meaning, nor can it be gender-neutralised to ‘Parent’ without loss of meaning.
“This is nothing new,” a Church of England spokesman said. “Christians have known since ancient times that God is neither male nor female; however, the variety of ways in which God is addressed and described in scripture has not always been reflected in our worship.”
“Since the introduction of our current forms of service in contemporary language more than 20 years ago, there has been a greater interest in exploring new language.”