God is gender-neutral: Church of Sweden urges clergy to stop referring to ‘the Lord’ and ‘He’

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The Church of Sweden is urging its clergy to use gender-neutral language when referring to God.

The national church, which is Evangelical Lutheran, asks priests and other staff to refrain from using terms like ‘Lord’ and ‘He’ in favor of the less specific ‘God.’

The Lord’s Prayer, which in Swedish as in English is commonly called ‘Our Father’, shall continue to be referred to as such.

The move is one of several taken by the national Evangelical Lutheran church in updating a 31-year-old handbook setting out how services should be conducted in terms of language, liturgy, hymns and other aspects.

The decision was taken Thursday at the end of an eight-day meeting of the church’s 251-member decision-making body, and takes effect May 20 on the Christian holiday of Pentecost.

Jackelen told Sweden’s TT news agency a more inclusive language had already been discussed at the 1986 conference.

‘Theologically, for instance, we know that God is beyond our gender determinations, God is not human,’ Jackelen was quoted as saying by TT.

The change has been met with some criticism in Sweden.

Christer Pahlmblad, an associate theology professor with Sweden’s Lund University, told a Christian newspaper in Denmark that the move was ‘undermining the doctrine of the Trinity and the community with the other Christian churches.’

‘It really isn’t smart if the Church of Sweden becomes known as a church that does not respect the common theology heritage,’ he told Kristeligt Dagblad.

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