The Church of England’s undermining of the scriptures continues, as the Transformations Steering Group, an entity that monitors the impact of women in ministry in the Church of England, seeks to overhaul the official liturgy so that it addresses God as a female.
Hilary Cotton of the Women and the Church, a group that spearheaded the initiative to get women ordained as bishops, also argued for this position:
Until we shift considerably towards a more gender-full expression in our worship about God then we are failing God and we are missing something…We are [also] going to miss some of the opportunities that otherwise particularly women might feel themselves called to….[T]here is recognition from the Church of England that men and women are made in the image of God and therefore it is entirely appropriate to express our worship toward God as a female presence…having women bishops makes it particularly obvious that…to continue to refer to God purely as male is just unhelpful to many people now.
Summarizing the controversy, Cotton noted that these ideas have provoked a wide range of reactions, “The response you often get at one end is ‘why does it matter because God is beyond all this?’ At the other end the reaction is ‘you mustn’t because Jesus calls God father.’”
Unfortunately for Cotton, her ideas are not only unsupported by the scriptures, they are in conflict with them. While God occasionally compares His actions to that of a woman, He always chose to identify Himself in a masculine context. God called himself a father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5), Jesus was incarnated as a man and referred to God as “Father” (John 10:30), and Paul says that we cry “Abba Father” through the Holy Spirit upon our adoption into God’s family (Romans 8:15). It is therefore a leap of logic to assert that we are “failing God and…missing something” by simply addressing God in the manner He outlined.
Cotton’s second argument is obstructed by the fact there is no scriptural record of God’s masculine identity obstructing the callings of women in the Church. Simply addressing God as a “she” or “mother” will do nothing to change one’s calling or God’s plan for their life.
It is true that both men and women are made in God’s image, but that simply highlights the fact that men and women reflect God’s nature in different ways. God said through the Apostle Paul that the male and female marriage relationship is supposed to mimic that of Christ and the Church. The man is to mimic Christ’s loving headship and the woman is to mimic the Church’s godly submission (Eph. 5:23-33). This implies that God’s masculine identity is meant to be illustrative of His headship authority and his love for the Church. To compromise this identity would destroy God’s illustration of authority and love. It would create two feminine figures: the female god and the Church. This disrupts the unique manner in which men and women display the image of God. Under this distorted model, no one is unique and therefore no one is to be celebrated.
Finally, Cotton’s argument that the use of feminine language for God is the only way to be “helpful” to people in an age of female bishops is as vague as it is misguided. Putting aside the questionable concept of female ordination (I Tim 2: 12-15), how exactly do female bishops render God’s instructions regarding His identity unhelpful? More importantly, the doctrinal accuracy of a position is not measured by its usefulness to man, but whether or not it conforms to the character of God.
Ultimately, this is an attempt by some in the Church of England to allow human beings to define God as they see fit. This is an inversion of the creation formula itself. God is the potter and we are the clay (Isaiah 64:8), not vice versa (Isaiah 29:16). One can only pray that this initiative to have the liturgy address God in a manner contrary to His will fails to receive the approval of the General Synod. Should they succeed, God’s name will be denigrated and women will be robbed of an image of a loving father.