Friday, August 10, 2018

Language Matters

Words Have Power

I am beginning to hear discussions about the use of  "expansive language" authorized by our General Convention. Some conversations are "heated" and others more calm.  Some want to retain traditional language, others want to seek words that reflect a different understanding of how we relate to each other and to God.

Those who use Morning Prayer as the source of  their daily prayers know The Jubilate or the 100th Psalm very well. A couple of days ago I felt moved to experiment with language of The Jubilate just to see how a few changes might sound. So in every place where the word “Lord” appeared, I replaced that with God. Every time God was referred to as “he” or “him” or “his” I replaced that with “God” as well.

Then I prayed the psalm. I was not prepared for something I immediately felt:  The intense power those changes created: God was God! The divine power of God came through the psalm in an unexpected way. I realized why. This simple change had removed all characteristics attributed to God that were human in nature. God’s divine nature was not encumbered by the limitations of human language. God was free to be God however I perceived God.

Here is the psalm using more expansive language:

Jubilate (Psalm 100)

Be joyful in God, all you lands; *
serve God with gladness and come before God’s presence with a song.
Know this: God is God; * God has made us, and we are God’s;
we are God’s people and the sheep of God’s pasture.
Enter God’s gates with thanksgiving; go into God’s courts with praise; *
give thanks to God and call upon God’s Name.
For God is good; God’s mercy is everlasting; *
and God’s faithfulness endures from age to age.
Glory to the Holy and undivided Trinity, One God, as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen

(I looked in the Enriching Our Worship (EOW) series of services to see if this was something I might have seen there. It was not, in so far as I could determine.)

Then I wondered what impact such simple changes might have on others. How often do any of us consider the impact of God always being portrayed as male (and often as a white male) on our kindred? Is the language of a “male God” a source of comfort to a woman who was abused by her father or husband or brother or some other male in her life? I’m not sure how it could be a comforting image in such situations. Similarly, how well could a man who had been beaten, belittled and abused by his father find comfort in God always being referred to as "he?" If there has never been a positive male role model in your life, how can you see God in a positive light if God is always a male?

We are products of the words and language we use. We are shaped by the images conveyed by those words, even if we do not always realize that. Do our words bring comfort or pain? I really don’t think most of us pay much attention to the power of language. When there is a proposal to change language, especially language in our Book of Common Prayer, we often see much resistance. Are we worshiping God or are we worshiping words?

Even Jesus used the symbolism of a mother hen gathering her brood under her wings. Jesus did not use "rooster". He used "hen". He used a feminine image. Surely if Jesus could look beyond the limitations of language, we can do the same. We might even be able to move beyond what we have inherited from our ancestors whose reference points were invariably male for more reasons than can be covered here.

Our language and imagery cannot contain God, no matter how hard we try. Let God be God, however each of us perceives God.

Holy Spirit, expand our hearts, expand our minds, expand our words. Let us see God simply as God. May we experience the divine power that comes when we cast off that with which we have tried to bind God.

Please continue to offer prayers for  healing and recovery for our Presiding Bishop as he rests and recuperates from prostate cancer surgery.





















Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA: The Episcopal Rainbow


Saturday, August 4, 2018

Expansive Language, Expansive Love

I urge you to access the activities of General Convention by going to www.generalconvention.org. Click on “virtual binder” you can view the resolutions on which actions were taken. I think it will be worth your while to explore the resolutions that were passed and see how they might impact your life and that of our church.

An area that is likely to pique interest is that of “expansive language.” Resolution D078 provides for the trial usage in Eucharistic Prayers A, B and D of language that is more expansive in our relationship and references to God and each other. It pulls in some of the language used in the Enriching Our Worship (EOW) series of services. It includes other changes that many congregations have essentially automatically been making in an effort to refer to God in more expansive language.

How many of us have begun prayers with “God be with you” rather than “The Lord be with you?” This resolution authorizes that language. In the opening acclamation for the Eucharist you will now be able to hear: “Blessed be God: most holy, glorious, and undivided Trinity.” To which the people may respond: “And blessed be God’s reign, now and for ever. Amen.”

One of the provisions of this trial usage is that it is authorized for use until the next revision of The Book of Common Prayer. This means we can use it beginning the First Sunday of Advent, 2018 and continue from there. 

Resolution B012 is the one that should allow same sex couples to be married in their own parishes whether the bishop of the diocese approves or not. How that will really play out is still to be resolved.

Resolution D067 calls upon us to use “bias free” language in referring to God and humankind. Most might immediately think that is more gender neutral language but it goes beyond that. The language of some Scripture is almost accusatory in tone. John’s version of the Gospel is sometimes anti-semitic in places. This resolution allows for the use of language that doesn’t automatically convey cultural biases. Hopefully that will allow us to see Scripture with more clarity.

Resolution C054 calls upon the church to be more inclusive of transgender persons and seeks avenues to achieve that.

Resolution D088 calls for the creation of policies for amending church records particularly for transgender people. This should make it easier once someone makes their transition to have some very important records reflect their expressed gender identity. 

I find it ironic that we have to pass resolutions to provide for more “expansive” language. God’s love is beyond expansive and always has been. It is our limited view of both love and God that needs expanding in both language and concept. God is beyond our humanly concocted notions of who God is or how God acts or in truth, anything about God. The Divine is always going to be beyond the ability of our limited minds to conceive.

May we learn to be more expansive about how we relate to each other as children of the Living God. Boundaries are of our creation, not God’s. Love knows no boundaries, despite our attempts otherwise.

Holy Spirit, sustainer of who we are as God’s children, expand our minds to engage with our fears and ignorance to see each other as God sees us. Holy Spirit, expand our hearts to match the boundless heart of God in pure and holy and unconditional love for each other and for the God to whom we turn in faith and trust for all that we are.

Please continue to offer prayers for healing and recovery for our Presiding Bishop as he rests and recuperates from prostate cancer surgery.




















Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA: The Episcopal Rainbow