Women's Division General Conference Resolution On Inclusive God Language Runs Seriously Amok
All segments of the United Methodist Church are preparing for General Conference 2000. I recently attended a meeting of "official" and "unofficial" renewal groups who are jointly planning a tremendous prayer effort for this event slated for Cleveland, Ohio, May 2-12. How reassuring to be aware of this, the most important, facet of our preparation.
Most of our official boards and agencies will be submitting resolutions to General Conference. The Womens Division has prepared resolutions on seven topics: (1) Adoption in a Global Context; (2) Banning the Use of the Child Soldier; (3) Biblical Language; (4) Hate Crimes in the United States; (5) "Pillars of Peace for the 21st Century"--A New Policy Statement on the United Nations; (6) Public Education and the Church in the USA; (7) Responsible Travel.
While I have addressed my concerns about several of these resolutions for our upcoming newsletter and the next issue of Good News magazine, in this letter, I particularly want to focus on the resolution regarding Biblical Language.
On the surface, this seems a reasonable resolution, intended to affirm "the use of language that reflects the long-standing commitment to the inclusiveness and diversity of United Methodist members and constituencies." However, the full implication of this resolution is seen in the sections where the United Methodist Publishing House and the General Council on Ministries (or appropriate body) are authorized not only to prepare guidelines and resources that deal with inclusive language for all persons, but also inclusive language for God. Here is where this resolution runs seriously amuck.
As theologian Elizabeth Achtemeier has so aptly stated, "No aspect of the feminist movement promises to affect the churchs life more basically than that movements attempts to change language for God."
My intention in this letter is to help clarify why the feminist argument for inclusive language for God, and in this case, the Womens Divisions resolution on Biblical Language, is flawed and destructive of an accurate understanding of the true and living God.
A letter can only touch on a few important key elements in this particular argument. You may send for a more extensive issue paper on this topic by using the enclosed card. (Since you have no card, you may write to Renew Network )
The following points are critical to the Christian, Biblical understanding of the character and nature of God and shape the theology of sound Christian doctrine. Several sources are referenced to support each point.
God is neither male nor female. Contrary to feminist thought, and to the implications of the resolution on Biblical Language, Biblical scholars agree universally that the God of the Bible has no sexuality.
The few instances of feminine imagery for God in the Bible all take the form of simile, not metaphor.3 Feminist theology and the Womens Division resolution base their claim to inclusive language upon diverse imagery used for God in the Scriptures. The claim that all such language has equal authority in naming God is inaccurate.
God has revealed and named Himself. God has revealed himself as the Father of Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ as the Son of the Father. That is Gods self-identity. The names "Father," "Son" and "Holy Spirit" also clearly identify God as three distinct persons. Therefore, it is inappropriate to refer to God as mother, or to refer to God exclusively by his works or attributes such as Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, Rock, Ground of Being, Wisdom. These works and attributes cloud the threeness of the Trinity and the personhood of God.5
Inclusive Language for God destroys sound Christian doctrine. Gods revelation of Himself defines who we are as the people of God. To attempt to alter Gods identity to fit our experience or gender requirements would be disastrous. And, God cannot be named by impersonal, metaphorical language.
I hope these points are helpful to you in evaluating the faulty theology behind feminist attempts to change the language for God. The Womens Divisions resolution on Biblical Language contains recommendations supportive of this perspective. We need to do all we can to see that this resolution is defeated at General Conference 2000.
Members of the RENEW Network committee will be an integral part of the General Conference 2000 team. As the womens program arm of Good News, we will be working closely with them in their efforts to have a positive impact upon General Conference by encouraging the United Methodist Church to remain faithful to Scriptural Christianity and to its own Doctrinal Standards.
Keep praying for the upcoming General Conference and its impact upon the United Methodist Church. If you are able, refer to the "Call to Action" section of our web site for specific information about prayer for GC2000 (http://www.renewnetwork.org ).
Influencing General Conference requires a tremendous investment of time, energy and money. RENEW has entered the new year with a balanced budget, but with no surplus for new programs or for General Conference expenses. Your gift of $25, $50, $100 or any amount you can give will enable us to move ahead with new programs and support our personnel at General Conference 2000. Thank you in advance for your prayers and financial support
Sincerely in Christ,
L. Faye Short President
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