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PCUSA considering new Trinity language, sees historic formulas as promoting male superiority

June 21, 2006

The words the church has used for nearly 1,700 years to describe the Trinity is apparently too male-centered for some in the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA).

The words the church has used for nearly 1,700 years to describe the Trinity is apparently too male-centered for some in the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA).

Delegates of the PCUSA are mulling the adoption of so-called gender inclusive language for worship of the divine Trinity alongside the traditional “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” this week during the denomination’s 217th General Assembly in Birmingham, Ala.

The denomination has appointed a study panel to consider “fresh ways to speak of the mystery of the triune God” to “expand the church’s vocabulary of praise and wonder,” according to a PCUSA press release.

The reason? The panelists consider descriptors of the Trinity limited to “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”—the clear language of Scripture—as chauvinistic because the traditional formula “has been used to support the idea that God is male and that men are superior to women,” panel members said.

So what are the feminist options for “updating” the Trinity? The panel is considering to place alongside “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” a number of feminist-friendly terms, including:

· “Mother, Child, and Womb.”

· “Lover, Beloved, Love.”

· “Creator, Savior, Sanctifier.”

· “Rock, Redeemer, Friend.”

· “King of Glory, Prince of Peace, Spirit of Love.”

Apparently, not everyone in the liberal denomination is enthused with the new language. Conservatives are calling for the church to continue using the language of Scripture to describe the three persons of the Godhead.

According to a news release, two professors at the denomination’s theological seminary in Pittsburgh see the potential hazards of “updating” the language to assuage cultural sensibilities.

Professors Andrew Purves and Charles Partee said, “We not only lose the ground for our language of God, we in fact lose the Trinity. We lose God. We do not need a diluted, metaphorical Trinity; rather, we need our confidence in the Christian doctrine of God to be restored.”

The issue risks further ostracizing the few remaining conservatives in a denomination already fractured over the issue of homosexual ordination. The PCUSA was set to debate on Tuesday a bill that would give local congregations and regional presbyteries significant leeway in deciding whether or not to ordain clergy or lay officers living in gay relationships.

On Monday night, the denomination celebrated the ordination of women with an odd ceremony in which a group of satin-clad dancers invited assembly attendees to “renew their baptisms.”

The celebration of three important anniversaries of women’s ordination has been a theme writ large throughout the annual assembly as the PCUSA is marking the100th year for women deacons, the 75th year for women elders and the 50th year for women ministers.

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