Church of Sweden denies banning the use of male pronouns for God

(Wikimedia Commons/Cyberjunkie)The facade of Uppsala Cathedral in Uppsala, Sweden is featured in this image.

An official from the Church of Sweden has denied reports that it will no longer refer to God as "he" or "Lord" in a bid to be more inclusive.

Several news outlets have reported on Friday that the Swedish Church will now only refer to God in gender-neutral terms following an update to its 31-year-old handbook.

"It's not true," Sofija Pedersen Videke, head of the Church's service of worship committee, told The Local.

On Thursday, the 251-member Church Assembly voted with a large majority to update The Church Handbook, which provides guidance on how services, baptisms, weddings and funerals should be conducted, in language, liturgy, theology and music. The update, which will take effect on May 20 during Pentecost, reportedly includes the Church's aim to use language that is "more inclusive."

"The old handbook is from 1986 and the new edition is much more in line with the Swedish Bible translation made in 2000. God is beyond 'she' and 'he', God is so much more," Pedersen Videke said. "We want variation when it comes to how you express yourself, just like in the Bible," she added.

According to Telegraph, the update will allow clergy to use either the traditional "Father, son and Holy Ghost" or the gender-neutral phrase "in the name of God and the Holy Trinity" to open worship services.

The assembly had also agreed to use the female grammatical gender for the Holy Spirit, in accordance with the 2000 Swedish Bible translation.

The decision has drawn criticism from some theologians, including Christer Pahlmblad, who said that it 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," Pahlmblad, an associate theology professor at Lund University in Sweden, went on to say.

However, Pedersen Videke, whose committee was heavily involved in the work on the new handbook before it went before the Church Assembly, stressed that the change is not all-encompassing. "Everyone who wants to call God 'Lord' can remain calm. It is still there in many places in the new handbook. We have replaced 'he' with 'God' in one place, that's all," she explained.

She insisted that the reports that the Church will stop referring to God as "he" or "Lord" was "fake news."

The Church of Sweden, which has 6.1 million baptized members in a country of 10 million, has ordained women as priests since 1960. Women reportedly comprise 45 percent of the ordained clergy and have an even greater share of the church leadership, according to Russia Today.

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