Her important message to us was adapted from an article first printed in “The Other Side,” December 1987.
“Rise up, O men of God!” The singing begins at Sunday morning service. I want to go home. I needed some encouragement this morning, and we begin – without apology – with a song that leaves me out.
I know I am not alone, but as a woman I often feel alone. It seems that so few Christians understand the importance of including women in worship and the language of worship and of not speaking of God in solely masculine terms. I am convinced that when we limit our language, we limit God, ourselves, and others. However, in addition to being biblically faithful, making my language inclusive has opened up new ways of experiencing God and the world. But the world doesn’t always seem to want new ways of thinking. What is a feminist Christian to do?
We can begin by realizing that we are really not all alone. Others in the universal church, both men and women, share our concerns and our pain. They may not be in our congregation, but they are there. And – who knows? – there may be some folks in our own congregations who are open to inclusive language but haven’t yet made all the connections or dared to step forward.
But the bottom line is to remember to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3). Because language always falls short of expressing who God is, what we must seek is to know Jesus Christ and what he tells us of the nature of God.
Pray for God’s guidance on your own journey of faith. You will need to decide what’s best for you to do in a church setting that does not nurture inclusive views. If it is staying at your particular church, don’t use unity as a smoke-screen for not speaking up; but don’t deliberately make language a divisive issue, either – unless God clearly leads in that direction.
For me, a proper perspective means that sometimes it may be loving to point out someone’s use of male language that excludes women; other times, it may be most loving to ignore it and keep focused on the task at hand – be it feeding the hungry, sharing in someone’s struggle and pain no matter how it is being expressed, or worshipping the God I love with those I love. My consolation is that while our language is deeply ingrained and does not usually change overnight, it does change as our awareness changes. In the meantime, I must be patient with my brothers and sisters, remembering that our first and foremost task is to make the kingdom and love of Christ known in our suffering world.