Brisbane Catholic schools’ use of gender-neutral descriptions of God during prayer has infuriated “religious freedom” campaigner Lyle Shelton.
Shelton was responding to a Courier-Mail report that schools are replacing terms such as “Lord”, “Father”, and “Son” with terms like “Creator”, “Godself”, and “the Holy Spirit”.
For instance, Stuartholme in Toowong has replaced the word “himself” with “Godself”.
“As we believe God is neither male or female, Stuartholme tries to use gender-neutral terms in prayers,” a spokesperson told the newspaper.
“[This is] so that our community deepens their understanding of who God is for them, how God reveals Godself through creation, our relationships with others and the person of Jesus.”
Loreto College Principal Kim Wickham said prayers written specifically for use within her college didn’t refer to God as male or female.
St Rita’s College Assistant Principal Richard Rogusz said the school “strives to use gender-neutral terms for God, for example ‘God and God’s people’ rather than ‘God and His people’.”
But Lyle Shelton slammed the gender-neutral prayers as “political correctness gone mad” and appeared to blame same-sex marriage.
“This is further evidence of the agenda of those who sought to ‘de-gender’ marriage – now they want to de-gender religion,” he said.
“In Christian theology, God expresses himself as a father in the male gender.
“The scriptures clearly explain God to us as a father.”
Others disagree with Lyle Shelton
But the concept of a “genderless” God is not uncommon within Christianity.
The UK Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Church of England, said last November that “God is not male or female”.
“All human language about God is inadequate and to some degree metaphorical,” Reverend Justin Welby said.
“God is not a father in exactly the same way as a human being is a father, God is not male or female. God is not definable.
“It is extraordinarily important as Christians that we remember that the definitive revelation of who God is was not in words, but in the word of God who we call Jesus Christ.”
Rev Welby said Pope John Paul’s 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church, a summary of the church’s teachings, states “God is neither man nor woman: he is God.”
The Catholic Office for the Participation of Women director Andrea Dean said it was “terrific” that schools were using gender-neutral prayer.
“It’s terrific that they’re sensitive to the implications of how God is named,” she told the Courier-Mail.
“God is not of any gender. In the times the scripture was written, [Lord and Father] were terms of honour – most of the terms of honour were related to men.”
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