Feminism and Masculine Language for God

Date: March 25, 2021

The latest issue of the Anglican Theological Review from Sage Publishing arrived this week. In addition to being a very attractive journal, it offers content that is especially rich. Our very own Katherine Sonderegger is a contributor (access the journal article here if on-campus; off-campus link here). In conversation with Ruth Meyers, Kate argues that masculine language for God is settled. Her compelling and elegant argument is this: the work of feminism is fundamental and substantial – the material conditions, the parity of pay, stopping sexual harassment, sex trafficking, and affirming the dignity of women. All of this, she supports. The work should not focus on turning the traditional language of the Trinity into either impersonal images or clumsy attempts to still be Trinitarian while avoiding the masculine language. In the end, we need a Triune God at the center of our worship and also we need a Church challenging patriarchy and discrimination wherever these are found. Masculine language safeguards the former, while feminism needs to advocate for the latter.

I am in print arguing for the alternative, although I share Kate’s theological disquiet over impersonal language. I rather like William Placher’s proposal that we say, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, One God, Mother of us all.” Let us expand our images to include maternal ones. So even though there is a difference between Kate and me on this, I marveled at and enjoyed a case well made with a depth and force that all who are liturgically serious must read.

Once again, I am grateful that I am at Virginia Theological Seminary. This is an incredible Faculty, of which I am honored to be a part.

The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
Dean and President

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