Local Episcopal Churches Call for Gender-Neutral Book of Common Prayer

A vote by the local Episcopal Diocese urges the church to consider gender-neutral language if a convention of church members this summer approves an update to the Book of Common Prayer.

Any changes wouldn’t affect the “Our Father,” the prayer Jesus taught the disciples, because the prayer is a passage from the Bible. But it could change pronouns and nouns in the Episcopal prayer book, which the church uses to guide its services.

“It’s good to realize God cannot be contained with just a few pronouns or nouns,” said the Rev. Linda R. Calkins from St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Laytonsville. Calkins was a delegate to Jan. 26 diocesan convention that approved the resolution.

And it would not remove all male references; just be inclusive of other genders.

The resolution calls on the national church’s Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, that “if revision of the Book of Common Prayer is authorized, to utilize expansive language for God from the rich sources of feminine, masculine, and non-binary imagery for God found in Scripture and tradition and, when possible, to avoid the use of gendered pronouns for God.”

The Episcopal Church has a national convention in Austin, Texas, in July. Then, delegates can decide whether it’s time to revise the Book of Common Prayer, last rewritten in 1979.

The Rev. Alex Dyer, the priest in charge of St. Thomas’s Parish Episcopal Church on Dupont Circle, authored the resolution.

“There are Episcopal churches that draw upon this imagery, and they’re longing for a prayer book that draws on this language. I’d love to see what they would produce,” Dyer said.

Although this year’s convention could approve the process of rewriting the Book of Common Prayer, two other conventions — which occur every three years — would have to approve the changes.

Although the resolution was widely supported, there were some naysayers.

“People are freaking out about it. To me, it’s a level 3, not a level 9 or 10,” Dyer said.

Even so, he added: “This is not a topic we will discuss lightly.”

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Douglas Tallman

About Douglas Tallman

Reporter with 35 years experience throughout Maryland. Reach me at dtallman@mymcmedia.org or via Twitter at @MCM-Doug

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