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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE CLOSURE: UPDATES, RESOURCES, AND CONTEXT

Church of England says gender-neutral terms for God are up for discussion

ASMA KHALID, HOST:

Why is God so often referred to as a he? That's been a debate among many worshippers who speak gendered languages, like English. Now the Church of England is considering whether to use gender-neutral terms for God. A spokesperson for the church says that Christians have recognized that God is neither male nor female since ancient times. Yii-Jan Lin is an associate professor who studies the New Testament at Yale Divinity School.

YII-JAN LIN: There is also the Christian understanding that God is transcendent of human ideas. And so this understands God as beyond human complete understanding of who God is and what God is.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

She says the terms father and he are commonly used when referring to God because of the culture we live in.

LIN: That is just the history of patriarchal society through almost all of history. And so that has just been a part of human constructions of God, which has been dominated by masculine power.

KHALID: In the coming months, the Church of England plans to launch a new project studying the issue of gendered language. Reverend Amy Peeler, the author of "Women And The Gender of God," says she is not surprised.

AMY PEELER: It has risen to the front of the list of things that need to be addressed, given. The cultural moment.

MARTÍNEZ: Church of England currently has no plans to drop the use of male pronouns for God. But some Christians are already using gender-neutral terms for God. Joseph Newton is a 24-year-old non-binary theology student.

JOSEPH NEWTON: I struggle to understand how people want to believe in a God who is exclusive as opposed to inclusive.

KHALID: Newton says no matter what terms we use, God will still be God. But using gender-neutral pronouns could help make some churches feel more inclusive.

(SOUNDBITE OF ECHO ISLAND'S "FLOURISH") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.