By Bishop Laish Z. Boyd, Diocesan Bishop
The Church of England is one of 46 separate and independent provinces in the worldwide Anglican Communion. At its recent General Synod (annual general meeting or national assembly) held in February 2023, it made a decision to have its Liturgical Commission—the body responsible for overseeing prayers and services—look into the subject of gender neutrality over the next five years. (The Liturgical Commission will work along with the Faith and Order Commission in this study.) The Commission had been considering the subject of gender neutrality in the language since 2014, in the context of a wider discussion on gender identity, sexuality, human relationships and marriage. The Bishops in the Church of England have authorized certain prayers to accompany this dialogue themed, “Living in love and faith.”.
This basic discussion about gender neutrality has been going on globally for decades in the religious and secular world. It has yielded such basic changes as referring to firemen as firefighters, stewardesses as flight attendants, policemen as police officers, and clergymen as clergy persons – to recognize the fact that these offices can be male or female.
The English Church made a decision to continue the discussion. It has not decided to change immediately (or at all)—the wording of the Lord’s Prayer or any other liturgical language—contrary to what some press reports suggest.
It is unfortunate that the media have latched onto a few keywords (coming out of a church gathering), associating gender with God, without reference to the wider dialogue mentioned above. The ongoing discussion is a discussion, but no conclusions have been arrived at.
The Church in the Province of the West Indies of which we are a part is a separate, independent member of the world Anglican Communion of which the Church of England is only one member. Decisions made by the Church of England have no bearing on us. We are not compelled to accept or to agree with any decision made by them.
It is our hope that despite the challenges before us we will be able to maintain unity within the Worldwide Anglican Communion.
We pray for and we work for this.