How Many Different Ways Can Presbyterians Say: "Father, Son, Holy Spirit"?


Senior Member
Apr 20, 2005
Cordova, TN
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (AP) -- Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) delegates stopped short Monday of approving gender-inclusive language for worship of the divine Trinity, along with the traditional "Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

The assembly decided to merely "receive" a policy paper on the subject rather than approve it.

That means church officials can propose experimental liturgies with alternative phrasings for the Trinity, but congregations won't be required to use them.

The assembly narrowly defeated a conservative bid to refer the paper back for further study.

A panel that worked on the issue since 2000 said the classical language for the Trinity should continue to be used, but that Presbyterians also should seek "fresh ways to speak of the mystery of the triune God" to "expand the church's vocabulary of praise and wonder."

One reason is that language limited to the Father and Son "has been used to support the idea that God is male and that men are superior to women," the panel said.

Conservatives objected that the church should stick close to the way God is named in the Bible and noted that Jesus' most famous prayer was addressed to "Our Father."

Among the proposed options drawn from biblical material:

# "Mother, Child and Womb"

# "Lover, Beloved, Love"

# "Creator, Savior, Sanctifier"

# "Rock, Redeemer, Friend"

# "King of Glory, Prince of Peace, Spirit of Love."

Early in Monday's business session, the Presbyterian assembly sang a revised version of a familiar doxology, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow" that avoided male pronouns for God.

During debate on the Trinity proposal, legislative committee chair Nancy Olthoff, an Iowa laywoman, said "this does not alter the church's theological position, but provides an educational resource to enhance the spiritual life of our membership."

But youth delegate Dorothy Hill, a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, said the paper "suggests viewpoints that seem to be in tension with what our church has always held to be true about our Trinitarian God."

Hill reminded delegates that the Ten Commandments say "the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name."

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