- TABLE OF CONTENTS
- WAR ROOM -
STUDY - MORAL
ISSUES - KING
JAMES BIBLE - CULTS
to worship 'God the Mother
God our Father and our Mother, we give you thanks and praise for all that you have made, for the stars in their splendour and the world in its wonder and for the glorious gift of human life. With the saints and angels in heaven, we praise your holy name.
It is the first time in Britain that a mainstream Church has referred to God as a woman in an official service book, although feminists and liberals have been pressing for it for decades. The 600-page Methodist Worship Book, which has taken nine years to complete, replaces the 1975 text and will be used for the first time in Methodist churches on Easter Sunday.
The Methodist liturgical committee yesterday dismissed claims that the prayer was in any way radical and said that the femininity of God was referred to in the Bible and the prayers of the medieval mystic, Dame Julian of Norwich. The Prophet Isaiah (ch.66, v.13) recounts the words of God: "As a mother comforts her son so shall I comfort you." And Psalm 131 speaks about the relationship with God being like a weaned child clinging to its mother.
The Rev Neil Dixon, the secretary of the Faith and Order Committee, said the prayer was not an attempt to change the gender of God. During a press conference in Welsey's Chapel in the City of London Mr Dixon said: "God is not a person. God is a spirit and is neither male nor female. He is beyond gender. The fact we have used male imagery for centuries has reinforced the image of God as a man. But if all human beings are created in God's image then feminine as well as masculine attributes must reflect God's nature."
The Methodist Church was ahead of the Church of England by 20 years in accepting women's ministry and there is no office in the Church which is closed to women ministers. The marriage service in the new worship book also removes the ceremony of "giving away" the bride by her father. This feature of the wedding is replaced with an option for both the bride and bridegroom to be "presented" at the altar by a friend or relative.
The Methodist Church has a more liberal attitude to the remarriage of divorcees than the Church of England and currently 63 per cent of its weddings involve at least one divorced person. A subtle acknowledgement of the number of marriages that fail is included in the opening words for the minister in the wedding service.
In the 1975 text, the minister says: "According to the teaching of Christ, marriage is the lifelong union in body, mind and spirit." The new version, however, declares it to be God's will that "husband and wife should experience a lifelong unity of heart, body and mind". Mr Dixon said: "It is not a theological shift, but we do want to provide material which people feel comfortable with."
However, it was not the wedding service or God the Mother which sparked controversy within the Church, but a decision to drop the "prayer for humble access" before Holy Communion from a number of services. The liturgical committee tried to weed the prayer out of the service on the grounds that it was "grovelly" and placed too much emphasis on sin. The prayer, which begins "We do not presume to come to this your table, merciful Lord . . .", no longer appears in the services for Easter, Christmas and two ordinary season Holy Communion services.
after sacks of letters calling for the prayer to be rescued, the liturgical committee
has restored the prayer to other services. Rev Norman Wallwork, one of 15 members
of the liturgical committee, said: "An overriding element of the Eucharist is
to be lifted up by the healing of God. We do not want people to be brought down
at this holy moment and reminded they are a sinner."