The Archbishop of York has sought to clarify his comments about the opening words of the Lord's Prayer.
Earlier this month, Most Rev Stephen Cottrell got into hot water for suggesting that using the words "Our Father" in the Lord’s prayer might be problematic for those who were abused or neglected by their earthly father.
The remarks, made during his opening speech of the Church of England’s General Synod, most of which was dedicated to appealing for unity, sparked criticisms from some Christians who argued the Archbishop should not suggest changing the words of a Biblical prayer.
Now, writing in the Telegraph, Archbishop Stephen has clarified he “wasn't saying that we should stop using the word” but that we “need to be sensitive as we lead people in prayer”.
He said: “A few weeks ago, I found myself a little misunderstood when I said that some who have never known a father present in their life, or, worse, were abused or neglected by their father, may find this word challenging.
“As the Church of England and all mainstream denominations come to terms with a shameful history of clerical abuse, being mindful of these things is really important. But what I wasn’t saying is that we should stop using the word. Simply that we need to be sensitive as we lead people in prayer.
“As Jesus taught us, we pray to the God who is ‘Our Father’, and we help those whose experience of earthly fathers has been negative to discover the healing love of the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ. And as has always been the case, we use other language to describe God, as well. What I was actually talking about was the very powerful first word of the Lord’s Prayer, which is ‘our’.”
Earlier this year, the Church launched a commission on gendered language after priests asked to be allowed to use gender-neutral terms instead. The Church of England said they recognized that “God is neither male nor female, yet the variety of ways of addressing and describing God found in scripture has not always been reflected in our worship”.