The Archbishop of York has suggested that the words ‘Our Father’ at the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer, may be “problematic”.
Speaking at the opening of the Church of England’s General Synod in York, Most Rev Stephen Cottrell said the word ‘father’ can be difficult for people who experience abusive parents :
“I know the word ‘father’ is problematic for those whose experience of earthly fathers has been destructive and abusive, and for all of us who have laboured rather too much from an oppressively patriarchal grip on life.”
Earlier this year, the Church launched a commission on gendered language, saying Christians have long recognised 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.”
After Archbishop Stephen’s speech yesterday, a member of the Archbishops’ Council Rev Dr Ian Paul said:
"Stephen is right that many people find the language of 'Father' difficult because of their own experience of fathers.
'But this is how Jesus reveals God to us. We are not at liberty to reject this clear and consistent teaching of Scripture."
Canon Dr Chris Sugden, chairman of the orthodox Anglican Mainstream group agreed :
“Is the Archbishop of York saying Jesus was wrong or that Jesus was not pastorally aware? I can't believe he is doing that consciously, but that's the impression it gives.
“It seems to be emblematic of the approach of some church leaders to take their cues from culture rather than scripture. If people have had a difficult relationship with their human fathers, then the option open to them is to say you can rediscover the true nature of fatherhood through Christ.”
However Rev Christina Rees who led the campaign for women bishops, said the Archbishop had "put his finger on an issue that's a really live issue for Christians and has been for many years.”
General Synod continues in York until 11 July.