ARCHBISHOP: ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ is Problematic

The Church of England’s Archbishop of York said that using the word “Father” in the opening of The Lord’s Prayer is “problematic” for those whose earthly fathers may have mistreated them.

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“For if this God to whom we pray is ‘Father’ — and, yes, I know the word ‘father’ is problematic for those whose experience of earthly fathers has been destructive and abusive, and for all of us have labored rather too much from an oppressively, patriarchal grip on life,” Archbishop Stephen Cottrell said during the York General Synod 2023 presidential address. “Then those of us who say this prayer together, whether we like it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not, even if we determinedly face away from each other, only turning round in order to put a knife in the back of the person standing behind us, are sisters and brothers, family members, the household of God.”

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The prayer, a bedrock of Christian belief, comes from the Gospels of Luke and Matthew in the Bible in which Jesus’ disciples asked him how they should pray to God.

According to Scripture, Jesus responded by telling them to say, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”

The archbishops of Canterbury and York say on the Church of England website that the prayer is “simple enough to be memorized by small children and yet profound enough to sustain a whole lifetime of prayer.”

The Guardian reported on the remarks and their relation to a split within the church on issues of sexuality, identity, and equality that have been present for years.

Canon Chris Sugden, chair of the conservative Anglican Mainstream group, rebuked the comment.

“Is the archbishop of York saying Jesus was wrong or that Jesus was not pastorally aware?” Sugden asked. “It seems to be emblematic of the approach of some church leaders to take their cues from culture rather than Scripture.”

The Rev. Christina Rees, who advocated for female bishops, said Cottrell “put his finger on an issue that’s a really live issue for Christians and has been for many years.”

“The big question is: Do we really believe that God believes that male human beings bear his image more fully and accurately than women? The answer is absolutely not,” she said.

The report said the church is studying whether it should stop referring to God as “He” and use “gender-neutral terms” instead.

“Christians have recognized since ancient times that God is neither male nor female,” the Guardian reported the church saying in a statement announcing the creation of a commission to study gendered language. “Yet the variety of ways of addressing and describing God found in Scripture has not always been reflected in our worship.”

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