An Oxford University theological college has denied claims it asks students to refer to God using gender neutral pronouns in an attempt to tackle gender bias.
But the college, which teaches university students and trainee Church of England vicars, has strongly dismissed the claims, saying it does “no such thing”.
“There is no suggestion that traditional gender pronouns concerning God should be altered in any way,” the college’s principal Reverend Dr Michael Lloyd said in a statement.
“Indeed the Hall’s policy reaffirms that we should continue to speak of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as Christians have always done.”
Two top US divinity schools - Duke University and Vanderbilt - have recently recommended that professors use gender-neutral language for God in order to “mitigate sexism”, Heat Street reported.
But the news that Wycliffe Hall, which was founded in the 19th century, had allegedly followed suit sparked a row online.
Some slammed the move as “ridiculous”. A man named Geoffrey Harris wrote: “Didn’t God create Adam in his own image? Last time I checked, Adam was a masculine name.”
Another added: “It’s hardly surprising that church attendance is falling.”
But others praised the college for its seemingly progressive stance. One woman commented: “God has no sex or gender. It’s a simple frame of reference to illustrate a particular relationship with God.
“Some people relate more closely to God’s female aspect, others a Father or Lord.”
Despite its view on how students should refer to God, Wycliffe Hall has introduced a number of other changes to make its teaching more inclusive.
Its inclusivity policy reads: “The patriarchal masculine has become a form of alienation for many women and indeed many men. It reduces women to Other by normalising the masculine.”
The document also assures students that lecturers will make “every effort” to use examples of women in biblical passages and the work of female theologians and historians.
In addition to this, the college and its teachers will favour modern hymns that are inclusive or easily adaptable.
However, older hymns that are “by definition written in the language of the patriarchy” will be kept as a part of the church’s musical history.