The Lord’s prayer is “problematic” due to the “oppressively patriarchal” reference to “Our Father”, the Archbishop of York has suggested.
The opening words of the Lord’s prayer, which have been recited by Christians for around 2,000 years, were deemed divisive during a meeting of the Church of England’s ruling body.
Stephen Cottrell, who succeeded John Sentamu at Bishopthorpe Palace in 2020, used the remainder of his speech before the General Synod to stress the need for unity.
The Archbishop of York said: “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.”
St Chad's Church in Wishaw, Warwickshire, with a centuries-old mural of the Lord's Prayer
He later added: “We remain stubbornly unreconciled, appear complacent about division, and often also appear all too ready to divide again […] We have got used to disunity.
“We think it’s normal when in fact, it is a disgrace, an affront to Christ and all he came to give us.”
Canon Dr Chris Sugden, chair of the conservative Anglican Mainstream group, appeared to dismiss Cottrell’s concerns.
He asked: “Is the Archbishop of York saying Jesus was wrong, or that Jesus was not pastorally aware?
The Most Reverend Stephen Cottrell during his enthronement as the 98th Archbishop of York
“It seems to be emblematic of the approach of some church leaders to take their cues from culture rather than scripture.”
However, Reverend Christina Rees, who campaigned for female bishops, stressed the Archbishop “put his finger on an issue that’s a really live issue for Christians and has been for many years”.
She added: “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.”
The Church of England was left divided in February after Lambeth Palace decided to launch a commission on gendered language.
The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell (left), and The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, during a Synod at the General Synod
The commission will consider whether to stop referring to God as “he”.
It could instead suggest priests use gender-neutral terms.
A spokesperson for the Church of England said at the time: “Christians have recognised since ancient times 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.
“There has been greater interest in exploring new language since the introduction of our current forms of service in contemporary language more than 20 years ago.
“There are absolutely no plans to abolish or substantially revise currently authorised liturgies, and no such changes could be made without extensive legislation.”