What does it mean to be inclusive?

Being inclusive means referring to Deity as both female and male and more, including all genders and races equally in our language and in all areas of life. Being inclusive means giving equal opportunities to people of all genders, races, abilities, classes, and sexual orientations. Including both female and male and more in our language for the Divine provides a strong foundation for this equality and justice. In our worship services when we speak and sing of Deity as both female and male and more, we provide powerful affirmation of all human beings. Some people think that inclusive language means eliminating references to God as “He,” and simply repeating “God” or “Lord.” While eliminating masculine pronouns for Deity is a first step, it does not include the feminine. Because of centuries of tradition, most people still think “He” when they hear “God” and certainly “Lord.” Only by including female references, such as “Mother” and “She,” will women be truly included and valued.

Gender-neutral names and images of the Divine are not enough to deconstruct patriarchy and bring healing. Gender-neutral language continues to allow socialized patterns of male dominance to shape values and actions. If all genders were treated equally, and if people perceived Deity to be female as well as male and more, then such neutral language could work. But all genders are not treated equally, and most people still think of Deity as male. Just as the Black Lives Matter movement has taught us that, though all lives matter, we need to name that black lives matter because they have not mattered enough in our culture, so we need to name females in the divine image, though all genders are in the divine image, because the Female Divine has not been named and valued. We need to name that which has been unnamed, demeaned, devalued, and oppressed.

Being inclusive then means including biblical female names for Deity, such as “Mother,” “Midwife,” “Baker Woman,” “Mother Eagle,” “Mother Hen,” Sophia (NT Greek word for “Wisdom”), Ruah, Shekhinah, and Shaddai. We also contribute to racial equality by changing the traditional symbolism of darkness as evil and light as good to symbolism of both darkness and light as good, both as sacred and holy.

Sacred names and symbols that are inclusive in gender and race help overcome injustice and create a world of shared power. Including male and female, darkness and light in language for the Divine lays the foundation for including people of all genders and races as pastors and priests and as equal leaders in church and society. Including male and female, dark and light references to Deity in worship lays the foundation for inclusiveness in gender, race, and sexual orientation.

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