Methodist Church of Great Britain Avoids ‘Hurtful Language’ Such as ‘Husband,’ ‘Wife’

The Methodist Church of Great Britain has instructed ministers to avoid using “hurtful language” such as “husband” and “wife.”

The changes to terminology are included in its “Inclusive Language Guide.”

According to the Methodist Church’s website, the guide helps one “understand why some words, phrases or images are offensive to other people.”

“As Christians, we need to have the courage for conversations that can sometimes be difficult, to recognise that we sometimes exclude people, to listen with humility, to repent of any hurtful language and to take care with how we listen and what we say or write, in the Spirit of Christ,” the guide begins.

In a section discussing why the guide is “important,” the church writes that “[i]t is crucial for our communications to be sensitive and inclusive because for such a long time, some groups have been marginalised and/or demonised by common culture.”

“There is infinite variety in the way that God’s creation is expressed in human life,” the guide describes. “This is worth bearing in mind as we speak and write. Terminology such as ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ may sound inoffensive but it makes assumptions about a family or personal life that is not the reality for many people.”

The church suggests using “parent,” “partner,” and “child” to ensure inclusivity and gender neutrality.

Church leaders are also told to use “anti-racist” language.

“It’s worth considering the need for the Church to take a restorative approach to any communication on the subject of racism, slavery, antisemitism and islamophobia and attempt to speak or write in a way that is not simply ‘not racist’ but is actively ‘anti-racist’,” the guide says. “Language is very powerful here. The words used to discuss power, privilege, racism and discrimination mean different things to different people. Language can uphold systems of white supremacy or encourage breaking it down or questioning it.”

The guide concludes by saying that there is “no definitive guide to ‘inclusive language.”

“Language, by its very nature, is constantly evolving. This guide is just a starting point, to get us talking, thinking, and sharing,” the document states. “If you’re reading this and feel that somebody or a group of people have been left out, get in touch to let us know and we’ll edit this guide to include them.”

The guide will be updated every six months.

American Faith reported that the Church of England also considered removing gendered language.

The Rev Joanna Stobart asked bishops “to provide more options for those who wish to use authorized liturgy and speak of God in a non-gendered way, particularly in authorized absolutions where many of the prayers offered for use refer to God using male pronouns.”

The Rev Ian Paul, a member of the General Synod and the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England, warned against any departure from the original scriptures saying: “The use of male pronouns for God should not be understood as implying that God is male – which is a heresy. God is not sexed, unlike humanity.”

In a statement responding to criticism, a spokesperson for the Church of England said, “This is nothing new. 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.”

The spokesperson added that there are “no plans to abolish or substantially revise currently authorized liturgies, and no such changes could be made without extensive legislation.”