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Vicar defends calling Holy Spirit ‘she' during Synod debate

Lucas Cumiskey, PA

A vicar who referred to the Holy Spirit as “she” during a meeting of the Church of England's General Synod on Wednesday has said it was “not a radical new-fangled thing trying to be woke”.

Chantal Noppen, a vicar from North Wearside, made the remarks to the Synod – known as the church's parliament – during a wide-ranging debate as it considered proposals for clergy to bless same-sex couples.

At one point, she said: “And those of you who are concerned there hasn't been enough time left for the Holy Spirt to act, be assured guys, she's more than capable of acting very quickly and profoundly.”

Her comments sparked a debate online, with some worshippers offended at her use of a female pronoun to describe the Holy Spirt.

It comes as the Church of England is considering alternatives to referring to God as “he” after priests asked to be allowed to use gender-neutral terms instead.

A new project is to be launched in the spring to decide whether to propose changes or not, but some critics have claimed it would represent an abandonment of the Church's own doctrine.

However, Ms Noppen defended her comments, telling the PA news agency she “often” refers to the Holy Spirt as a “she”, adding: “Ruach the Hebrew word often used is feminine… for a start.

“Biblically, the Godhead is referred to throughout scripture with a large number of pronouns and descriptors. Not all male. Sometimes not even gendered at all.

“This is not a radical new-fangled thing trying to be woke.

“But it is about time the liturgy of the Church of England recognised and affirmed this wider understanding more clearly.

“Literally giving voice to more marginalised communities.

“Patriarchal society and assumptions have long damaged and reduced the possibility and potential of people, particularly those who do not conform or fit that model – women, non-heteronormative folk.

“Such ideas and language, if we're honest, have been used to control, justify and condone abuse.

“Surely we should be responding to that reality and distancing ourselves from that?

“God is not male.

“Certainly not the white cis male with a beard, sitting on a cloud, we seem to reduce and limit God to so often.

“God is far bigger than a binary sense of gender allows.

“Using exclusively male terminology when referring to God suggests an unhelpful and unhealthy limited understanding of God.

“God is not meant to be confined or conformed to fit in a box – rather blurring the boundaries, crossing lines and being permeable and dynamic. Not fixed and finite.

“It's time to embrace the liberation that such changes to our language can offer.”

The Church of England's website states that a “belief in God as father, son and Holy Spirit is at the heart of our faith”.

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