Another church bites the dust

Millions of Lutherans will be able to sing a new song — actually some 300 new songs — to the Lord in an updated worship book that offers more options for contemporary worship and less emphasis on exclusively masculine images of God

It will offer alternatives such as “Holy Eternal Majesty, Holy Incarnate Word, Holy Abiding Spirit” for the male-dominated Trinitarian image of “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” in prayers during Sunday services.

“This is an important moment,” said Bishop Marcus Miller of the Northeastern Ohio Synod, which has some 93,000 members in 208 churches. “I’m happy. I’m convinced it will be a great blessing to the church.” The book still must be approved by denomination’s Church Council.

Churches are not required to use the book. But it is expected to make its way into the pews of most of the 4.9 million-member denomination’s nearly 10,600 congregations, either when it first comes out or as local churches gradually replace their old worship books. Church leaders say the new book is faithful to the best of Lutheran tradition, while updating worship for today’s church, which includes women bishops, contemporary “praise bands” and a desire for greater ethnic and racial diversity.

Among the more controversial proposed changes, gender-neutral language is substituted or offered as alternatives in many places for male pronouns for God or masculine images referring to humanity. For example, a line in the Apostle’s Creed would substitute the phrase “God’s only son” for “his only son” in a reference to Jesus. In some hymns, words like “king” are eliminated in favor of the more direct word “God.” In other cases, such as the song “How Great Thou Art,” the masculine imagery is left in because the church decided change would be too disruptive.

Denise Leslie, a delegate from Hope Lutheran Church in Cleveland Heights, said using language for God that includes women is important because “when you hear gender-neutral, things suddenly become more clear and comfortable.”

Heaven forbid that the Church might make someone feel uncomfortable! I mean, look at how people were so comfortable with that Jesus guy. How long do you give them before they’re using a naked woman for the altar, drinking each other’s blood and screaming IAO IAO PAN AETERNUS? I can’t decide which is more disheartening, today’s conservatives or today’s churches.

On the other hand, it’s kind of nice in a way. It sure makes it a lot easier to shrug your shoulders when you see the nation sliding towards inevitable Hell on Earth and say, you know what? They deserve exactly what they’re going to get.