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Methodists urge ministers to avoid gendered terms like husband & wife

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The Methodist Church UK has issued an inclusive language guide that urges church officials and lay people to update terminology to be more welcoming.

“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 church wrote to introduce the document.

“Good, open, encouraging conversations, based on careful listening, are central to all positive relationships, including those within the Church. Using careful and positive language is key to effective ministry and mission.”

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In the United States, the Methodist church has been riven by LGBTQ+ rights debates, with hundreds of churches officially leaving the denomination in protest of efforts to be more inclusive and welcoming.

In 2019, the  General Conference of The United Methodist Church announced that churches could leave the denomination through the end of 2023 “for reasons of conscience regarding a change in the requirements and provisions of the Book of Discipline related to the practice of homosexuality or the ordination or marriage of self-avowed practicing homosexuals as resolved and adopted by the 2019 General Conference, or the actions or inactions of its annual conference related to these issues which follow.” 

While the religion officially bans same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ clergy, many churches have reportedly been skirting the rules as of late, which has caused ire among the more conservative congregations.

The U.K. branch allows for same-sex marriage and is supportive of LGBTQ+ people.

“As our understanding of one another evolves, so should the language we use to communicate. We are all certain to make mistakes at some point if we are brave enough to have honest conversations,” church officials warn in the document.

“If you hear something within the Methodist Church that you find difficult or offensive, please assume ‘good intent’ until you are sure. This could be due to generational differences, to ignorance of your own life experience, or, sadly, it could be due to prejudice.”

The document suggests replacing terms like “husband” and “wife” with gender-neutral terms like “parent,” “partner,” or “carer,” noting that “carer” is a “neutral yet understandable way to refer to the primary carer of a child, who may or may not be their parent.”

It goes well beyond LGBTQ+ terminology to be inclusive of everyone and to address minorities that have been “marginalized and/or demonized by common culture.”

Suggestions are given to avoid sounding Islamaphobic, ageist, antisemitic, racist, biased against immigration status, and judgemental of someone’s disabilities, language skills, or poverty level.


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