The Struggle for Inclusive Language

I had forgotten the struggles of moving the church from all-male language to expressions that include women. In 1975 the Women’s Caucus of the Southern New England Conference of the United Methodist Church supported a letter to the Methodist Churchman, published by Boston United Methodist Area Services Committee and the Boston Wesleyan Association, to change the name of their publication. Some comments from the women:

“I note in your December 1974 edition that you are requesting your readers’ concern over the name of your publication. You also mention that you have heard from a limited number of requests for a name change.  I would assume that when the Southern New England Annual Conference last June went on record favoring a more inclusive name, you would have complied with their request. Certainly the body at conference represented more than a ‘limited number.’”

“As an active Methodist Church Person, I find the title Methodist Churchman very offensive – let’s go for broke, get up to date and not have a sexist title!”

“As a member of the Women’s Caucus, I again would mention hat we’re concerned about seeing more articles about women, especially Church Women, in your paper…”

In the midst of this I wrote the following:


Suddenly I feel without a calling
because the world has changed
and rules are not the same,
and things that once seemed holy are no more,
while things that once were base take on new worth.

For holy males and father-god no more compel devotion;
but sacred mother-goddess also evades my reach –
and I am left without a language
for my love or for my cry,
While uncomprehending brothers call it heresy.


About Nancy Smith

Nancy Smith has 20 years’ experience in technical writing and management in software companies. She also has more than 20 years in Christian ministry as an educator, course designer, retreat leader, spiritual director, pastor, and coach. A United Methodist Deacon, Smith has her M.Div. from Boston University. She is a graduate of the Guild for Spiritual Guidance, and is certified in Spiritual Direction and Retreat Leadership from Boston College.
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