The Minnesota Conference of the United Methodist Church in the United States has discarded the term, ‘Father,’ from the Apostle’s Creed in an undertaking to be more gender inclusive to God.
The ancient creed of the Christian Church reads:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.
However, United Methodists in the Minnesota Conference decided that referring to God as “Father” wasn’t inclusive enough for the 21st century United Methodist Church. At the conference, held May 30 through June 1, conference organisers omitted reference to God the Father. Instead, they changed the phrase “God the Father Almighty” to “God the Creator Almighty.”
The creed passed out to attendees also removed the phrase, “Jesus Christ, His only Son” to “Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.”
Rev. Keith Mcilwain, a cleric at Slippery Rock United Methodist Church in the Western Pennsylvania Conference, posted a screenshot of the newly altered creed on his Twitter.
— Keith Mcilwain (@KeithMcilwain) 2 June 2018
In an interview with Christian Post on Wednesday, Mcilwain explained that he got his hands on a copy of the edited creed from an acquaintance of his who attended the Annual Conference.
Mcilwain took issue with the revises, spelling out that it “fails to affirm the classical ecumenically supported understanding of the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity, which teaches us that God has been revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
“No United Methodist individual or body has the authority to edit those creeds which were formulated by the early Church and have helped define orthodox Christianity for the better part of 2000 years,” said Mcilwain.
“To see the creed abused in this way is extraordinarily disheartening, further distances our already troubled denomination from the Church Universal, exacerbates already existing tensions within the Church, and harms those affirming the creed by failing to faithfully teach and uphold one of the core essential doctrines of the Christian faith — the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity.”
The United Methodist Church has frequently become more egalitarian in the early twenty-first and latter twentieth century, beginning with the ordaining of female clergy with full ordination rights in 1956. The roots of the egalitarian movement among Methodists began, however, with the 18th-century female preacher, Mary Bosanquet Fletcher, convincing John Wesley that some women should be given limited preaching abilities.
Since then, the UMC has engaged in efforts to make their liturgy, hymns, and sermons more “gender inclusive,” by getting rid of or discouraging use of terms like “men” or referring to God with male pronouns.
Despite the trend, plenty of clergy and hymns in the official hymnal still refer to God in the masculine tense, and most UMC congregations use the Lord’s Prayer, with its opening line “Our Father.”
Furthermore, the UMC retains a traditional and an ecumenical version of the Apostles’ Creed for official use, both of which identify God as “Father” and Jesus as “His Only Son.”
A United Methodist Church website has since provided a blog explaining the concept behind removing the “Father” understanding of God (taught by Jesus and the rest of Scripture).