Starting The Lord’s Prayer With ‘Our Father’ Is ‘Problematic’ Says Archbishop of York

The Archbishop of York, Rev Stephen Cottrell has said that some people have problems with the traditional Biblical phrase ‘our Father’.

He said that opening words of the Lord’s Prayer, recited by Christians all over the world for 2,000 years, may be “problematic” for victims of abuse parents.

During a speech to the Church of England’s governing body, the Archbishop also claimed it was an issue for anyone who suffers in a male-dominated society.

The Mail Online reports: On Friday night, his comments to the General Synod were welcomed by some in the clergy. But they were criticised by traditionalists and risk triggering another row over woke language in the Church.

It emerged earlier this year that the CofE is considering referring to God in ‘non-gendered’ terms in services for the first time, which could see priests stop using the pronouns He and Him in prayers. The Archbishop, the Church’s second most senior cleric, devoted his presidential address in York to the importance of the word ‘our’.

He said: ‘If this God to whom we pray is ‘Father’ then all Christians are ‘family members, the household of God’.’ But he added: ‘Yes, I know the word ‘Father’ is problematic for those whose experience of earthly fathers has been destructive and abusive, and for all of us who have laboured rather too much from an oppressively patriarchal grip on life.’

The Rev Christina Rees, a former Synod member who led the campaign for women bishops, said the Archbishop ‘has put his finger on an issue that’s a really live issue for Christians and has been for many years’.

She added: ‘But I think the issues have come into sharp focus more with clergy abuse issues. Because sometimes the abuse victims have been abused by their birth fathers and gone on to be abused by their fathers in God – the local priest – so there are multiple layers why the term ‘Father’ is really difficult for people in the church.’ She went on: ‘It’s the way it’s been set for so long and so we’re stuck. And because Jesus called God ‘Daddy’, we think we have to call God ‘Daddy’.’

But Canon Dr Chris Sugden, chairman of the orthodox Anglican Mainstream group, pointed out that in the Bible, Jesus says: ‘When you pray, say ‘our Father’.

Dr Sugden said: ‘Is the Archbishop of York saying Jesus was wrong or that Jesus was not pastorally aware? I can’t believe he is doing that consciously, but that’s the impression it gives.

‘It seems to be emblematic of the approach of some church leaders to take their cues from culture rather than scripture.’

He added: ‘If people have had a difficult relationship with their human fathers, then the option open to them is to say you can rediscover the true nature of fatherhood through Christ.’

And Synod member Rev Dr Ian Paul said: ‘Stephen is right that many people find the language of ‘Father’ difficult because of their own experience of fathers.


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