Words Matter, A Conversation of Interest

I spent the better part of six days working on two versions of the press release announcing the Expansive Language conference coming up in two weeks. I am on the planning team working with a group of fabulous women, all of whom are excited about this. Here is a link to the NCC release and below is the other  version of the press release I worked on which we hope will be picked up Episcopal News Service:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Office of Communication, Diocese of Chicago

NCC group to meet in Chicago August 9-11
to discuss the words we use to talk about God

Chicago, July 23, 2010 — A diverse group of Christians will gather here August 9-11 to talk about the language people use to talk about God and faith.

The National Council of Churches (NCC) symposium, “Language Matters,” will discuss how to talk about God and faith in ways that respects the sensibilities of people from a variety of Christian traditions and viewpoints.

The conversation will focus on the language, images, and symbols used in worship and everyday life to talk about faith and God.

Initiated by the NCC’s Justice for Women Working Group, this conversation is a first step in a larger project designed to create resources for congregations and groups to assist their own conversations.

“Issues around the use of language in our churches have been on the agenda of J4WWG for years. Now the opportunity to take this discussion to another level has arrived. I hope this consultation will be the first of many conversations as we continue to explore ways to welcome and value every person who walks through the doors of our churches,” said Kim Robey, chair of the Justice for Women Working Group.

The term “expansive language” has been used in some circles to describe respectful language that honors all of God’s people and is more than just “gender inclusive”.

As communions seek to become genuinely inclusive as well as multiracial communities of faith, planners say, the conversation about the use of language in churches becomes more critical, and more challenging.

Sensitivity to gender inclusive language, particularly religious language and metaphor, emerged in the 1970’s with the advent of feminist theology and feminist biblical exegesis and hermeneutics. Many denominations began the process of developing gender inclusive worship materials, protocols for publications, and even biblical translations that offered metaphors and names for God and humanity that reflected this inclusiveness.

In 1988 the General Convention of the Episcopal Church first approved Supplemental Liturgical Texts, now known as Enriching Our Worship, as an alternate to the Book of Common Prayer for Episcopal worship.

“While the Episcopal Church has been at work on expansive language texts for over two decades, the extent of their use varies. I’m delighted that a new resource is being created to encourage dialogue about this important topic,” said the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers, chair of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, and Hodges-Haynes Professor of Liturgics at Church Divinity School of the Pacific.

Part of the impetus to have a meeting on language is the impression of some observers that the use of gender inclusive language throughout NCC member communions has declined, say the planners. They also note that new insights have emerged within churches about language that reinforces harmful stereotypes around the realities of race, disabilities, sexuality orientation and gender.

“As a parish priest for ten years I understand that the primary locus of formation happens in Sunday morning worship. We Episcopalians are fond of saying, ‘praying shapes believing.’ Therefore the words, symbols and images used in worship are crucial in forming our faith,” said The Rev. Terri C. Pilarski, licensed priest in the Diocese of Chicago and a member of the planning committee. “I’m excited to be a part of the planning committee for this event and hopeful for the outcome.”

The August gathering will explore dimensions of language, images, and symbols for God through multiple approaches that reflect the diversity of the group.

The 30 participants, both lay and ordained, come from a wide diversity of NCC member communions and religious traditions.

Co-facilitators are Aleese Moore-Orbih, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and director of training and consulting for FaithTrust Institute, and Virstan Choy, a minister of word and sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA), a church consultant and member of the adjunct faculty at McCormick Theological Seminary.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

For Additional Information Contact

Kim Robey
Chair, Women for Justice Working Group
Krobey1@gmail.com

Rev. Ann Tiemeyer
Program Director Women’s Ministries
National Council of Churches, USA
475 Riverside Drive, Suite 800
New York, NY 10014
atiemeyer@ncccusa.org
212-924-2605

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About Terri C Pilarski

I am an Episcopal priest serving a delightfully progressive, interesting, creative congregation. I have been married more than half my life to the same man. We have two grown children, plus two dogs and two cats, although the number of four legged household members changes from time to time. I love to garden, knit, read, and play on Facebook or with my blog. I have been a practitioner of daily meditation since I was nineteen. I practice yoga five days a week and walk every where I am able too.
This entry was posted in Expansive Language, J4WWG. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Words Matter, A Conversation of Interest

  1. This is very exciting! 🙂 I am interested in hearing more about this. Praying for you and for the outcome which will impact in ways only God knows.

  2. Mompriest says:

    FYI: The writing of these press releases was a group effort, I participated in that writing process, I didn't write them on my my own…

  3. altar ego says:

    So glad to learn about this! I often wish our worship could somehow be more conversational so that more than my voice is heard on this, and other matters of faith. The perpetual dilemma, encouraging people to shift the boundaries of their comfort zone so that their life and faith can be enriched by sharing with others.

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