Expansive and Inclusive Language Covenant — United Church of Christ, USA

We believe that the imagery conveyed by language and language itself is important and that they articulate and influence our understandings of what is revealed to us about the nature and activity of God and the dignity of all God’s people as created in the image of God.  — Inclusive Language Covenant, United Church of Christ USA

The United Church of Christ USA has created an informative and helpful brochure on Expansive and Inclusive Language which includes “expansive language with reference to God and inclusive language reference with reference to the people of God.”  The brochure is available as a pdf download.

Examples from the brochure:

Words That Exclude /  Words That Include:

brothers, brotherhood (in the faith)  /  brothers and sisters, friends, kindred, family of faith, neighbours, humankind

man, men, mankind  / people, all people, men and women or women and men, humanity, persons, everyone, all of us, we, one

sons (of God)  /  daughters and sons, children of God, people of God, God’s people, heirs 

“Inclusive language is far more than an aesthetic matter of male and female imagery; it is a fundamental issue of social justice. Language that is truly inclusive affirms sexuality, racial and ethnic background, stages of maturity, and degrees of limiting conditions. It shows respect for all people. Scripture proclaims the world is created, redeemed, and sustained by the Word of God, and the church attests to the power of language and words, recognizing that words have the power to exploit and exclude as well as affirm and liberate.”

“Although the generic use of masculine terms has been accepted practice, it is exclusive and viewed as offensive by many. Further, the use of only masculine nouns and pronouns for God and of masculine generic terms for humankind has hidden the rich feminine imagery for God and God’s people in scripture. Scripture contains many gender neutral metaphors for God such as shepherd, rock, or Holy One. The rediscovery of the complementary female and male metaphors in the Bible and the literature of the early church encourages Christians not to settle for literary poverty in the midst of literary riches.”

Exclusive language limits our perceptions of reality and thereby distorts. Thus, inclusive language has implications for the way we perceive God, things, and concepts, as well as persons.

Reuben A. Sheares, II, United Church of Christ USA

Read more about using inclusive and expansive language in worship.