Pamela Payne Allen wrote the article, “Taking the next step in Inclusive Language” for The Christian Century in 1986. This was in the same period that the hymn writers,Brian Wren and Frank Birch Brown, were introducing our congregations to fully inclusive lyrics.
Thirty years later, with the majority of our churches continuing to use male-dominated language in worship, a fresh read of Allen’s article can raise the persistent and critical ‘cry in the wilderness’ as she provides important concerns and suggestions for worship leaders committed to inclusive language in worship.
Allen’s article opens with words that could be written today:
‘We like to think that we’ve made much progress in the pilgrimage toward inclusiveness. Liturgies and hymns are now frequently shorn of generic male references to humankind, and imperialistic stances toward mission have been discarded.
‘Though these are positive steps, it would be premature to conclude that we have achieved inclusiveness. True inclusiveness means more than changing words; it means exploring images of God based upon the experience of oppressed peoples. In our context, that means exploring the rich possibilities of feminine imagery, as well as drawing on liturgy and song written by, and in response to, black Americans and peoples of the Third World. For the sake of justice, and for an accurate representation of God’s self-giving, such imagery is essential.’