One of the largest potential markets for the National Council of Churches' controversial new nonsexist Bible readings, the 6,134-congregation Lutheran Church in America, has been told by church leaders not to use the new version.
Bishop James R. Crumley Jr. said the council's inclusive language lectionary, released Oct. 14, is "often inaccurate and sometimes written in a poor and inadequate linguistic style."
Crumley, who made his comments in his regular column prepared for the denomination's monthly magazine, "The Lutheran," expressed fears that the new lectionary "may be an obstacle toward the development of an inclusive language in worship services rather than a help."
A similar verdict was handed down by the denomination's Division for Parish Services. After what was described as "a lengthy executive session," the division issued a statement expressing commitment "to the development of the best possible translation of the lectionary which is inclusive of all persons and at the same time is faithful to the issues of historical and linguistic accuracy."
But the Lutheran agency rejected the council's effort and recommended that it not be used for worship services in the church.
A lectionary is the set of Bible readings that are used each Sunday throughout the church year in churches that use a liturgical form of worship, such as Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, United Methodist and some Presbyterians and United Church of Christ.
The council's new lectionary attempts to paraphrase passages from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible to make it more sexually inclusive: God the Father becomes "Father and Mother"; Jesus is referred to as the "Child," rather than the "Son" of God; references to "Lord" and "King" are changed to the gender-neutral "Sovereign." Male pronouns referring to God or Jesus are avoided.
Crumley called such changes "problematic" and "troublesome . . . . To refer to Jesus as God's 'child' is undoubtedly true in one sense of the word, but why the hesitancy to call him 'son'? After all he was a male baby and grew into a man. We do not call grown men 'children.' "
And to begin the Lord's Prayer, "Our Father and Mother . . . " not only "does violence to a portion of Scripture of deepest and most profound meaning for us" but also tends to "make God bisexual rather than asexual," Crumley said.
The chairman of the council's lectionary committee is a Lutheran Church in America theologian, the Rev. Dr. Victor R. Gold of the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, Calif.
In a telephone interview, Gold expressed regret that his own church has rejected the committee's work but said he had Crumley's blessing to remain with the committee to continue work on the two remaining volumes of the lectionary.
In matters of this kind in the Lutheran Church, the bishop's advice is weighed seriously but he cannot ban the lectionary. Gold said he knew of some parishes that will continue to use it on an experimental basis.