Voices Together Committee Releases Statement on Language for God
HARRISONBURG, Va. — When worshipers flip through the pages of Voices Together, or swipe through songs in the app, they will discover many different images of God. Images like Rock, Breath, and Creator appear alongside Father, Mother, Womb, and King. Pronouns including he/him and she/her are used to refer to God. Some familiar hymn texts are revised, whereas others remain unchanged.
In this statement, “Expansive Language in Voices Together,” the committee outlines the theological foundations and practical approach taken to language for God in Voices Together. “We carefully evaluated the text of every song and worship resource,” says text editor Adam Tice. “We considered the poetry, metaphorical context, theology, and history of each piece, as well as its roots and familiarity in various cultures and communities.”
The committee recognizes that the decisions made about the language used for God may be unsettling to some. “The images we have of God are deeply personal. They shape our relationships with God and our practices of prayer and worship,” says worship resources editor Sarah Kathleen Johnson. “With this pastoral context in mind, the committee aspires to communicate clearly about the choices made in Voices Together.”
Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada are diverse denominations, and congregations use language for God in many different ways. Some communities routinely use she/her pronouns for God, while others have never considered this possibility. Voices Together aims to resource a wide range of current practices.
Intercultural editor and Anabaptist Worship Network co-director Katie Graber encourages local communities to facilitate a conversation about images of God as part of receiving Voices Together: “Discussing individual and corporate experiences can help communities understand the impact of language in worship. Considering this topic together can inform decisions about how to explore familiar images or introduce new images of God.” The new resource includes questions for reflection and discussion for use by individuals and groups.
“The committee has learned a lot about expansive language and gendered images of God over the past four years,” says project director Bradley Kauffman. “This statement names some of that learning and invites communities that will use Voices Together into the conversation.”