Methodist Church of Great Britain Deems Words “Husband” and “Wife” to be “Offensive” to Non-Binary People

The Publica Team

The Methodist Church of Great Britain has completed a revision of its “Inclusive Language Guide” in an attempt to accommodate transgender and non-binary people. The new guidance urges ministers, deacons, and elders within the church to adopt more gender neutral terminology, such as “partner,” “child,” and “parent,” in lieu of traditional terms like “husband” and “wife.”

The initiative is reported to be part of an “ongoing commitment” by the Methodist Church to “eradicate potentially harmful language directed at marginalized groups.” The “Inclusive Language Guide,” which has been subject to biannual updates since its creation, now incorporates recommendations regarding gender identity.

Among the recommendations in the guide is that church leaders use the “preferred pronouns” of congregants, and share their own in order to create a “safe space.”

Further, the revised guide cautions against the use of conventional expressions like “brothers and sisters” while preaching in church, taking into account the presence of non-binary individuals within the community. This guidance extends beyond the clergy to congregants, urging the incorporation of personal pronouns in everyday conversations.

But among the more controversial changes includes a recommendation that church leaders avoid the use of the terms “husband” and “wife,” with the guidance reading: “There is infinite variety in the way that God’s creation is expressed in human life. This is worth bearing in mind as we speak and write. Terminology such as ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ may sound inoffensive but it makes assumptions about a family or personal life that is not the reality for many people.”

It continues: “The words ‘parent’, ‘partner’ and ‘child’ are a good place to start. ‘Carer’ is also a neutral yet understandable way to refer to the primary carer of a child, who may or may not be their parent.”

Additional information in the guide includes warnings against ageism, anti-Semitism, and bigotry against “neurodivergent people,” as well as recommendations that church leaders use “actively” anti-racist language.

“It’s worth considering the need for the Church to take a restorative approach to any communication on the subject of racism, slavery, antisemitism and islamophobia and attempt to speak or write in a way that is not simply ‘not racist’ but is actively ‘anti-racist’. Language is very powerful here,” the guidance reads.

“In the Methodist Church, we are encouraging use of ‘ethnicity’ rather than ‘race’ as we believe there is only one human race. However, we also need to remember that everybody has an ethnicity and it helps to be aware of our own ethnicity and our distinctive differences as we talk with one another within the Church.”

At the end of the guide, the Methodist Church recommends consulting organizations such as GLAAD and Stonewall for more information on LGBT resources.

This latest update aligns with the church’s progressive stance on contemporary social issues, following its 2021 decision to endorse same-sex marriages—a move that signifies a notable shift in the institution’s approach.

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