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NCC group to meet in Chicago August 9-11
to discuss the words we use to talk about God

Chicago, July 26, 2010 -- A diverse group of Christians will gather here August 9-11 to talk about the language people use to talk about God and faith. 

The National Council of Churches symposium, “Language Matters,” will discuss how to talk about God and faith in ways that respect the sensibilities of people from a variety of Christian traditions and viewpoints. 

The conversation will focus on the language, images, and symbols used in worship and everyday life to talk about faith and God.   

Initiated by the NCC’s Justice for Women Working Group, this conversation is a first step in a larger project designed to create resources for congregations and groups to assist their own conversations. 

The term “expansive language” has been used in some circles to describe respectful language that honors all of God’s people and is more than just “gender inclusive”.   

As communions seek to become genuinely inclusive as well as multiracial communities of faith, planners say, the conversation about the use of language in churches becomes more critical, and more challenging.   

When women in the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) held a joint event, we prepared guidelines around expansive language which asked preachers, speakers and workshop leaders to bring consciousness to the language they were using out of the traditions from which they came,” said the Rev. Loey Powell, executive for Administration and Women’s Justice in the UCC. This helped us all ‘stay in the room’ with each other,” said Powell. 

Sensitivity to gender inclusive language, particularly religious language and metaphor, emerged in the 1970’s with the advent of feminist theology and feminist biblical exegesis and hermeneutics.  Many denominations began the process of developing gender inclusive worship materials, protocols for publications, and even biblical translations that offered metaphors and names for God and humanity that reflected this inclusiveness.  

In 1988 the General Convention of the Episcopal Church first approved Supplemental Liturgical Texts, now known as Enriching Our Worship, as an alternate to the Book of Common Prayer for Episcopal worship.  

Part of the impetus to have a meeting on language is the impression of some observers that the use of gender inclusive language throughout our NCC member communions has declined.   

Furthermore, new insights have emerged within our churches about language that reinforces harmful stereotypes around the realities of race, disabilities, sexual orientation and gender, planners say. 

The August gathering will explore dimensions of language, images, and symbols for God through multiple approaches that reflect the diversity of the group.  

The 30 participants, both lay and ordained, come from a wide diversity of NCC member communions and religious traditions. 

Co-Facilitators are
Aleese Moore-Orbih, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and director of training and consulting for FaithTrust Institute, and Virstan Choy, a minister of word and sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA), a church consultant and member of the adjunct faculty at McCormick Theological Seminary.

For Additional Information Contact 

Rev. Ann Tiemeyer

Program Director Women’s Ministries

National Council of Churches, USA

475 Riverside Drive, Suite 800

New York, NY 10014



Meagan Manas, MDiv

Women's Ministries

National Council of Churches, USA

475 Riverside Drive, Suite 800

New York, NY10115


Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 36 member faith groups -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches -- include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.

NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell),

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