We work very hard in the PC(USA) to make sure we use inclusive language for people (i.e. not gender-specific so that women don't feel left out) and expansive language for God (i.e. more than just "King" and "Lord" and other such patriarchal labels). We work very hard at Montclair Presbyterian to keep God in a gender-neutral space, although you could accuse us of just being allergic to tradition.
This week we did some spirituals and some other songs that used a lot of "Lord" language. It was occasioned by wanting to include my bassfriend in celebration, and Isaiah Jones' lovely communion liturgy setting. I did some editing of the songs ahead, but although you can easily substitute "God" in for "Lord" in prose, that gets iffy when you get to particular phrases like "Lord our God" which need to have three syllables and a certain musical rhythm. In total syllabic frustration I gave up the efforts at lyrical transposition, and we started talking - at staff meeting - about how (and whether) we could reclaim a positive use for the word "Lord."
After lots of groupthink and collaboration, we ended up printing this in the bulletin:
“Inclusive language is not a fad. It is not this year’s ‘cause,’ to be soon replaced by another. The growing use of inclusive language is the result of serious commitment on the part of many people to use words more responsibly, to speak more precisely, and to communicate more truthfully and sensitively.” (From “More Than Words” by Schaffran and Kozak)
We have changed the words of some of the music in our liturgy this morning to reflect our commitment to inclusive language. The word “Lord” in its traditional use is exclusive and patriarchal. When we use it, we do not use it in the same manner. When we use the word “Lord” in a description of God, we are using it ironically to bring to mind and heart the God who would become incarnate to bring us to wholeness. Our “Lord” -- our “boss” or “master” or even our “king” should we choose to say it – our “Lord” is the one who voluntarily gave up all forms of domination and power, who became the weakest of the weak, and whose greatest power is love. We do not give this respect to anyone who coerces it or demands it; we only give it to the one who subverts and transforms the very idea of power, and who gently loves us into our own strength and empowerment.
What do you think? Does that work? Are you comfortable with applying the word "Lord" to God, despite its connotations? And if so - how do you think of it?