01 November 2021, The Tablet

German bishops rule that God cannot be God*

“We have quite different problems to tackle in the Church at present.”

German bishops rule that God cannot be God*

Young people in Germany, pictured here from Maria 2.0 and We Are Church outside the second Synodal Assembly in Frankfurt in September, are active advocates for reform.
CNS photo/Julia Steinbrecht, KNA

The German bishops’ conference has rejected the addition of a “gender star” after the word God, which would have seen it rendered as God*, as suggested by a German Catholic youth organisation. 

“Theological debate on the issue is not relevant at the moment. We have quite different problems to tackle in the Church at present”, conference spokesman Matthias Kopp said on the German TV news programme Sat.1. He added: “God is more than the sun, the moon and the stars. We cannot grasp God. We cannot describe God in words.”

The German Young Catholic Community, Katholische junge Gemeinde, which is part of the 660,000-strong German Catholic Youth Organisation, had published a press statement saying it wanted to discuss spelling God with a gender star. “More and more faithful are now put off by the image of a male, patriarchal, white God and they are saying so out loud,” the KjG underlined. The image of a male, white God fell short of the mark and made many young people’s access to God more difficult, the statement said.

“If you ask KjG members, God can be a female friend, freundin, a companion, or love,” Rebekka Biesenbach, KjG spiritual assistant said. “These are all dimensions that the image of God as a Father does not cover.”

The move to use the gender star was welcomed by Bishop Johannes Wübbe, auxiliary Bishop of Osnabrück. Wübbe is responsible for young people’s affairs in the German bishops’ conference.

He found it “positive” that young Christians wanted to discuss God’s image, he told the German daily Weser Kurier. He was continually being told that young people could not imagine God as an old man with a long, white beard, he said. Addressing God as “Father” was above all meant to help describe God’s essence. “It is not meant to designate God’s sex,” he explained 

Already last year (2020), the German Catholic Students’ Association, which is also a member of the BDKJ, decided to use the spelling God* “in order to get away from the old white man with a beard who punishes to a God of diversity”, the association said.   

The bishops did not point out that the first two words of the Lord’s Prayer are “Our Father”.

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