A number of Catholic schools in Brisbane have decided to drop gendered descriptions during prayer, in an effort to encourage students to use more inclusive language.
According to a report in The Courier Mail, gendered descriptions such as “Lord”, “Father”, and “Son” are being dropped in favour of words such as “Creator”, “Godself”, and “the Holy Spirit”.
The Brisbane schools adopting gender-neutral language reportedly include Stuartholme, St Rita’s College Clayfield, Loreto College at Coorparoo, and All Hallows’.
Stuartholme, for example, has replaced the word “himself” with “Godself”.
“As we believe God is neither male or female, Stuartholme tries to use gender-neutral terms in prayers,” a spokesperson told The Courier Mail.
“[We do this] so that our community deepens their understanding of who God is for them, how God reveals Godself through creation, our relationships with others and the person of Jesus.”
All Hallows’ students use “the Creator” and “Jesus” in place of “Father” and “Son”, while Loreto College has dropped the word “Lord” from its prayers.
Loreto Principal, Kim Wickham, said prayers written specifically for use within her college didn’t refer to God as male or female.
“Loreto, as a leading school for girls, has a commitment to using inclusive language,” she told The Courier Mail.
“There are occasions where gendered language may be appropriate, including references to specific religious and biblical figures.”
St Rita’s uses gender-neutral terms for God for the most part, while using traditional prayers like “Our Father” when appropriate.
“Context is important,” Assistant Principal Richard Rogusz told The Courier Mail.
“We strive to use gender-neutral terms for God, for example ‘God and God’s people’ rather than ‘God and His people’. ‘Spirit’ is also gender-neutral.”
Over the past two years, a number of companies and organisations have adopted policies and advocated for more gender-inclusive language.
In March last year, Qantas asked its staff to begin using gender-neutral language with customers. The airline was one of 150 companies to distribute an information pack on inclusive language developed by the Diversity Council of Australia to its staff.
The inclusive language was intended to help create an accepting environment for LGBTI staff and customers, including people in same-sex relationships and people of diverse genders.
In August last year, The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services’ Pride Network backed a new campaign encouraging people to use gender-neutral language, including personal pronouns such as “they” and “them”.
And in November last year, the Australian Defence Force reportedly sent briefs to senior officials calling for gender neutral bathrooms to be made available where it was “feasible”.