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Committee Votes Against Hymn Referring To God As Mother

October 14, 1987

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ A committee revising the Methodist hymnal has decided against adopting a hymn that refers to God as ″mother″ out of concern the lyrics would offend conservative members of the denomination.

″Let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot as we near the finish line,″ the Rev. Charles Smith warned Tuesday, before his colleagues voted 11-10 to reject the hymn ″Strong Mother God.″

The committee has been revising the United Methodist Church hymnal for three years. Denomination delegates are to vote on the new version next April.

The committee also reversed a decision made last month by voting to retain the hymn ″Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus,″ which some members contended is too militaristic.

And despite charges the lyrics would offend some handicapped members of the denomination, the committee voted to retain a stanza in ″O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing″ that refers to mute people as ″dumb.″

″Not only have I received complaints about ‘dumb’ but ‘lame’ as well,″ said Nancy Starnes of Dallas, who uses a wheelchair. ″It’s painful for many people to sing it. We’re all sitting in the back in the chairs and it makes a difference.″

The verse will be marked by an asterisk to note that congregations can skip it if they deem it insensitive.

″What we’re saying is, we kind of want to be sensitive to that but we didn’t have the guts to, so maybe you will,″ charged the Rev. Beryl Ingram- Ward, of Bellevue, Wash., who argued against the stanza.

Ms. Ingram-Ward had argued in vain for the inclusion of ″Strong Mother God,″ saying it offered the denomination a fresh alternative to the traditional, ″almost exclusively male″ Christian terms for God.

Opponents believed the hymn’s reference to ″mother God″ departs from Christianity’s traditional names for the Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

″We can’t set the theology for the church in this group,″ said the Rev. W.T. Handy, United Methodist bishop for the Missouri area.

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