I have become very sensitive to how the language of church leadership can reinforce a clergy-centric understanding of ministry in both subtle and not so subtle ways. Feminist theology has helped reveal how language affects our theological world view and our self-understanding. But unfortunately, there has been less focus on how language – words, titles, names, and metaphors – frames thinking about clergy and lay roles.
Much of the church is now very intentional in using gender-neutral language to signal its openness toward women. I have come to believe that the use of “inclusive language” is similarly important in establishing a more inclusive paradigm of ministry and affirming the work of lay servants.
I am beginning a series of posts considering how some of the words, concepts, and images frequently used in the lexicon of the church and the language of ministry exclude and demean lay persons. Of paramount concern, of course, is the way we misuse and understand the words lay and laity. I have previously discussed the need to reclaim the biblical meaning of Laity as the “People of God” to counteract the secular definition of a lay person as someone who is inexpert or amateur. But many other words and images are used in careless, inexact, and exclusive ways that subtly marginalize lay persons and lay ministry.
I look forward to sharing my thoughts and hearing your opinions on how Words Matter!