God is male, say Indian churches

New Delhi, India - The Church of North India, the dominant Protestant denomination in northern India, has said it will not rethink God's 'gender' following the controversial Church of England's guidelines asking its priests to stop using words that describe the Creator in masculine terms.

"CNI is an autonomous, independent Indian church and we have no hierarchical links with the Protestant Church of England," CNI secretary general Enos Das Pradhan told TOI.

Pradhan said one of CNI's core beliefs was the doctrine of the Trinity, which states that God is a single being who exists, simultaneously and eternally, as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The gender guidelines amounted to amending this basic article of faith. "While we are engaged in re-reading the Bible in the present cultural context, we cannot subscribe to any rewriting of the Holy Book," he said.

But he added that the church believed the Holy Father also has qualities of a mother.

The guidelines were contained in a report, titled 'Responding to Domestic Abuse, Guidelines for Pastoral Responsibility', and signed by, among others, the Archbishop of Canterbury who is the titular head of the Church of England.

It echoed feminist thought in saying that "uncritical use of masculine imagery" encourages male violence against women.

The report termed as "misguided" the Christian understanding of God as Father and Lord and said it is a distorted version of Christian belief.

Pradhan said while some strains of thought emanating from the Church of England did influence debates in CNI, the two were distinct and separate churches.

Bishop Karam Masih, head of CNI's Delhi diocese, maintained that the church couldn't possibly view God as a 'She'.

"In our church, God is very much a 'He'. Of course, any individual is free to look at God as a Mata (mother)," he said.