The Church of Sweden, the largest religious institution in the country, has advised its clergy to avoid terms like “Lord” and “He” in worship services, to avoid implying that God is male. The gender-neutral wording is intended to make the Church more inclusive. The recommendation is part of the Church’s new handbook on how to conduct services, which covers language, liturgy, music and other aspects of worship. The new version was approved by an annual autumn convention of the Church leadership in Uppsala on Thursday, and replaces the previous version from 1968. Work on the update began in 1997.

The national Evangelical Lutheran Church was the state religion of Sweden until 2000 and currently has over 6 million baptized members in a country of 10 million. Its head, Antje Jackelén, is one of a handful of female archbishops in Christian churches. She was elected in 2013 on a progressive platform. Jackelén is well known for interpreting Christian dogma from a spiritual rather than literal standpoint. For instance, she said that those who see the virginity of Mary, mother of Jesus, as “a biological issue have completely missed the point.” FULL REPORT