Don’t ‘edit’ Bible, Franklin Graham warns British Methodists over ‘husband’ ‘wife’ word bans

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American evangelist Franklin Graham accused the Methodist Church of the United Kingdom of trying to edit the Bible by asking pastors not to use “husband” and “wife” in sermons.

“The Methodist Church in the UK is trying to edit what the Word of God says to be more appealing to the changing whims of culture,” Mr. Graham said Tuesday on the X social media platform. “As Christians, we aren’t called to avoid what might offend people — we are called to share the Truth of God’s Word.”

British Methodists, who claim about 170,000 adherents in the island nation, issued an “Inclusive Language Guide” in October 2022. The Western Journal, a conservative website, reported on the document in late December and caught Mr. Graham’s attention.

Along with admonitions against antisemitism and Islamophobia, the document contains a caution about discussing couples in relationships: “Terminology such as ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ may sound inoffensive but it makes assumptions about a family or personal life that is not the reality for many people.”

Members are also encouraged to “share your own pronouns in conversation,” the document said, but “nobody should feel under pressure to do so.”

The Methodist statement says using inclusive language is “simply trying to be more aware” to engage “positively with as many people as possible.”

According to the church, “At times we might find that people feel excluded or harmed by something we say, not because we have any bad intentions, but simply because our turn of phrase was automatic, or unconscious.”

The document instructs members and clergy, “In all areas, it is important to listen to how people identify themselves and be guided by that.”

The Methodist Church in the United Kingdom did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Surveys and church data place Methodists, with approximately 170,000 members, in fourth place among British denominations, trailing the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church and Presbyterians.

One American observer of global Methodism said the British group’s move is just the beginning of changes for the church there.

The call for inclusive language, said John Lomperis of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, “never stops there,” he said. “It always keeps going more and more and it should be a slippery slope and also a snowballing effect as it drives away more conservative and even moderate people then there’s less restraint and the brakes are off.”

He said such adaptations to culture might draw some temporarily, but “If all you’re offering as a church is just a shallow ‘Oh, I agree with you’ echo of whatever the secular culture is teaching, that’s not much of a compelling reason for people to drag themselves out of bed on Sunday morning when they could be sleeping in.”

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