I was at a dinner last night and someone cringed at my use of the pejorative, “Old Testament.” Proper terminology would be First Testament, or Hebrew Testament. At Chalice, we don’t have an Evangelism Committee but a Good News Team. Many churches no longer have Constitutions, but a Design.
Helpful? I’m not sure. I think there are two issue to consider, one is accessibility to the newcomer. The second is using accurate language.
Regarding accessibility, I believe we should avoid church-ese. So, I think it makes sense to say the front of the church instead of the narthax. I suppose program instead of bulletin is fine. And so on. To the extent we rename things to be more accessible great. But sometimes renaming has the opposite affect.
First Testament instead of Old Testament is unfamiliar. The same with Design instead of Constitution. In fact, it is insider language among the insiders. So, we should only adopt this sort of thing if there is another compelling reason.
That would be accuracy. So, I am fully in favor of gender inclusive language. God is not a man or a male. It is foolishly limiting to think of God that way. It is idolatry to make God Almighty into Zeus. So, taking the effort to avoid excessive use of male imagery and pronouns is very important.
On the other hand, calling your constitution a design, is not more accurate. And if you look at the Disciples of Christ’s Design, http://www.disciples.org/TheDesign.pdf, it is in fact a constitution. It has a preamble and rights & responsibilities. And Old Testament? Is it derogatory for a book to be old? I don’t think so.
And the worst trend of all is to run from words like Salvation, Faith, and Evangelism. I know people have some bad ideas about these words. But we should not stop using the words! When someone asks me, “Are you saved?” I could say, “Yeah, my church doesn’t really look at things that way,” or I could say, “What do you mean by that? My life has been transformed by my faith, so I think Jesus has saved me from an ordinary and unexamined life. Is that what you mean?”
When push comes to shove, I can live with First Testament and Church Design, but I can’t live with giving up making a statement about what Salvation means to us. I can’t live with giving up what Faith and Evangelism mean to us.