I managed two hours of the High Level Roundtable Monday afternoon till the heat in the gallery got to be too much. One message that came through from many of the nation states who were speaking was that changing patterns of care-giving and responsibility between the genders will take more than governmental action and legal change. It needs a sea-change in cultural understanding that reaches into the hearts of families and transforms them from within: a sea-change that awakens men to their responsibilities in the home and frees women for their duties in the world.

This reminded me of an event in a very different context – a college chapel in Cambridge University. I had used a Janet Morley psalm in a service exploring different ways of talking about God – one that starts “I will praise God, my Beloved, for she is altogether lovely” and continues using passionate female imagery for the divine. I had expected this to resonate with the women present – and it did – but the strongest response came from a male student of engineering. He said it was the first time he had encountered language which allowed him to begin to adequately express his relationship with God, and that it liberated him from understanding divine power as purely masculine.

Theologians as well as governments, law-givers and UN delegates have their part to play in changing the world we live in. We need more language which speaks of our father God as care-giver and new hymns which sing to God our mother as the source of power and life. In this way our faith can help both women and men to find new ways of being and new ways of relating which liberate them both.