German church opts for gender-correct language


Central Europe


The German dictionary. Photo AFP, Thomas Kienzle

Despite much criticism, the German Protestant Church (EKD) continues to use “gender-appropriate” wording in its communication.

The German Christian press agency Idea reports that an EKD spokesperson has confirmed that.

Friedrich Merz, leader of the Christian political party CDU, recently criticised gender language in public broadcasting. In Germany, the federal and state governments had given the task of language development to the language board, called “Rat für deutsche Rechtschreibung”.

In German, the gender structures are much more explicit than in many other languages, especially English. For that reason, Germans want to be sensitive and to make this less visible. Many nouns have a masculine and feminine gender. To combine these two forms, progressive Germans use gender asterisks nowadays. Employer for instance is “Mitarbeiter” (male) and “Mitarbeiterin” (feminine). The gender-star version is “Mitarbeiter*in”.


Since language is a conservative phenomenon, there is a lot of criticism of this. According to the political leader Merz, the language council should have a say in this, instead of political-correct journalists of church people.

For the EKD, on the other hand, a Council resolution applies that the EKD’s written communication is gender-appropriate. In addition, a leaflet published by the EKD gives hints for gender-appropriate language. In the brochure entitled: “She is our best man”, it is recommended to replace nouns with substantive participles whenever possible (for example, “working people” instead of “worker”) or to use gender-neutral terms (“care personnel” instead of “nurses”).

The EKD recommends using the “gender star”, and other special characters for cases where “gender-neutral wording is not possible, or the gender diversity of people is to be made explicitly visible”. The spokesperson explained that texts in publications and on the EKD’s websites are designed according to these recommendations. Where internet pages are not yet formulated in a gender-appropriate way, this will be done each time the content is adapted.



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