God should not be seen as male but nor is God necessarily female, according to the first woman bishop to sit in the House of Lords.
Bishop of Gloucester Rachel Treweek, who will be inaugurated as one of 26 bishops in the Lords later today, said: "God is not to be seen as male. God is God."
She called on the Church of England to use both male and female pronouns when referring to God, which many clergy of both sexes already do in parishes up and down the country. Speaking to The Observer, she said she personally prefers to say neither "he" nor "she", but "God". "Sometimes I lapse, but I try not to," the bishop told the Observer.
She said: "In the creation narratives, we're told that God created human beings in God's likeness, and then it goes on to talk about male and female. If I am made in the image of God, then God is not to be seen as male. God is God."
Treweek then added: "I am not in the business of wanting to offend anyone, but I do want to gently challenge people."
She said language is a powerful force in shaping views and culture.
When the first version of the writ of summons to the House of Lords was sent to her, she returned it because referred to her as the "Right Reverend Father in God".
Amended, not to "mother" but simply to Bishop, it will be read out loud to the Lords before she is introduced by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Bishop of London Richard Chartres.
"There may be women who'd be happy with 'right reverend mother in God', but that doesn't sit comfortably with me. There's something about the whole connotation of 'mother' that has a sense of dependency for me. It's not how I want to be looked at. I see myself as a leader, as leading from among people," she told The Observer.
Bishop Treweek was among 84 bishops who signed a letter to David Cameron in September calling for a stronger response to the refugee crisis.