Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Bad arguments for ordaining women ...

There are, I'm fully aware, good arguments for ordaining women (not that I entirely agree with them, but they are serious arguments). This one, put forward by the Bishop of Liverpool, surely has to qualify as one of the worst arguments. You can read the whole thing here, but the gist of it is in this quote:
"If a woman could feed and minister to the Body of Christ in the flesh, can a woman not also feed and minister to the Body of Christ in the Spirit? Was not the ministry of Mary in the gospels a ministry of oversight in relation to the Body of Christ and therefore truly an episcopal ministry[?]"
Er, no.


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  1. As I've said before, if that were so we should ordain fish and crockery too.

    Darren Moore

  2. Darren, can we please not bring up the old 'ordain a pork pie' argument. I think the Bishop of Liverpool was being creative and using metaphor to make a more serious point. This matters to me hugely. I have spent the last year and a half agonising over all those problematic passages in the Bible on the women in ministry issue. It is afterall a secondary issue and so much damage has been done to people like me who believe that there is no prohibition. We are accused of being unable to hold to evangelical Christianity when in actual fact, many of us believe in the infallibility of the bible and yet are still of the opinion that it is more tradition and not God's will that women have been hitherto prevented from exercising ministry and service in the Body of Christ in each possible way available. we are lumped in with the liberals and I feel questions are asked more quickly of us about our faith in the virgin birth, the resurrection and issues in Human Sexuality. Personally, I have faith in all of the above and yet I can still proclaim that complementarity should be seen in leadership and by that I mean that women should be able to learn about God's will and salvation through Christ from both men and women and so should men (from both women and men)!

    Excuse the exasperation
    God Bless

  3. "This matters to me hugely. I have spent the last year and a half agonising over all those problematic passages in the Bible on the women in ministry issue."

    Chuckle, well I've spent half a lifetime thinking about it and still hold to the opposite point of view. Rachel, when I can read on your blog or here, that you have read some decent material written by those who disagree with you, such as Mary Kassian's Women, Creation and the Fall, which is available online, or either of Wayne Grudem's recent books, then I suspect we could talk.

  4. I have read Wayne Grudem and I'm not convinced.

  5. There is a place for women in ministry but not as priests or bishops. I wrote on this topic some time ago.

    Yours in Christ,

  6. Thank you Scott, I have found the comments to your piece more interesting, I'm afraid. But appreciate your efforts.
    God bless Rachel

  7. "I have read Wayne Grudem and I'm not convinced."

    OK, no conversation then, no problem.

  8. Rachel, in spite of Rosemary's more-than-averagely charmless comment, I think her sentiment may be correct. Dialogue with those who believe women should not be ordained is generally not only pretty unproductive but often personally hurtful and damaging, particularly for women at a relatively early stage of the ordination journey. If you have not already discovered her, I'd recommend Suzanne Mccarthy's site - she's something of a renaissance woman who, amongst her many talents, is a Greek scholar who's done much to take apart much of Wayne Grudem's Greek scholarship.

  9. Fern, you didn't like Rosemary's comment, I didn't like your reference to "Rosemary's more-than-averagely charmless comment". Do you really want to tell someone you've not met - and a sister to boot - they are 'charmless'? That's what I really hate about the internet - and incidentally why I don't really like anonymous/pseudonymous/partial-onymous posting.

    If Rachel comes to a Conservative Evangelical blog it is either because she wants a fight (bad reason) or because she wants real two-way "I may change my mind (a bit)" dialogue. I guess she'll decide when it's time to give it up.

    Excuse this slight 'tut-tut', but I do think the internet has damaged the Church almost as much as it has helped it, because many of us blog and post like we drive - prone to raging against other 'drivers' rather than recognizing the human being behind the wheel.

    Anyway, I'm off for a week - getting married this morning. So I won't have to worry about it for a while. PS my wife-to-be disagrees with me on this and we've managed to stay together a long while without either of us conceding much!

  10. And PPS, I think her (Alison's) arguments are pretty (well, actually totally) unconvincing, but she makes me think, which can't be bad.

  11. Hi guys
    I have become friends with Rosemary through email. First of all, I felt cross about her recommendations but this was my problem and to do with my baggage - I associate Wayne Grudem with CBMW and so my mind immediately shuts down when I hear his name because I come with presuppositions that I am not going to agree with his point of view. Thank you Fern for your ref to S McCarthy's site now I might consider Grudem in more detail, if I can read McCarthy at the same time. I always seek balance in my reading. This helps hugely.

    I think, John, Fern is right in her interpretation of the black and white text as it stands with Rosemary's post. It doesn't read very well. Some of the things I've posted on my blog don't read well and I've sometimes gone back to revise them. I remember once overhearing two women in a restaurant wrestling with how to interpret a text that one of them had received on their phone - one of them was very upset and the other woman was helping her to perhaps read the text with another tone. Our words, once they're out there, take on a life of their own. On my own blog, I recently posted the following quote to remind us all about how we should speak to each other and I posted it because my own response to Rosemary on my own site was one I revised after reading this from Ruth Gledhill's theology student.

    As our words come out of us, they cannot be unsaid, and yet they are still our responsibility, they can still hold us liable, and we will be made accountable (Matthew 12.36). Like God’s Word from him is a part of him – He spoke and created - Jesus proceeded forth from the utterance of the Father to vivify. For us, we have the option to breathe life with the words we say, to build up, or tear down. But the Word as Light is also a means of exposure, shining a light in dark places, revealing truth or falsity.'
    Articles of faith 18th July 2008

    Rosemary is actually very articulate and pleasant in her emails and we can communicate despite our differences. I like John Sentamu's 'Holy communication is part of Holy communion'.

    John, I visit not for a fight or because I really think I'll change my mind. I visit here and elsewhere so that I might understand a variety of theological viewpoints that exist within the Church of which I want to become a part. I want to be able to formulate and develop my own views as I work through the ideas that other people hold. I will better know myself by understanding the people around me. I hope the wedding was wonderful,
    I find it very interesting and secretly of course quite amazing and also encouraging that your wife doesn't share your theological views and would like to hear more about this and how you work around this, if I'm not prying too much. If I am just ignore.

    Thank you Fern, Rosemary and John - I'm enjoying the journey,

    love Rachel

  12. Rachel,

    I don't think we could ordain a pork pie - Jesus only ate Kosher.

    Obviously I don't think we can ordain fish etc. That's the point I was making. It's all very well saying he was being creative and using metaphor, but there was no hermenutical control over it.

    He was basically saying, here's a Biblical text, here's the answer I want, how can I get from 1 to the other. He wouldn't get away with doing that on another subject would he? - although he has tried that too.

    Darren Moore

  13. Hi Darren
    Tradition maintains male ascendancy to priesthood/episcopacy. This tradition is changed as of July 7th. One of the 39 articles describes how:'It is not necessary that customs and forms of worship be exactly the same
    everywhere. Throughout history they have differed. They may be altered
    according to the differing nations, times and habits of people provided that nothing is commanded contrary to God's Word.'
    I don't believe that ordaining women to the episcopate is contrary to the Word of God. The texts often cited to uphold views to the contrary are not specific to women and the episcopate or priesthood. They are instead prohibiting false teaching and this could be by either gender; they do not specifically prohibit women from leadership in the church, where they might seem to, they then contradict evidence elsewhere or appear to - they don't of course, because scripture can not contradict itself. This is how I see it, you perhaps have a different viewpoint and so we can agree to disagree.

    God Bless

  14. EXACTLY!!!

    That's just what I want. To agree to disagree. We both think the other is mistaken and probably quite honestly.

    HOWEVER, what Synod is pushing towards is that people like myself may disagree no longer. Agree or you're out. Which shows an odd view of Church.

    Article 20, which you refer to is about rites, ceremonies and controversies. It states it can't change doctrine or impose things not proven by Scripture. Article 20 isn't Carte Blanche to change anything by a majority vote.

    Article 20 also states, as you do that Scripture doesn't contradict - Amen. So texts that affirm women's role in the Church have to be read along side any prohibitive texts. Yep - that's called complimentarity. I've yet to find someone who says women can do nothing.

    Obviously there are texts which limit (if that's the right word) Women's role, classically 1 Tim 2, which refers us back to the order of creation and fall, then goes on to talk about qualifications of Elders (Presbyters/Priests) in ch 3. But that fits fine with Women being involved in Ministry in a wider sense, indeed as we model here, even on the staff.

    But back to John's blog which triggered this, James Jone's hermenutical technique could be used to prove anything from anything if you're going to be that "creative". Most arguments for Female headship I've found to be creative in that way and the more sensible arguments very dependant on evidence outside of the Bible (which I haven't found to be handeled that well either).

    Sorry -long reply, little summary
    I'd love to go back to the agree to disagree, I'm sure you'll agree there are bigger things to fight on.
    We can't be too "creative" in our hermanutics: I feel the force of this because I want to agree with you. But I can't say, "Here's what I think, here's the text, how can I can from 1 to the other so in my mind they say the same thing".

    I didn't want to go back through the whole argument again - another time perhaps.

    Darren Moore