Wednesday, 17 February 2010

A spoonful of fudging helps the heresies go down

OK, I admit straight away, this isn’t really about ‘heresy’ in the full-on sense of ‘damnable religious errors’. Nor can I think of a word-play on ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’. But in the old sense of haeresis, meaning wrongful divisions in the body of Christ, I do think that we are currently facing ‘heresies’ caused by fudging the issues, and we will soon be facing more.
Let us go back, for a moment, to the decision to ordain women into the priesthood of the Church of England, taken in 1992 — or rather, let us go back to the ‘indecision’, for that is unarguably what it was.
When the Church of England put to Parliament (as it had to) the necessary legislation to allow women to be ordained as priests, it included in that legislation the option for parishes to reject their priestly ministry. Looking back on it, that was an extraordinary thing to do. Is there any other example of a law where people can choose not to have that law apply to them?
Moreover, the Church itself spoke about the introduction of women priests as being a ‘process of reception’. That is to say, it was not prepared to commit itself to saying that this was exactly right —rather the approach would be ‘suck it and see’.
Then, on top of all this, Synod introduced its own legislation, an ‘Act of Synod’, to provide episcopal ministry for those who would be discomfited by the association of their existing bishop with the theology and action of ordaining women.
Thus, from its inception, the ordination of women was a fudge: systematically, deliberately — and inevitably, for without such a fudge it would not have taken place when it did. If the General Synod had been told, “You must decided now, one way or the other”, it is certain that it would have decided to wait.
However, the fudge was in place. And what happened next was equally inevitable, but unforseen by many. First, the assurances contained in the legislation where deliberately, but covertly, disregarded. The Act of Synod had declared that a person’s views on women’s ordination would not count against them when it came to selection for the higher offices in the Church. Yet extraordinarily, after 1993 almost no opponent of women’s ordination was found to have the qualities necessary to become a bishop. Indeed, there were unsubstantiated rumours of potential candidates being given a ‘fireside chat’ to inform them that on this issue there was only one option —you were for, or you were out.
Secondly, however, it may be argued that the basis of the Synod’s decision affected the quality of the candidates for ministry. Specifically, (and unsurprisingly, given the nature of its debates) the Synod had not decided that ‘this was what the Bible said ought to happen’. Rather, it had fudged the theological basis by failing to settle the biblical issue. Unsurprisingly, those women drawn to ordination to the priesthood tended to be those less committed to biblical precision, whilst those women drawn to full-time ministry, but of precise views, tended to avoid ordination to the priesthood.
What followed was inevitably an influx of women priests with generally ‘liberal’ theological views. And this had a further effect, for gradually the voting constituency for elections to Synods also shifted. The more that liberal women came in, the harder it was for conservatives to get elected. So, just as the Bench of Bishops was gradually being gerrymandered away from traditionalism, so the Houses of Clergy were being voted in the same direction.
Thus, contrary to the (palpably ludicrous) statement made in the 1970s, the theological objections to the ordination of women did not go away, but the objectors were increasingly marginalised. The Church was unequally divided, but the divisions would rapidly become more imbalanced.
Yet the objectors found it difficult to object! On paper, they were to be given equal treatment. Outwardly, the ‘period of reception’ would continue for as long as necessary. They had not been told they were wrong, only that they were a minority — but they were an honoured and welcome group, who would continue to be a valued ‘integrity’ within the Church of England. And most of them believed it. The Anglo-Catholics accepted the very considerable ‘bone’ of ‘Flying Bishops’. The Evangelicals were happy so long as they could get men ordained and accepted into parishes, and for the most part they thought the bishops were pretty laughable anyway. The Catholics fudged their attitude to Rome, the Evangelicals fudged their attitude to Anglicanism, the Liberals fudged their attitude to the Bible. Everyone was happy!
Now let us turn our attention to homosexuality, for back in the 1990s, the Church of England was also tackling this challenge. The definitive solution, however, was reached in 1991, when the House of Bishops produced a short statement titled Issues in Human Sexuality. With typical Anglican deftness, this managed to endorse the prevailing orthodoxy without actually insisting on it. The classic instance of this was the acceptance that the laity could engage in homosexual acts (since they were not bound to exemplify the church’s teaching) and that the clergy could argue for homosexual acts, but not engage in them (since the church’s teaching was binding on their behaviour but not their personal doctrine).
It was a small chunk of fudge, but enough to do the job.
Now let us fast-forward to 2005 and the introduction in the UK of civil partnerships. This was itself a classic fudge, being basically a government ‘cover’ for gay marriages in all but name. However, there was enough compromise involved in the legislation to allow Anglican bishops in the House of Lords to speak in favour of the development on the basis of ‘justice’ (but against broadening their provisions to include siblings or lifelong, opposite-sex, friends).
But what were the bishops to do about partnered clergy? The answer, given in another statement, was to allow for them, on the basis that, according to Issues in Human Sexuality, such relationships need not breach the church’s teaching on sex outside marriage:
The House of Bishops does not regard entering into a civil partnership as intrinsically incompatible with holy orders, provided the person concerned is willing to give assurances to his or her bishop that the relationship is consistent with the standards for the clergy set out in Issues in Human Sexuality. The wording of the Act means that civil partnerships will be likely to include some whose relationships are faithful to the declared position of the Church on sexual relationships (see paragraphs 2-7). [Civil Partnerships- A pastoral statement from the House of Bishops of the Church of England, para 19]
Notice, however, the caution in the first sentence of the above paragraph, that clergy in such partnerships should be “willing to give assurances” about their behaviour to their bishop. This was emphasised two paragraphs later:
... Partnerships will be widely seen as being predominantly between gay and lesbian people in sexually active relationships. Members of the clergy and candidates for ordination who decide to enter into partnerships must therefore expect to be asked for assurances that their relationship will be consistent with the teaching set out in Issues in Human Sexuality. [Ibid, para 21]
Notice, again, what is said: civil partnered clergy or ordination candidates “must ... expect to be asked for assurances” about the sexual nature of their relationship.
Notice also, however, what is not said. It does not say that the responsible bishop must actually seek such assurances, only that partnered clergy should “expect to be asked” for them. In fact, such assurances are certainly not sought by bishops in every case. Yet taken with paragraph 19, the implication is that it is the bishop, and not other potentially interested parties, such as churchwardens, parish representatives or neighbouring clergy, who is entitled to these assurances. Hence, although bishops are not always seeking these assurances themselves, they are unwilling to allow others to seek them, even though, as paragraph 21 says, the public perception of such relationships is that they will be sexually active.
Hence we have more fudge, and its divisive effects continue to spread. Thus the General Synod of the Church of England recently voted to approve pension rights to the civil partners of clergy, though not to their other dependents or supporters. The ‘marital’ status of civil partnerships thus seems to be reaffirmed. But on the basis of justice and morality it is hard to deny at least what was granted (even though one may have reservations about what was not), since all clergy in civil partnerships are supposed to be celibate and to be ready and willing to assure their bishops that this is the case, should they be asked. The assumption is breathtaking, though be careful you don’t choke on your fudge!
Meanwhile, on the ground the facts will establish themselves. Civil partnered clergy will become accepted, and the failure of bishops to establish, clearly and publicly, the nature of their relationships will pass unchallenged. But at the same time, the discomfort of those who hold to the traditional view will increase, for there will be no assurance, and no way of being assured, that the morality which the bishops have declared to be biblical (see their further and much larger document confusingly titled Some Issues in Human Sexuality, issued in 2003) is actually being maintained by those they see in civil partnerships.
The Church of England has, in the past, acted as if compromise were the ‘genius’ of Anglicanism. History, I suspect, will show the opposite — that far from being its genius, it was the agent of its downfall. And why should we be surprised? If the devil is the Father of Lies, then the half truth is surely his own offspring.
Revd John P Richardson
17 February 2010
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42 comments:

  1. Jesus Christ was also tempted to swallow a load of fudge, when he met Satan in the wilderness. That guy just keeps turning up.

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  2. John,
    Could this mean, with past history as our guide that the issue of women bishops will be yet another fudge or even facade to the twisting of Scripture to scratch where ears are itching?

    Richard Wood
    London

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  3. John,
    You say 'the objectors (to Women's ordination)..were increasingly marginalised'. Is this not simply because, since the decision to ordain women in 1992, there is a substantial, and growing body of christians, who fully believe that women are called to the Priesthood, and anointed in the same way that men are? The Methodists have been ordaining women for years, the Baptists accept women's authority in the pulpit. Why, are sections of the Cof E still blindly and stubbornly refusing to accept that God has called women into the Priesthood? You say, the devil is the Father of all lies,but all this internal dissent, wrangling, and disunity plays into his hands.

    Alison R

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  4. yes Alison, dissent, wrangling and disunity is playing into the devil's hands....

    ... cuased by a break in tradition forced through without a theologically convincing argument as JR is trying to point out. If God wanted women apostles why did he wait for the secular feminist movement of the sixties instead of pronouncing it sooner? And why did he abandon his scriptural model of 'equal but with different callings' and adopt a notion of 'equal and totally interchangeable' just as society saw fit to reconstruct liberty along those lines....

    .....or was this obedience to the spirit of the age and not the Holy Spirit of the ages?

    I remember being assured that we would see the fruits of this move through an increase in number- instead we see broken communion, loss of numbers and schism...is this not enough in and of itself to settle the argument?

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  5. John

    Good stuff.

    If preference has been given to ordaining those of a more liberal standpoint, there is not much prospect of change through the limited democracy of synods.

    So what of more direct forms of action, most obviously withholding money? Well, last week you expressed your disapproval of this in "Reform's Blazing Saddles moment".

    So what, in your view, can be done? A constructive proposal would help

    Yours

    David W

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  6. Thanks David. What I object to on the money front is the mere threat of withdrawal. Years ago, I came up with a constructive and workable proposal, called "Giving As Partners", which would have allowed evangelical churches to channel their 'quota' giving to good causes within their own diocese.

    This system was designed to work within the existing 'payroll' structure of the Church of England. It did not 'withdraw' money, but it did 'channel' it. It was not a threat, but a positive suggestion. It also had the advantage that it worked.

    However, it was almost universally ignored by the 'constituency', and now we are where we are.

    So I would propose, alongside any new episcopal provisions, reintroducing GAP so as to fund the smaller, receiving, churches.

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  7. John, do you want more fudge on the issue of women bishops, or don't you? In your last post in effect you were complaining that the C of E was refusing to give you the same kind of fudge about women bishops that you got with women priests. But it seems to me that on this issue both sides are refusing to accept any kind of fudge which might be acceptable to all, and even those caught in the middle, except perhaps Rowan for now, are recognising that this time the church has to abandon fudge. Or are you still calling for fudge?

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  8. Ed, God did not 'wait for the secular feminist movement..'. He oversees the changes and advances of women over the centuries, and approves them. The holy spirit is our guide..John 14:15. Your notion of a scriptural model of women as 'equal but with different callings' is a curious one,and conveniently a male construct I feel!
    Women can still demonstrably perform the same ecclesiastical functions, from lay reader to Priest, and do so successfully across denominations .Furthermore a 'theologically convincing arguement' should not negate or undermine the clarity of the calling that an individual has as he or she seeks to serve God, in 'the priesthood of all believers'.

    Yours in Christ, Alison

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  9. Alison,
    Could you explain how we know which changes and advances of women God approves and which ones He doesn't?

    Bishop Chris
    Devon

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  10. Not really chris, don't have that sort of insight into the divine imaginings(!), but we can know that a church that is happy and flourishes under a women incumbent, is surely bearing fruit, and sanctioned by God..

    Alison

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  11. Good question Bishop Chris. It has worried me that the diminuation of the role of women in the teaching and leadership of the church since the days of Phoebe and Priscilla and co may not have had God's approval and thus for centuries the church may have lacked God's blessing. Occasionally we have seen restorations of those glorious early days when the likes of Teresa and Catherine have appeared and been recognized as doctors of the church. It was amazing in the sixties to find that some feminist women were catching up with the lead shown by apostolic women missionaries of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, to say nothing if the leadership models present before then through the Countess of Huntingdon and Catherine Booth. Quite why the C of E took until 1992 to wake up to God's approval fir women in ministry will be the basis for many an evangelical church history research degree in the future!

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  12. Peter Kirk, the problem with the Church of England's fudge on women bishops was that (a) it lacked a resolution of the biblical principle in the first step of ordaining women and (b) the fudge was then 'fudged' by, basically, cheating regarding episcopal appointments.

    I would rather have less fudge overall, and will try to watch out for it in what emerges.

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  13. Peter Carrell, I hope your tongue is firmly in your cheek! When you look at who first ordained women (theological liberals), and how (by breaking the canons of their own churches), and what resulted (si monumentum requiris, circumspice), I'm relieved it took this long, if this was the way to do it!

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  14. John, of course the fudge "lacked a resolution of the biblical principle". Every fudge does, and that is why it is a fudge. The problem is that there is fundamental disagreement at the heart of the C of E over how, if at all, biblical principles might be resolved, and so there is no way to resolve them without fudge.

    Indeed the C of E has been built on a fudge ever since the time of Good Queen Bess, who fudged the differences of principle between Puritans and Catholics, who were allowed into her church as long as they rejected the temporal authority of the Pope. Mountains of fudging have been keeping heresies down for centuries, so much so that it is only that sticky mess which is keeping the church more or less in one piece.

    Rowan wants more fudge to keep the church together over women bishops. I will give Reform and FiF, as well as the people like Watch on the other side, the credit for rejecting more fudge. But can the church survive without it?

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  15. Hi John
    My serious point is, of course, that one can read the "ordination of women" as a grave/wonderful irruption in the continuity of the ordination of men, or as a reasonable development as society has changed during the course of the Christian history of men and women serving God in the ministry of the church.

    I have another serious point: in the course of this thread a minor theme woven through it is "increasing liberalization of the church related to the ordination of women". I suggest another possibility can be considered, and it comes from my experience in NZ (which, to be frank, never seems to cut much ice on overseas blogs): initially the ordination of women is associated with a rising tide of liberalization in theology (not least because the initiative for this move is unlikely to come from conservatives, and conservative resistance is likely to intensify liberalization), but then life settles down, liberal churches produce few candidates for ordination, conservative churches produce many candidates (but now men and women), and so, after a time, liberalization stops increasing.

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  16. --My serious point is, of course, that one can read the "ordination of women" as a grave/wonderful irruption in the continuity of the ordination of men, or as a reasonable development as society has changed during the course of the Christian history of men and women serving God in the ministry of the church.--
    Apart from that purported dichotomy, can one read it as a silly fad which warrants patience, finesse and politeness to those holding vested interests before repealing?

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  17. Hi Michael
    Yes, you can read it that way. There are lots of silly fads around controlled by vested interests. Votes for women, for example, springs to mind. So does schooling for everyone. Then there are guitars in church ...

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  18. Yes Peter, this conservative church has produced MANY candidates for ordination. Two, both sons of clergy, have been ordained, how many more of the all male candidates will be considered?

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  19. Well said, Peter 'We can read the ordination of women as a grave/wonderful irruption'.also certainly sic a 'development as society has changed'. Sadly, it's opinions like Rosemary's that do the valid and anointed cause of women's ordination a great disservice..

    Alison R

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  20. Phoebe wasn't a church leader and Prisca is always linked with her husband. No woman was a presbyter or episcopos in the first and second centuries.
    If Anglicans had nuns (OK, they do...), then the question of 'women's ministry' wouldn't really arise.
    Teresa of Avila and Catherine of Siena would have been horrified at the idea that they were models for the priesthood. They were nuns - and strident advocates for the Papacy.

    Getting back to John's introductory point: he is quite right that the Church of England was dishonest and evasive in its language about civil partnerships. Since bishops have the right to withdraw licenses, why don't they withdraw them from gay clergy in civil partnerships?

    I know this blog is read by some CofE evangelical bishops like Alan Wilson, so it would be good to hear them comment here.

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  21. To anonymous, you say 'Phoebe wasn't a church leader and Priscilla linked with her husband'.. (You didn't mention Deborah leading armies!)Sadly, constraints imposed by man. A very obvious point. Church history is the history of oppression and restrictions on women's freedoms and thus ability to fulfil a calling ...

    Alison R

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  22. Alison, Deborah didn't lead the army except with the reluctant Barak ("Oh, bummer!") and Judges 4:9 doesn't reflect well on women! Ch 4:1 reminds us the period in question wasn't a high point in obedience to the Lord.
    Why didn't Jesus have female apostles? Was he constrained or oppressive?
    Why don't Anglican women who feel called to ministry become nuns? Catholics and Orthodox do!

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  23. Thanks, John, for your masterly account of events up to now. The Ordination of Women in the Anglican Communion has ALWAYS been provisional; and even when you and Reform, and I and Forward in Faith, have been kicked out, it still will be. The (il)liberal majority will insist that male candidates for ordination accept women bishops &c... yet still the decisions of Lambeth Conferences and the reports that led up to them are there. 'Until such time as the whole church, eastern and western, has decided', then (as the Measure for women's ordination says) women MAY be priests in the CofE; or of course, they may not. And members of the CofE are at liberty not to accept them as ordained.
    I just hope Synod will decide to press on with women's consecration and remove any excuse for Orthodox Anglicans to remain.

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  24. "Sadly, it's opinions like Rosemary's that do the valid and anointed cause of women's ordination a great disservice."

    Alison R, I'm extremely sorry you feel that way. I notice from your following post, that you believe women should be leaders primarily, rather than those who 'serve.' I can only assure you that millions of women believe as I do, that primarily, our role is that of service. Not only that, we find tremendous satisfaction in that role .. even occasionally as ordained women .. and feel no need to seek the 'glory' of leadership.

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  25. Edwin, the bishop of Rome has no authority over the Church of England (nor for that matter any Eastern Orthodox bishop), and so no right to any part in its decision on the validity or otherwise of women's ordination. If you don't accept this, the whole basis for the existence of the Church of England, go join his church.

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  26. John, the 1993 Synod provisions seem, at least to me, to have been established for exisitng clergy, predominantly but not exclusively men, who did not, for whatever reason, accept the validity of women's ordination. So far, so simple.

    It seems, again to me, that a difficulty arises when people want to make use of the 1993 provisions who were not only not ordained in 1993, but who were probably children then - and in a few years I'll be able to write "who were not even born in 1993".

    Those who have been ordained since 1993 know they are part of a church which ordains women; they are, in fact, choosing to join a church which ordains women. Now this choice was not available to existing clergy in 1993 so it's reasonable that provision was made for those who objected. I'm totally unconvined that it's reasonable for men going into the ministry today to demand the same level of insulation and protection. If women's ordination is a key issue for individuals, why seek ordination in the CoE?

    Rosemary, I'm sure Alison knows the servant-leader paradox.

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  27. Rosemary, I'm sorry you clearly misunderstand. I believe women are fully equipped to be leaders, but also that they should have opportunities to serve as they wish, and to fulfil whichever role they feel called to. Yes many believe woman should principally serve, but many equally feel that thousands of women globally are fulfilling a God-given vocation, and successfully.
    Anonymous, 'Jesus didn't have female apostles'. Fairly obviously, women were principally child-bearing and rearing in that time, restricted to roles of little authority; having few rights, unmarried woman and married women being subject to their husbands and fathers before them. It seems fairly obvious. Yet Jesus did treat women equally.(the Samaritan woman John 4:27 being just one example.) Many women priests admirably pastor, preach and serve God in their parishes. Anonymous writer, please address your prejudices!

    Alison R.

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  28. Alison: then, if Jesus didn't choose women to be his apostles owing to their restricted social status then, was he constrained by that fact or did he agree with that?
    If he was constrained by contemporary prejudice, can we rightly call him 'Lord'?

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  29. Perhaps I do misunderstand Alison, I face so much prejudice these days, as if women were not a 'care' of mine, when the opposite is true.

    "I believe women are fully equipped to be leaders, but also that they should have opportunities to serve as they wish, and to fulfil whichever role they feel called to."

    Of course we are 'fully equipped,' ours is an onerous task as well as a fulfilling one. But as to 'feelings' .. should they be trusted? Our 'desires' can lead us astray. Commitment is what we should seek perhaps, not fulfilling our 'feelings.'

    "Yes, many believe woman should principally serve, but many equally feel thousands of women globally are fulfilling a God-given vocation, and successfully."

    Thousands??? I take it you are here referring to ordained women only, not to the millions you agree do not take that road? When you say that, do you believe it is possible for a woman to have a 'God-given' vocation that is not ordained? Of course you do, but your words indicate that you FEEL no support towards such folk. Pity, because those women deserve heaps more support than they're getting.

    By the way, I have yet to see such a 'successful ministry,' but I live in hope

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  30. Peter Kirk misunderstands the argument; I said nothing about the Bishop of Rome, only about reports which the Archbishop of Canterbury commissioned (the Eames Report &c) and which were accepted by the (Anglican) Lambeth Conference. It is they, and the General Synod of the Church of England, who have said that women's ordination is a matter of opinion, and that those who are opposed to it have every bit as much right to belong to the CofE as those who support it. This is the church which the women seeking ordination and consecration belong to.

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  31. Anonymous, of course Jesus wasn't constrained 'from calling women to be apostles ', but as I delineated earlier, a woman's function was predominantly child-rearing,and as such home-based (childlessness was stigmatised) and so wouldn't have been pragmatic ..many recognise this.
    Rosemary, point by point. It is not a question of 'feelings' but obeying and fulfilling a 'calling'. Yes, men's desires can lead them astray too!! I'm sure many women who are gifted, equipped and called to ordained ministry would feel they are 'committed' too!!
    Of course it is possible for a woman to have a 'God-given vocation' but to not follow an ordained path, and I support that too. (I think that was implied!)
    It is obvious that you haven't had particularly positive experiences of ordained women clergy, unlike myself, but I'm sure you'll acknowledge that not everyone's experiences are as yours!.

    Yours in Christ, Alison

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  32. Hmm, perhaps you're right Alison, in my lack of 'positive experience.' And perhaps that comes from the fact that such women are .. to say the least .. unfriendly towards me, and those like me. Rather as you are in fact, stating that I'm doing a disservice to Our Lord's church!

    FYI, my definition of a successful ministry for a lady would be along the lines of [off the top of my head I'm afraid] ..

    Conversions .. male and female.
    Preaching ability
    Acceptance of calls to full time ministry among our many young folk .. male and female
    An ability [God given of course] to give an evangelistic talk in a Rugby club with results!

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  33. Edwin, you wrote, in quotation marks so I suppose you were quoting some document,

    'Until such time as the whole church, eastern and western, has decided' ...

    The western church, or at least that large part of it called Roman Catholic, can only decide anything in the person of the Bishop of Rome, who makes all its decisions.

    Your own summary of what "the whole church, eastern and western," has to decide is whether ordained women are actually priests. Therefore you are giving the Pope a veto over the doctrine of the Church of England. That is what I cannot accept. Indeed I would say that there is no place in the Anglican church for clergy who take that view.

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  34. Rosemary, I am wondering what your role is, as you say that these presumably ordained women are 'unfriendly' towards you? ..Or is it because they detect your opposition to them?!!

    I must agree with you. A mark of an individual's calling must be seen by their fruits. I would say this includes conversions, preaching ability, a loyal and happy congregation, growing church, etc., Surely we would take this as read..

    Yours in christ, Alison

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  35. Alison, I work in an Anglican province that ordains women in all three capacities, and agreed to do so from the beginning with the assurance that those with our point of view would always be a welcome part of the church, because [it was said], both points of view could be found in Scripture. I have tried to serve that church as a Sunday School teacher, as a Synodswoman, as a member of General Synod, and as a vicar’s wife. I have never hidden my views on the matter, why should I? But I have also never spoken at any public meeting on the issue, nor indeed has my husband ever preached on the matter. Again, why should he? In the scheme of things, it’s particularly .. even spectacularly, unimportant in comparison to the Gospel.

    As to your last paragraph, quite. However I note there is no reference to the evangelistic talk in the Rugby Club. Is this because you believe there are some things a man should do rather than a woman? Are we not completely equal in our roles?

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  36. Rosemary, I do agree that yourself and your husband should not have to 'hide (your) views', but can see that it would be problematic in a church that allows women to freely preach and minister. It is noble that you are able to continue working and serving. We should all be able to work harmoniously, agreeing to disagree within the 'body of Christ', although this is evidently not always possible.. but you are right..it is an issue that pales next to the amazing Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Finally, no. I don't believe necessarily that there are some things a man should do, but on balance, an all-make rugby club would probably respond more positively, and maybe more respectfully, to another male evangelising!

    Yours in Christ, Alison

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  37. No Peter the veto is not mine; it comes directly from the Eames Commission Report, which the Archbishop of Canterbury commissioned and the Lambeth Conference of 98 accepted. Until there is common mind by all the churches, Eastern and Western, women's ordination remains an opinion and only that.

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  38. As someone who answered the call to priesthood after many, many years of thought and prayer, and who would, until three years ago, have defined herself as evangelical I'd like to add a personal perspective; it is the experience of living in the church that produces the kind of discussion I've read above this comment, that has moved my thinking and my theology towards a more liberal position.

    The worst part of being a part of both the problem and the solution (depending on where you stand), is the way in which the debate and discussion are conducted. We are real people you know!

    Does anyone opposed to women's ordination ever ask themself why God has called so many women to serve as priests? Or do you reframe the question in terms of women's inability to hear God properly?

    Build your own elephant?

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  39. Helegant, the first thing I want to ask is what do you mean by 'more liberal'? Do you mean 'pro-women's ordination', or something more than that? You say you would have defined yourself as evangelical. In what way are you not evangelical now?

    The key thing in this is what Paul wrote to Timothy: "evil men and impostors [in the church!] will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim 3:13-15).

    If you could go back in time and meet your old, unconverted (or untaught from infancy) self, would the gospel you now hold produce the same person you became under those early influences back then?

    For me, your answers to these questions will address your challenge about women 'hearing God properly'.

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  40. John, as the arch-opponent of fudge, aren't you fudging things yourself? Surely Helegant is right - if you oppose women's ordination because of the leadership/headship issue, then does it not follow that any women who believes herself called to the priesthood is, in your view, misguided? In the interests of a fudge-free zone, would it not be better to say that if that is what you believe? Fern Winter

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  41. Fern, I do indeed think that a woman who feels herself called to the Anglican priesthood may be misguided (as also may be a man). But the historical-theological developments of Anglicanism make it too complicated to adopt simplistic solutions.

    For example, whilst an Anglo-Catholic could not (for reasons outlined here on my blog) accept a woman as an Anglican priest, to me a conservative evangelical conceivably could, since a priest does not have to have 'overall pastoral oversight' of a congregation. That phrase, incidentally, is the one chose by the House of Bishops, in arguing for a restriction of the celebration of the eucharist to the 'priesthood' (in a document published in 1997, which I reviewed here).

    There is also, of course, the additional point that I (and others who think the same way) may be wrong, and that therefore some flexibility may be important. In short, there may need to be compromise, but compromise is not the same as fudge.

    Thus, for example, the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993 was a compromise. The way it was applied was a fudge, since it said that no one would be barred from preferment on the basis of their views on women's ordination, and yet, curiously, almost no one was ever preferred who took the minority view. I cannot, in all honesty, believe this was a work of the Holy Spirit!

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  42. "Nor can I think of a word-play on ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’."

    How about "superantigynaecosticepiskopodocious"?! ;-)

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