Friday, 23 November 2012

Don't blame the laity!

One of the opinions being voiced subsequent to the defeat on Tuesday of the women bishop’s Measure is that the House of Laity is ‘unrepresentative’. It is therefore ‘their fault’ that the vote was lost, and there are subtle — and not so subtle — hints going around that ‘something must be done’.
To a limited extent, I sympathize. Clearly the House of Laity represents a different point of view from that to be found in the House of Bishops. But if accusations of bias are to be made regarding the former, they are surely even more justified regarding the latter, which contains no — count them — representatives of the Conservative Evangelical Complementarian position.
Indeed, no one of that persuasion has been appointed as a bishop for years — an outcome which invites the accusation not so much of bias as Gerrymandering. (The latter was a mythical Irish bird, named after the shape of a constituency so redrawn on the map as to make the election of their own candidate by a Roman Catholic majority an impossibility.)
Let us return, though, to the House of Laity. This certainly contains a significant number of Traditionalists on the issue of women’s ordination — perhaps not enough to have swung the vote on their own, but certainly enough to help.
But why were people of such persuasions on the General Synod in the first place?
Part of the answer is because it became clear back in 2008 that ‘proper provision’ was going to be highly unlikely. It is worth re-reading this Daily Telegraph piece on the voting then, which reports not only the tears of the Bishop of Dover, but the depressing litany of the voting:
By yesterday’s debate 13 amendments had been put forward, many of which called for much tougher safeguards such as the creation of entirely new “men only” dioceses to look after those across the country who did not want to be led by a woman bishop, or a new class of “super bishop” to minister to traditionalists in their existing dioceses.
But one by one these proposals were voted out by the Synod despite their support from many senior bishops and both Archbishops.
It is because of such things that I find it hard to accept the suggestion that the provisions finally put in place were, as some people described them, ‘generous’.
But this is also why the composition of the House of Laity today became what it is.
With the 2010 elections to General Synod looming, there were many people who offered, or who were encouraged, to stand for election precisely because they feared the lack of proper provision. And although I have absolutely no way of knowing whether all of them made that clear in their election addresses, all of them were certainly elected in the proper manner by the legal electorate of Deanery Synod representatives.
Thus, though the composition of the House of Laity was partly the consequence of deliberately political action by opponents of the proposed legislation, the motivation for this was equally in part the previous actions of the General Synod itself.
In short, it was the actions and decisions being taken before 2010 that, ironically, contributed to the Traditionalist make-up of the House of Laity and the eventual defeat of the Measure.
It is illegitimate to blame these lay representatives as if somehow they were at fault for seeing what was happening, being concerned and getting involved in the political process. Is this not what we would normally encourage?
By contrast, the composition of the House of Bishops is impossible to influence by the ordinary process of voting, and in the House of Clergy it is difficult, for obvious reasons, even to get elected if you are an express opponent of women’s ordination or consecration. Hence there is a bias the other way in both these houses, just as there is probably some bias (how much is hard to say) amongst the laity.
Those who have least to complain about, though, are those who are suggesting that ‘next time it will be different because we will get our act together’. That is what they are entitled to do, but they ought not to complain on principle at others doing the same.
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  2. Now that the House of Laity has cast its vote, suddenly doubts emerge whether it is actually representative. So far, none of the doubters has offered the slightest shred of statistical evidence for this assertion. Not that I've seen anyway. Comparing with diocesan synods is not sufficient; why should they be so much more representative? Until hard evidence is offered, this simply reeks of contempt for the democratic process: the laity are welcome to be fully involved in CofE governance, as long as they vote the way they're supposed to.

    I don't have any statistics either, just anecdotal evidence. The DCC of a perfectly MOTR, small liberal Catholic congregation I serve at the moment voted against it last year, not because the were against women bishops - far from it - but because they were concerned about the lack of space for traditionalists (and no, they weren't steered that way). This makes me wonder whether the House is as unrepresentative of reality on the ground as some think.

    Furthermore, we are told ad nauseam that 42 out of 44 dioceses voted in favour. But this comparison falls down for two reasons. Firstly, if I remember right, the vote in diocesan synod was by simple majority, not 2/3. Secondly, counting dioceses like this results tends to amplify modest majorities, for the same reason that Britain's "first past the post" electoral system tends to amplify them compared to, say, proportional representation.

    Finally, of course, questioning the representativeness of the House of Laity opens a bigger can of worms: the other two Houses are plainly even less representative of the church as a whole, especially the House of Bishops. But nobody is talking about that. After all, the other two houses did vote exactly the way they were supposed to.

    1. It is also worth remembering when the 42 out of 44 dioceses point is made that the "proper provision" at that stage was wider than the final proposal.

      David Brock - Elmdon

  3. Dear John and Peter

    Here are the relevant statistics:

    Percentage of parishes passing Resolution B: 7.4%

    Percentages voting in the dioceses in support of the legislation: Bishops 84%, Clergy 76%, Laity 77%

    Percentages voting in Synod in support of the legislation: Bishops 90%, Clergy 77%, Laity 64%.

    In the light of the statistical evidence, I wonder if you would now be prepared to withdraw this article?

    1. "Do you think women can be priests (let alone bishops)?" is a rather different question from "How broad a tent do you think the Church of England ought to remain?"

      The Resolution B statistics relate to the first question, not the second.

      There is no doubt General Synod voting figures differ from diocesan ones. Of course, as David reminded us above, they voted on different legislation to begin with and cannot be compared for that reason alone.

      Your implicit assertion that diocesan synods are somehow more representative would moreover need statistical backing. After all, it's not as if evangelicals are known for their great eagerness to get deeply involved in diocesan life.

      I'd say Stephen is spot on when he says we should be cautious making dogmatic statements about the statistics. It may be that we simply don't know. Which makes all the questioning of the House of Laity's legitimacy, frankly, stink.

    2. Peter, it was you who raised the question of how the Synod vote compared with the dioceses 'which were passed on simple majority' and that was the question I answered.

      How might we measure whether this is representative of the wider church? Well, perhaps by looking at Resolutions B and C. Res B is 7% of parishes, Res C is 2.8%. These are both a long way from the 36% of the HoL who voted against the measure, and are surely better indicators of where the Church as a whole is at. Another measure would be membership of Reform. I understand that it has about 150 clergy members, out of 11,000 clergy in the C of E.

      This is, of course, only one half of the question, as I mention elsewhere.

  4. Ian, I'm sorry brother but you've misunderstood my article.

    The issue is not about who voted what in the last period of the legislative process, but who took part and why in the political process. It was the voting in 2008 which produced the Synod of 2012.

    I see no need to withdraw the article, but a great need to enter now into constructive dialogue.

  5. Ian, if I could just add to my last comment, according to your figures, the percentages voting in the dioceses against the legislation were: Bishops 16%, Clergy 24%, Laity 23%.

    Those are the people who would have been left 'in the cold' by the proposed legislation and there would have been no chance to revisit it.

    This way, we have that chance.

  6. I can't see the next Synod having the same composition as the current one if this issue isn't resolved soon. Lay people in favour of women bishops will be a much stronger presence in the next synod, this weeks vote has raised their energy and awareness. I'd regret that, we don't need party politics at a General Synod level.

    On the appointment of conservative evangelicals, there are plenty of evangelical appointments (Justin Welby, Steve Croft, Tom Wright, Paul Bayes), it depends where you draw the doctrinal line. But yes, I can't think of a Reform sympathiser called to the purple since Wallace Benn. Perhaps part of the reason lies with the way Reform presents itself: it's hard for a bishop to be a 'focus of unity' if he's seen to represent an organisation which has threatened to cap parish share and set up parallel ecclesial structures. If there was more evidence of key Reform leaders seeking to serve the whole church, rather than just their part of it, perhaps we'd see a few more of them in the national leadership?

    What I find ironic is that the CofE has a form of 'bishop' which has drifted a long way from the Biblical pattern, yet we want to only apply scriptural arguments to it. Anglican 'bishops' are not a form of ministry we find in the Bible, even if we use the same name for them.

    1. Good points David. You are right about 'bishops' of course. But it is also the case that the next elections will be fought on this issue alone, and there will be a strong reaction against this vote. And in the end, there is likely to be less provision.

    2. And in the end, there is likely to be less provision.
      So Traditionalists will be offered less than vague and worthless promises of "respect" from people who obviously have no respect for them? How would that even be possible?

      "Moral principles do not depend on a majority vote. Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is wrong. Right is right, even if nobody is right." -- Fulton J. Sheen, 1953

    3. A single-clause Measure would definitely be less provision. We might still end up with that; and arguably it would be an improvement. At least it would be clear, honest, and not susceptible to years of infighting and pecking away at the Code of Practice and its legal force.

    4. Peter, on that I think we agree. It would be much clearer and might be where we end up--precisely because of Tuesday's vote. I wonder if those who voted against actually thought that through.

  7. I'm sorry, John: your article starts off by noting accusations that the HoL was 'unrepresentative' and you then question this accusation.

    The accusation is quite right: the HoL did not represent the views of the Church. You could argue that this is quite fair; many stood on an opposition to women bishops ticket at the last elections, so this should have been no surprise. But it is clear that they do *not* represent the wider views of the dioceses, as the stats show.

    Those who voted against the measure are not those who do not want women bishops, but those who do want them yet felt the provision was not enough, like my local archdeacon. So this is *not* a measure of those who would be 'left out in the cold.'

    The true measure of this might be the percentage who voted for Resolution C (2.4%). Or the number who are members of Reform and FiF. How many clergy out of 11,000 in the C of E are signed up to Reform?

    1. "The accusation is quite right: the HoL did not represent the views of the Church."

      Evidence, please. Tell me why diocesan synods are more representative. And while you're at it, make a case that the substantial changes to the Measure would not have altered the diocesan vote. We're on statistical quicksand.

    2. Peter, I think John himself concedes that the HoL vote does not represent the views of the Church; it was the response to what had gone on before 2010 as he says.

      In my other reply I suggest ways to measure this, either by looking at the parishes who have adopted A, B or C, or looking at membership of organisation like Reform and FiF. Either way, this is a very small minority compared with the 36% against in the HoL.

      But as I think we all agree, the issue of representation is only one half of the debate. The other is whether John and Angus are correct in saying there is only one way to be biblical, and that is to oppose women exercising authority.

    3. And it's my suggestion that HoL may not be as out of kilter with the church as large as people seem to think. But without any reliable data, none of us know, do we?

      You cannot directly compare Resolution ABC percentages with the HoL vote. It is perfectly possible to fully support women bishops but be unhappy about the Measure as it stood. My own DCC was, to my surprise; they're pretty middle of the road and very much in favour of women bishops. But they're also true liberals who value the breadth of Anglicanism, warts and all.

  8. Quick comment on statistics. I'm not sure where all Ian's come from, but there is a problem with setting one set up as authoritative in terms of representation to dismiss another. E.g. the Resolution C percentage could not be representative (what if PCCs are not representative or what if the around 35% of those against the measure are evenly spread through PCCs etc.) whereas the General synod vote could be (or not). I would be cautious about being dogmatic on the stats myself.

    Stephen, Blackburn

  9. "What I find ironic is that the CofE has a form of 'bishop' which has drifted a long way from the Biblical pattern, yet we want to only apply scriptural arguments to it. Anglican 'bishops' are not a form of ministry we find in the Bible, even if we use the same name for them. "


    Chris Bishop

  10. Ian, I am not questioning whether the House of Laity was unrepresentative.

    The issue of 'representative' or 'unrepresentative' is hard to judge. Hence this paragraph towards the end:

    "By contrast, the composition of the House of Bishops is impossible to influence by the ordinary process of voting, and in the House of Clergy it is difficult, for obvious reasons, even to get elected if you are an express opponent of women’s ordination or consecration. Hence there is a bias the other way in both these houses, just as there is probably some bias (how much is hard to say) amongst the laity." (Emphasis added)

    My point is that the VOTE of the House of Laity in General Synod (which clearly differs from that of the Houses of Laity in most diocesan synods - though not hugely) was influenced (though doubtless not ultimately determined) by people who chose to involve themselves in the political process following especially what happened in 2008.

    Bear in mind, though, that some of those voting against did so not because they are against women bishops in principle but because they agreed there was a lack of proper provision. It is not as simple as is being depicted.

    Moreover, Traditionalist evangelicals have constantly asked for support from the Open Evangelical wing yet not received it. That is another reason for us being where we are.

    It is a terrible and depressing mess - I make no bones about that. But to blame the laity in general or this House in particular is to be blind to what brought us to this point.

  11. Stephen, the reason I have quoted the stats is that there are two different arguments here. One is that the Laity were the ones who were actually representing the views of (an otherwise silent) group who are being marginalised, and Peter asked what the diocesan vote figures were. So I supplied them. The numbers come from adding up all the votes in all the houses in all the dioceses.

    The other argument is that, representative or not, they were right. Mild Colonial Boy is making this point. But the difficulty here, and with the question of 'support' that John raises, is that I have sat in meetings of CEEC where John has expressly said that his view is the only biblical one, and that in disagreeing with him I am disagreeing with the Bible. Angus MacLeay said the same in his closing speech.

    So, John, I am willing to offer support in saying the C of E needs to be more biblical. And that there should be provision. I believe that the Code of Practice would offer that. And I am prepared to support the wider evangelical agenda--so I found your book on homosexuality helpful, for example.

    But that does not mean that I will support the demand by opponents for exactly what they want, since this will in fact contradict what was intended by the arrangements put in place in 1993. George Carey included the following comment in his summary: 'third, our rejection of the notion that bishops and priest who participate in the ordination of women thereby invalidate their ... sacramental ministries'.

    1. Thanks for explaining the stats. I thought it must be that and it is useful. I think you were asking John to withdraw the article on the basis of them. If that is right, I thought that was a little strong, because they don't seem to definitely support your point, i.e. they could be explained another way. Do you agree?

  12. Ian, I am intrigued by your comment regarding what I have allegedly said at CEEC.

    I presume you are referring to my views on something to do with women and ordination. If I made a comment about something else, I may well have said it is the 'only biblical one', but I doubt very much I said that - nor would have I intended it - in a simplistic way on this topic. The reason I can say this is that I have never, to my recollection, fully expressed my views as such at CEEC - indeed I have been trying to think through how I might express them here.

    I realize people may mis-state what is intended or mis-hear what is said. I can only believe that has happened in this case.

    Regarding proper provision, there is simply disagreement here. But if I may use a quick illustration, if I am having vegetarians to lunch it is they who shape my menu.

    As to what George Carey said, I would refer you to his assurances said to have been given in 1993 (and not apparently contradicted by him): 'I myself asked the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury whether it was envisaged that the Act of Synod would operate in perpetuity or whether it would be in the nature of a temporary measure which would cease to operate at some future date. He replied that it was the intention that it should be permanent and that they were not thinking of rescinding it or anything like that. Then he added the caveat, “with the goodwill of the House of Bishops”. He went on to say that of course anything could happen in the future.'

    As we have seen, that 'anything' did happen, which is why provision now has to be statutory, as Parliament warned then.

    1. You made your comment in a CEEC meeting when you were sitting behind me, and felt I had to interject to say that this is not the only understanding of what Scripture says. This is a constant theme in CEEC and one of the many reasons why it is problematic.

      The provision proposed IS statutory. The Code of Practice would have statutory force, and this has been confirmed numerous times. To suggest that this is not the case is just plain mischievous, or born out of ignorance.

  13. Thank you Ian for supplying the DS voting stats. Just wondering, is there a place where they are gathered in one place? Seems hard to find from the CoE's website or anywhere else....


    1. Dan I picked them up after quite a search from WATCH. But you can do the exercise yourself by going to all 44 diocesan websites where they are reported. I didn't have the stamina to do it myself! But I agree, someone in the C of E somewhere must have done it.

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  15. Ian Paul,

    If the code of practice is statutory then how would it be enforced if it was ignored? Who would do the enforcing? A female Bishop?

    Bearing in mind of course that no code of parctice has been yet been written so GS was voting on something that actually doesn't exist yet.

    Chris Bishop

    1. I understand that a sample Code of Practice was included in the papers, but I am not on Synod so did not read it. But in our diocese there was a good discussion of this in the Deanery meeting.

      If it is not enforced, then appeal goes through the usual legal processes.

  16. Ian, I remember the occasion, but given the circumstances you describe you may have misheard what was said or intended. What do you think I said or meant?

  17. Lay people are quite used to being told by clergy (and bishops) that their opinions are worth nothing.

    1. Who is saying that Peter?

      My beef is with clergy who mislead laity in their teaching ministry, and should know better.

    2. I said that. It is the history of the church. And it would appear to be the sub-text to the horrified reverends responses to the GS voting. I'm sure that lay people who've been on Deanery Synods (like I have) would echo the idea (perhaps not in such an extreme form).

    3. But the complementary reflection, which is also common, is that we are a long way behind eg USA (and Australia?) in our focus on lay training/theology/catechesis...

  18. Ian, I was wondering if you could get back to me about what I'm supposed to have said.

    However, I'm also wondering to whom you are referring in your reply to Peter. Who are these clergy who 2mislead laity by their teaching ministry, and should know better" And what is the 'better' that they should know.

    I realize that is now three questions, but hope you can take the time to elucidate.

    1. I'm afraid I believe he was thinking of you John!


    2. John, it was near the end of a CEEC meeting in London, and you called out that the only solution for the social problems in the UK was a return to biblical principles of marriage in which man was the head and woman was in submission.

      I frequently hear it said that 1 Tim 2 is clear, unambiguous, and the interpretive key to all other NT passages, that 1 Cor 11 clearly teaches that the husband has authority over his wife, and that Eph 5 teaches that women should obey their husbands--and that those who teach otherwise are 'unbiblical'. This is misleading and irresponsible.

  19. If the generous evangelical centre that Fulcrum represent considers those who teach, and in my experience of 3 large reform churches incredibly infrequently, that women in leadership is not taught in scripture are now "false teachers", then frankly they need to re-write their aims and values.

    I have spoken with many clergy and laity in our diocese who were not in favour of the legislation and who would be allergic to groups like reform or fif. And the generous response, next time you will be offered nothing. If this is the generous centre, I'm glad I don't read Thinking Anglicans that often!

    Paul, Devon

    1. Paul, does Fulcrum actually say that?

      And does your second para. mean that all those clergy and laity were against the legislation because they thought it was TOO generous? In that case, what makes them think that eliminating the provision altogether is going to do the trick next time? Doing that would only multiply the number of Philip Giddings and Tom Sutcliffes, and ensure that the new measure failed by a bigger margin....


  20. Paul, I am not aware of anyone here using the language of 'false teachers'; it is not a category that I think is helpful in this context.

    Dan, no 'Fulcrum' has not said that, though 'Fulcrum' is not a homogenous unit with a fixed set of views.

  21. Ian, thank you for that clarification, though I feel I must now offer a clarification of my own.

    As I recall - and forgive me if I am wrong - this was in the context of my having presented a paper which was a submission on 'civil same-sex marriage' originally drawn up for Anglican Mainstream. This was on the 14th June and CEEC members had submitted comments in advance.

    My recollection is that in responding to these comments I advocated that we teach in an 'unashamed' manner the biblical understanding of marriage (which is of a symbiosis of husband and wife reflecting the life of Christ and the Church - I'm not sure how I would have expressed that at the time).

    I also said, as I recall, that a proper understanding and practice of marriage would address a number of social ills.

    I would NOT, however, have said that this was "the only solution for the social problems in the UK", simply because I didn't believe it then, and I don't believe it now.

    What I do recall is that after I had sat down, in the ensuing discussion, you said something on the issue of 'obedience' with which I took issue, and I apologize if I interrupted you. It is probably because this was an interruption that my intention was unclear.

    It seems to me that in your Grove Booklet you are keen to assert that Ephesians has no word to say on 'obedience', which indeed it does not. But you seem to overlook entirely the fact that 1 Peter (3:4-5) does. Now the manner of interpreting that may be open to question, but I found it frustrating that you hadn't addressed this and that may have spilled over into the context of CEEC. Once again, my apologies.

    As to what you hear frequently, you may be surprised that I agree there is work to do. Nevertheless, it is in my view unambiguous that "the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church" and that "ὡς ἡ ἐκκλησία ὑποτάσσεται τῳ̂ Χριστῳ̂, οὕτως καὶ αἱ γυναι̂κες τοι̂ς ἀνδράσιν ἐν παντί" (Eph 5:24) is the analogous, corresponding, principle for wives.

    How this works out is an area of debate. 1 Peter suggests to me it includes the 'o' word, but we can [and should!] discuss that.

    We cannot, however, simply avoid it or simply say "It works both ways." (I'm not saying you say that, btw, only that I equally frequently hear that and get frustrated by the attitude.)

    Finally, for what it is worth, I think this is actually at the heart of the debate on women's ordination and consecration. I recently described the Church to someone as 'a household of households'. That, it seems to me, is the biblical pattern. Therefore household life is fundamental to congregational life. But that is where I must leave things.

    1. In CEEC, despite the fact there are different views on the issue of gender relations, despite the fact that CEEC does not represent the range of evangelical positions, despite the fact that the membership has been rigged, yet time after time people set out the idea that their reading of these texts are the only ones which are truly biblical, and I'm sorry to say that your comment was four-square in the centre of this narrative.

      In contrast, I spent a good deal of time in a series of discussions about all these texts, in OT and NT, and the conversation was fascinating. When we looked at Gen 2, I said to a participant (whom we both know), after exploring the Hebrew text in some detail 'I cannot see any suggestion whatever of hierarchy in gender relations. Can you point out the words or phrase that indicate this?' His reply was 'I don't know--I just see it.' This is not a convincing hermeneutic.

      If Eph 5 really is 'the heart of the debate' then you are going to have to justify not just the idea of headship--I believe in headship--but the grounds on which you believe this has something to do with authority, against a significant pile of evidence to the contrary. Whenever I speak on this in churches, and point out that there is no para break at v 22, that in fact this is one sentence, that there is no verb 'submit' applied to wives, that the husbands are 'idioi' your own, that this is emphatic despite being omitted by most ETS, that there are many more words to husbands than to wives, that it appears as though the passage is primarily a corrective to husbands who are lording it over their wives rather than being Christ-like...and they uniformly say 'Why has no-one ever told us these things before?'

      The answer is that people like Angus MacLeay suggest that the meaning is uncontested, and means what he says--and that is both irresponsible and misleading.

      Here's an insight worth pondering, from Dorothy Lee:

      But in what way will the husband metaphorically give his life for his wife? Will he support her career? Will he look after the children so that her work will thrive? Will he share the housework with her, if not do the bulk of it when required? Will he be prepared to give up his career for hers? Will he ensure she has regular time for herself and her own development, spiritual, intellectual, emotional?

      Or will he expect her to surrender her life to his, her career for his? Will he expect her to serve him, day after day, supporting his career or vocation, placing her gifts at the disposable of his, feeding him, taking care of him, supporting him emotionally, taking the lion's share of the work for the children and the domestic chores?

      In this model - by far the most likely scenario in such marriages - it's the wife who is taking the burden of self-sacrifice, not the husband; she is the one giving her life for his, not the other way round.

    2. Ian, thanks for this quote from Dorothy Lee - very cool. Where is this from? Pete


  22. Interesting comments. What we seem to come across here is that the HoC accurately represents the clergy (24% voted against across the country and approx the same in GS) and obviously the HoB is accurately represented.

    The crux seems to be the HoL. No doubt in 2008-2010 there was a move by those worried to get lay people into the HoL and equally obviously the opposite will happen next time round.

    The key here though is that of representation for the laity. To be on the electorate you have to be on a Deanery Synod - which for most lay people is a bizarre strange place. Secondly, unlike Bishops and clergy, if you want to be on GS you need to be able to take time off work. So, there is a tendency to people with time on their hands (presumably lots of them retired).

    The way forward is surely to allow all lay people (members on the Electoral Roll) to have the vote for the HoL and for GS to meet over weekends.

  23. Worth saying Will that more accurately, the HoC in GS voted in a similar way to HoC in DSs, but that does not mean that it is representative of the clergy, if what we mean is that if all clergy were given the vote then you would get the same result. This assumes that the likelihood of being on DS and GS for clergy is equi-probable for those from different perspectives. I suspect that's unlikely (for rather similar reasons as you give for HoL).

    All this to say that I think people are getting very hung up on how representative our democracy is, when we don't have the stats to prove it either way (and more to the point we haven't even decided what those stats should be - who are the HoL representing exactly for example?). That this concern for how representative thing are and the certainty that the HoL was not, seem more to do with dismay at the result than any carefully researched reality.

    1. Stephen, I do take your reasoning. I do also agree that some of the reaction is because it is the "wrong" result. I would also keep the 2/3 to pass major changes such as this to the way the church has done things. I think that would help ensure that it must seem "right to us and the Holy Spirit" feel to it.

      However, in terms of the Laity I really do think that there is a major gulf in terms of representation. Clergy are able to directly elect people to GS. Laity can't. In my church only two people were on Deanery Synod and none even on Diocesan synod. A directly elected HoL by the laity directly. As you say that doesn't mean that you will have an exact representation but at the least it would mean that they would be able to have a direct say on who votes on their behalf. As I say I think that it is now untenable for the general laity (those on the Electoral Roll and largely paying for the CofE) not to have a more direct voice.

    2. On the first para I'm with and I see the point in the second. I suppose my point is, that it's not clear, when all is said and done, whether we would have got the same result at GS, because we don't really have the information.

      In terms of getting on DS I have to say we found it fairly straightforward - two churches with four lay members on DS and both me and the incumbent on as clergy. It seems to me that mostly if there's a willingness to do it, people can. I think one problem in terms of the laity is deciding who they represent (electoral roll - how many are actually involved in the church, PCCs, confirmed, regular attenders and so on) and so who can have a say, on the whole I quite like a system that encourages fairly seriously committed people to be involved, which I think we now have, while I accept the limitations. That's one of the reasons I'm a little sceptical of the criticisms of the HoL, it seems to me that they are criticisms of people who, at least, care enough about the church to spend the time getting involved, if they are not representative of those who don't, I'm not sure that's so bad.

      That said, I do agree with the point that in some ways the approach to getting on DS and GS for laity is odd.

  24. Ian, I'm not sure you're accepting my version of what I think I said and why. You say my comment was "four-square in the centre of [a] narrative", but not what the comment itself was. Perhaps we should just let that one drop.

    Many people, ourselves included, have studied the relevant texts in detail. I cannot speak for others, but I presume you have read my article here: The woman Eve, so good Adam named her twice, which engages with some of your own thinking.

    I take Ephesians 5 as the heart of the debate, because it is where the Pauline doctrine of marriage meets the Pauline doctrine of salvation related, I believe, to his understanding of union with Christ.

    There has, of course, been much debate about the meaning of the word 'head', but an often overlooked element in this is the meaning - and theological significance - of the word 'body', running from 1:21 onwards. It is the 'body' that the wife represents in marriage, according to Ephesians 5.

    The lack of a break at 5:22 is not secret - certainly I make no secret of it. But nor do I think it matters to the 'authority' debate, one way or the other. You say, "there is no verb 'submit' applied to wives", yet a moment later in 5:24 we have, as I quoted earlier, "ὡς ἡ ἐκκλησία ὑποτάσσεται τῳ̂ Χριστῳ̂, οὕτως καὶ αἱ γυναι̂κες τοι̂ς ἀνδράσιν" -- "as the Church is subject to Christ, so also the wives to the husbands" (NB, the 'tois idiois' of 5:22 is not repeated here -- thus although the former can be rendered "to their own husbands", "your husbands" is perfectly serviceable. It would be odd to suggest an implication that without 'idiois' they should act in whatever way is being urged towards a husband who is someone else's.)

    In other words, the details you are observing do not require, though they may fit with, an 'egalitarian' reading of the text.

    Whilst we're on the subject, though, I wonder what you make of v 33 "ἡ δὲ γυνὴ ἵνα φοβη̂ται τὸν ἄνδρα".

    I would also just add that there is the 'obey' comment in 1 Peter.

  25. Briefly: I think your comment on Gen 2 is mistaken, and misreads me. My point about naming was that we do not find an 'authoritative' 'naming' of the woman in Gen 2, and you don't offer any evidence to contradict this. The phrase 'suitable helper' really emphasises the equality of the two, so there is no hierarchical relation here.

    Yes, wives submit to men, as men submit to wives--the sentence makes it clear that all submit to all others, not (as I think Wayne Grudem suggests) some submit to some. It is clear that the men need more help in understanding this; as Ben Witherington argues, this cannot be used to reinforce the prevailing sense of men having authority over their wives. If Paul meant men to exercise authority in marriage, why does he not say so?

    I am really interested that you don't response to Dorothy Lee's interpretation of this. I think it makes the point very well.

  26. Ian, I'd really like to see a bit more engagement with my article about the 'namings' of Eve, both to show that I have misread you and that I offer no evidence of an 'authoritative' naming. (Actually, I'm not sure what you mean by 'authoritative'.)

    As to the 'two way submission', that is the nub of the problem isn't it? You would have to say on this basis that the church submits to Christ "as" Christ submits to the Church, or as parent submit to their children, etc. If the 'submission' is implicit in v 22, and there must be some verb we put in there, it is nevertheless nowhere implicit in a sentence regarding men.

    5:21 sets up the following instances, but they are not instances where the outworking of the relation is reversible.

    Furthermore, I think 5:33, which summarizes the instructions mutually to each, goes against the notion that this is, as you suggest, "primarily a corrective to husbands who are lording it over their wives".

    You rightly observe elsewhere that in 1 Corinthians 7, for example, there is mutuality. I think we find that here also: "Nevertheless tlet each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects [lit: fears] her husband." Nevertheless, though these are mutual obligations they are not identical obligations.

    I'm not sure what response you want from me on the Dorothy Lee comment. It depends on the family, really, doesn't it?

    I'd still like to hear from you about the mention of 'obey' in 1 Peter, but I fear this is becoming rather fraught as a conversation.

  27. Regarding Genesis, look on the bright side. At least I didn't take the position of Jerome Gelman in Gender and Sexuality in the Garden of Eden, Theology and Sexuality, Volume 12(3): 319-36, 2006. The abstract reads as follows:

    "Various attempts have been made to argue that the plain meaning of the story of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2-3 supports a feminist, or at least a woman-friendly, understanding of the gender and sexual relationships between Adam and Eve. I counter that these arguments are not convincing and are hard to square with the biblical text, by considering four central elements in the story: (1) The sexual nature oiha'adam, Adam/the earthling
    at the start of our story; (2) God's 'curse' of Eve; (3) The meaning of the woman being a 'helper' to Adam; and (4) Adam's naming of the woman. I conclude that the most plausible meaning of these chapters is that Adam dominates Eve sexually and otherwise from the very moment of Eve's creation."


  28. Ian, on reflection I do have a further comment on Dorothy Lee's remarks, which is that they seem to buy into the notion that 'career' and 'work' would be better for a mother than mothering.

    Of course a man should 'help with the housework'. So should a woman. In my experience, though, a division of labour into 'pink' and 'blue' jobs is neither uncommon nor iniquitous.

    The biblical prescription seems to be that being a wife means consciously being 'an ezer ke'neged' a man. Your life is indeed 'subject' to his. Being a husband requires being a 'go'el' to a woman. You are obligated as her kinsman redeemer. It is NOT 'and vice versa' - the obligations are mutual but not 'equal'.

    But it is also not a 'rights based' relationship. In the end, it must be sacrificial on both sides to work.

    Finally, it occurs to me what amazing things Christians find to battle over. Even the gift of marriage. We are so far from unity in the truth, aren't we?

  29. John, this post is so revealing, and in many ways eclipses everything else.

    First, you say that Eph 5 is the heart of the matter. I then offer you Dorothy's reading of Eph 5 and ask whether this is a good reading of a man 'giving himself up' as Christ.

    Rather than engaging this, you then change the subject, and say it is all about Gen 2 after all. And you don't even seem to be aware that you are doing it!

    Why is this conversation 'fraught'? Because you keep moving from one thing to another. OK, then let's look at Gen 2.

    What is it in the phrase 'suitable helper' which has the slightest hint of gender hierarchy about it?

  30. Ian, I'm sorry but I just don't like your tone. If there is going to be any sort of discussion with a scholarly basis it can't be like this.

    I'm therefore signing off on this one unless you want to agree some ground rules.


  31. How about these for ground rules:

    1. Let's stick with the texts to hand, and not keep moving to a different text when it suits.

    2. Let's be ready for some robust engagement, and not decide to bail out when we don't like the other's 'tone'.

    3. Along with this, let's continue to engage, as the alternative is to become like Giles Fraser or Gerald Bray.

    4. Let's agree that we need to allow the texts to critique both our conclusions and our presuppositions, and be ready to admit when we hide behind either.

    How does that sound?

    As to content, can you explain why you see the language of 'suitable helper' as expressing hierarchy? I see none, and in fact believe that this phrase emphasises equality and partnership.

  32. Ian, from your comments I'm not really picking up the attitude I'm looking for. It might be worth considering how the Goddard to Goddard debate was conducted and Andrew's attitude to Giles, which I think was good.

    So no, I think I'll step back from this.


  33. I am sorry to hear that, and perhaps most sorry that you feel the need to dictate the terms of the debate. I am not good enough for you as a dialogue partner, so despite my willingness to engage seriously, we have reached an impasse. I think last week's vote was this phenomenon writ large.

    If you come to a change of mind, be assured that I will always be willing to continue the discussion. Seriously engaging with Scripture, and allowing ourselves to be shaped by it, must for me take priority over delicacies of my feelings.

    For me, this is what it means to be evangelical.

  34. I think some sort of proper engagement between different views on this topic among evangelicals could be helpful. Both "sides" seem to think their readings are basically obvious (and that the alternative readings are imposing all sorts of ideological constructs onto the text). I'm not sure if a blog is the best venue though, since blogs never have the kind of topic discipline that Ian plots, and Christian discussions need a face-to-face dimension.

  35. Peter, I've been involved in just such an engagement for two years. The papers have all been published. The summary statement is here

  36. Ian Paul, thank you SO much for posting those words of Dorothy Lee's. They articulate exactly what I have observed - those (usually men) who put such huge emphasis on women's submission and obedience actually invert scripture by requiring only the woman to live a life of self-sacrifice. Fern Winter, London

  37. Fern, you are welcome. This is why I would have been very interested to hear from John what in this description he disagrees with *as an interpretation of Eph 5*.

    This is the kind of headship I can believe in--and which I think the general public would also recognise as genuinely godly, and possibly even attractive.