Saturday, March 8, 2008

Conservatism versus conservatism (1)

Recently I came across this point made within a comment on a meeting between conservatives of the Diocese of South Carolina and the Presiding Bishop of TEC, Katharine Jefferts Schori: "by separating to win the latest Anglican battles in the culture wars, the conservatives are setting themselves up to actually lose the larger cultural war over time. Interesting survey data reports that even the younger USA evangelical believers are much, much more gay-friendly than their parents or their grandparents ever were - as citizens, as believers."

As a conservative Anglican I do not always find myself agreeing with fellow conservatives. The quote above captures an important aspect of the kind of disagreement I can find myself in! Namely, I struggle on some issues to see how they are going to bring the whole of the church down; and, conversely, I am amazed that the bigger picture of change in society impacts so little on some issues within the conservative fold. That is, we can get pretty intense over 'battles' and not look up and around long enough to get a measure of the 'war' we might yet lose.

A case in point is women in authority. Whatever the meaning and application of 1 Timothy 2:12-15, the fact is that it does not describe the uniform and unerring character of women in leadership. The advances of society in respect of recognising the equality of men and women have been followed (sic) for the most part by the church which has discovered that (e.g.) women may be educated to the same degree as men and be as faithful or as feckless as men in upholding orthodoxy. The facts are simple: if even one woman appointed to a position of authority over men in the life of the church proves to be faithful, undeceived and undeceiving then 1 Timothy 2:12-15 is not a universal and timeless rule prohibiting women from being in authority (since the reason for this rule being given is a disposition in women, running from their matriarch Eve, towards being gullible and deceiving). Tried and true women are present in the life of the church. Given the maleness of the John Spongs, Paul Tillichs, Teilhard de Chardins, and the like, if the church be charged with erring because of false teaching, the blame does not fall on women alone! Yet some conservatives - people I cherish and respect for their obedience to God and their skill in exegesis - continue to fight the battle against women in leadership.

But here is the rub. Despite winning some large congregations in places, is the church overall growing in numbers because of this particular 'faithfulness' to Scripture? Is the church under pure male leadership of mixed congregations with women leaders only over women and children impacting throughout society, town and country, upper, middle, and lower classes? The answer to both questions is 'no'. Is it possible that 50 or 100 years from now conservative churches opposed to women in leadership over men will be a marginal oddity on the edge of society? I think the answer is 'yes'!

Well there is more to say ... on 'relevance' and its dangers, on human sexuality and its challenges re 'battles' and 'wars' .... look out for more postings!

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