A posting elsewhere reporting about a current debate in the Anglican Church in Wales about women bishops (to change from no to yes or not) reminds me that I see issues on this one differently to some fellow Anglicans. "Tradition" or "Justice" or "Pauline prohibition" or "Pauline misogyny" are the catch cries from one side to the other and back again. Though its strong language I feel like saying, 'a plague on both your houses.' The primary question is not (IMHO) whether tradition makes it impossible or justice must be served or whatever. The issue at stake is the leadership of the church, and its a pretty desperate issue in the face of the huge islamo-secularist-materialist forces unleashed against us in this century - to say nothing of the heterodox-divisive-navel gazing forces we have let loose within our body. Who is called, equipped, and gifted to lead? If no woman is so able, then we should expect no women to be appointed to leadership such as the episcopacy. But if even one woman is so able, should there be a rule, of whatever rationale, which prevents that? Of course not! Arbitrary rules of that kind are utterly foreign to the spirit of the New Testament.
I came across a lovely article on women in church leadership by F. F. Bruce the other day. F. F. Bruce was one of the great NT scholars of the 20th century and a lifelong member of the Brethren assemblies, which for the most part of their 150 years or so in existence have been prohibitive of women in leadership. In this article he argues for inclusion of women as leaders of the church and makes this point among many others:
"If [God] manifestly withheld the gifts of teaching or leadership from Christian women, then we should accept that as evidence of his will (1 Cor. 12:11). But experience shows that he bestows these and other gifts with "undistinguishing regard," on men and women alike - not on all women, of course, nor yet on all men. That being so, it is unsatisfactory to rest with a halfway house in this issue of women's ministry, where they are allowed to pray and prophesy, but not to teach or lead." (from "Women in the Church: A Biblical Survey", p. 264 in his book A Mind for What Matters: Collected Essays, Eerdmans, 1990).
One final point needs to be made. The posting referred to above reports the concerns of those who see men drifting away from the church and worry that the trend will accelerate with women in leadership. This is, of course, a pragmatic and not a theological argument against women in leadership, and is easily refuted since if just one women led church has great men's involvement then the connection between women in leadership and men leaving is undone. (And such a church can be found).