Tuesday, July 13, 2010

On English Women Bishops, with note for Evangelicals

I find what is going on, or what might be going on, let alone what will be going on in the C of E re women bishops a little confusing. Go to this Fulcrum link for further links. If I understand what the ABC is saying here, then (i) there will be women bishops in the C of E, (ii) there are unlikely to be 'provisions' satisfactory to those seeking 'provisions' (i.e. ways not to have ministry of women bishops in my corner of the Lord's vineyard), but (iii) there is a chance there might be satisfactory 'provisions' if discussions in dioceses over the next 18 months accumulate to be a tide in GS approving 'provisions'. But then I might be wrong.

John Richardson, reliably, posts an extremely helpful essay on how conservative evangelicals might respond to women bishops, distinguishing the ways in which this response could, or should differ from anglo-catholics. The whole essay is here. Some sentences which caught my eyes are these:

The essential difference between CEs and A-Cs opposed to women bishops:

"At the risk of over-simplifying, the Anglo-Catholic takes the view that a womancould not be a priest or a bishop, whereas the conservative Evangelical holds more broadly that a woman should not be a priest or a bishop.

Underlying this is a difference over whether being ordained confers a change of condition — often referred to as ‘character’ — or essentially an authority to exercise a public ministry (compare Article XXIII, ‘Of ministering in the congregation’). The Anglo-Catholic would hold to the former, whilst the Evangelical Anglican would generally adhere to the latter."

On an Anglican way forward for CEs opposed to women bishops to work with women bishops:

"The conservative Evangelical Anglican understanding of orders and ministry means that the debate concerning women priests and bishops is not ultimately about gender but about faithfulness to Scripture.

The conservative Evangelical may thus apply Article XXVI in a way that the Anglo-Catholic cannot, for what the Article says about ‘unworthy’ ministers, the Evangelical may also be willing to apply in principle to women priests and bishops:"

"The conservative Evangelical would therefore not automatically deny the validity of Holy Communion celebrated by a woman priest, nor maintain that nothing useful could ever be learned from a woman’s teaching. (Indeed, the crucial objection in 1 Timothy 2:12 that a woman should not ‘teach or exercise authority over a man’ rather presumes that a man could, nevertheless, learn in such circumstances.) Equally, the conservative Evangelical need not have a problem with a man ordained by a woman bishop, since the prescriptions of Article XXIII have arguably been met:
... those we ought to judge lawfully called and sent, which be chosen and called to this work by men [in the old, ‘generic’, sense] who have public authority given unto them in the congregation to call and send ministers into the Lord’s vineyard.
Since, under any new legislation, a woman bishop would be in receipt of that ‘public authority’, she could lawfully call and send ministers."

On the non-necessity of departure:

"The question conservative Evangelicals need to confront, however, is this: “If you had your own way, and were running the Church of England, what would you do that would transform it from what it is to what you think it ought to be?” And the answer cannot be (to put it extremely crudely), ‘get rid of the women and the gays’.

We may need to remind ourselves that the Church of England had no women priests before 1993, yet it wasn’t exactly thriving back then. What it lacked was not men, but faithfulness to the gospel and integrity regarding its own outward standards of faith and practice.
By the same token then, and according to the arguments I have advanced above, the advent of women bishops need not be the ‘end of the world’ that some are gloomily predicting. It is possible to be ‘salt and light’ even in a Church where, as Article XXVI puts it, “the evil have chief authority in the ministration of the word and sacraments.” And even the Church of England is not there yet!
It will, however, require faithfulness of its own, as well as courage, fortitude, imagination, dedication and a willingness to suffer for the sake of the gospel.
What we must look for from our evangelical leaders in the next few weeks is not threats (or, as our opponents would regard them, offers) to depart, but coherent and practical proposals to achieve what our bishops are called to do in the Ordinal, namely, “to teach and exhort with wholesome Doctrine, and to withstand and convince the gainsayers” and “with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God’s Word; and both privately and openly to call upon and encourage others to the same.” And this applies, of course, not just to the ordination of women or other ‘hot button’ issues, but to the ‘whole counsel of God’."

This is eminently sensible. It opens up the crucial question of finding fellowship with those we disagree with because we look first for what we hold in common and not what we differ on. (John has fine things to say on this which I have not cited). That, I suggest, from afar, could be important to rapprochement between 'conservative' and 'open' evangelicals in the C of E!

The essay also helpfully focuses attention on what we can admire in the ministry of those we are cautious about: are they faithful to the gospel?

This, incidentally, is part of the reason why I affirm the ministry of women in all orders of our church: there is no intrinsic reason by way of gender why women and men cannot be faithful to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; and, having ordained women as deacons, priests, and bishops, there is good evidence of these ministries being carried out faithful to the gospel.

The difference between conservative evangelicals opposed to women bishops and women bishops themselves will be paper thin indeed in the C of E where the teaching ministry of women bishops is doctrinally sound!

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

What if the biblical teaching is that men should be giving the lead to the church as fathers? How could a woman bishop teach that?

Al Mynors

Kurt said...

Well, Peter, you know of course that many moderate and liberal Anglo Catholics (myself included) support women priests and bishops. From what I have been able to gather, many of the English conservatives who oppose women in Holy Orders would more properly be styled Anglo Papalists. This trend is fairly common in the English Church (but is almost wholly absent from the American Church.) One of the great benefits of having women bishops in England is the opportunity to finally flush out the Anglo Papalist trend once and for all from the CofE. (And if it works to get rid of the most rabid Calvinists too, so much the better!)

Opposing women clergy, like opposing gay people in the Holy Ministry, is historically a losing battle. The con-evo Africans will not “save” the Western Anglican Church from modernity. In fact, in 50 years my guess is that most African Anglican provinces will be ordaining women too.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Kurt,
Some of the Anglicans I like and admire most are opposed to the ordination of women, are (in your terms) 'rabid Calvinists', and 'Anglo-Papalists', so I do not join with you in eagerness to see them flushed out if not excluded from the life of the Anglican Communion.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Al,
I urge women bishops to teach that men should be giving a lead to the church as fathers in the same way that I urge men bishops to teach that women should be giving a lead to the church as mothers.

I would hope that all bishops teach that Christ is the Head of the church, and draw the attention of all hearers to Christ as Lord and Saviour. In the end the great question for the church is not the gender of its bishops but commitment to Christ as its Head.

Anonymous said...

"I urge men bishops to teach that women should be giving a lead to the church as mothers."

And Paul would say the same (1 Timothy 5). But other than in the absence of fathers, women didn't lead first century households. Are you sure that contemporary Anglicanism is not departing from apostolic order?

Al Mynors

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Al,
I am sure that contemporary Anglicanism is not departing from 'apostolic order' because (a) that order was flexible rather than fixed (b) adaptable to changing circumstances rather than fixated on preservation of the past.

I have absolutely no doubt that were the apostles alive today they would be voting for women bishops not against.

Anonymous said...

"I have absolutely no doubt that were the apostles alive today they would be voting for women bishops not against."

Impressive confidence, Peter - you make the Vatican look like wet rags! I am not so sure that the Holy Spirit is speaking to me.

The apostles are alive today.

Al m.

Rosemary said...

"I have absolutely no doubt that were the apostles alive today they would be voting for women bishops not against."

Al is quite right Peter, as I have often pointed out to you before. The above sentence means you believe this to be a first order issue. You are in effect saying that all who believe as I do, do not have the Holy Spirit, and are therefore presumably, not beloved of Our Lord, not Christians at all, and should have no place in YOUR church. ‘’Absolutely no doubt,’’ precludes .. in fact denies any other interpretation.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,
With respect I do not think it is at all the case that if I say I (personally) have no doubts that the apostles would vote for women bishops then thereby (i) this is a first order issue (ii) other people (not agreeing with me) do not have the Spirit, etc.

What it means is that I have no doubts about an issue which some people have doubts about and which some people have equal and opposite no doubts (that is, no doubts that the apostles would not vote for women bishops). In the last category is undoubtedly the Roman Catholic hierarchy!!

Of course the question of my personal doubts or non-doubts about such a matter is neither here nor there. What matters is the church listening to the Word and the Spirit as it seeks to live its life in the world.

On the matter of women bishops the whole church of God is not agreed. But we are agreed on a number of things about the role of women in ministry and in leadership which are different to centuries past, so I believe it is possible that the Spirit is gently nudging the church in a direction of eventual universal acceptance of women bishops.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Al,
It is true that in the apostolic age Peter was not always in agreement with the other apostles, especially Paul!

Rosemary said...

On the matter of women bishops the whole church of God is not agreed. But we are agreed on a number of things about the role of women in ministry and in leadership which are different to centuries past, so I believe it is possible that the Spirit is gently nudging the church in a direction of eventual universal acceptance of women bishops.

LOL .. Peter, Peter. YOU believe a number of things about the role of women in ministry which is different from centuries past .. so could you explain again about the Spirit gently nudging after 2000 years.

Anonymous said...

I think you have to acknowledge that Rosemary has logic on her side, Peter.

She is quite right: that you have "Absolutely no doubt," precludes .. in fact denies any other interpretation.

You also fail to follow your own approach. In relation to bishops in a committed same-sex relationship you unremittingly argue that this is not the majority position, this is not where the church is, etc. etc. Well, historically and currently amongst those who have bishops, Rosemary's position is clearly the mind of the church (as you would phrase it) and you have gone way out on a limb. It is fascinating why you have no doubts about both your positions, where one expresses the historic catholic position (referring to your tagline) and the other opposes it.

Alison

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Alison,
That I may have absolutely no doubts about X or Y does not preclude other viewpoints and interpretations. On the matter of women bishops these exist, in both Protestant, Roman, and Orthodox forms, but I do not share them. I am quite happy to discuss my lack of doubts, along with your doubts.

How my lack of doubts sits alongside doubts in church is something for us all to work on. It is not as though I am the Pope and everyone else feels bound to follow my lead!!

In respect of bishops and potential bishops in same sex partnerships I do not think I am being inconsistent: my position on this blog (more or less, I may not always be as clear as I would like) is that in the Anglican Communion we are not yet agreed either to endorse bishops in same sex partnerships or to endorse a position in which such a matter is adiaphora, accordingly a moratorium is appropriate. By contrast the Anglican Communion is agreed that the existence of women bishops is a fact of our life, that there will be no moratorium on ordaining future women bishops, and that member churches of the Communion may agree to ordain women bishops without fear of the Communion being riven apart by that decision.

I may not have been clear about this, but I would not leave the Anglican Communion if the mind of the Communion shifted to accommodate TEC's decisions. (That does not mean that I would agree with such a shift, just that I would not, personally, deem that to be a reason to leave).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,
On each of the following points I expect you may or even will disagree with me!

(1) The Bible does not lay down a fixed, unalterable pattern for order in ministry. (Hence, both Anglicans and Presbyterians can and do claim that their respective ordering of ministry is consistent with Scripture).

(2) In the Bible we find evidence that 'government' in human life, whether in Israel or in the church may change according to circumstances. (Israel once had no king, then it had kings. The apostles, responding to practical challenges, instituted a new order of ministry, Acts 6).

(3) Human life develops through the ages. Some things remain the same; some things change. God's people faces recurring challenges as to the right way to live in each generation, and look to Scripture and to the Spirit for guidance.

(4) One such change is the role and estimation of women in human society. To give just one change: we now recognise that women are equal to men in many respects formerly denied, including ability to learn, to lead, and to decide (cf. opening of tertiary education to women, opening of professions and trades to women, and granting of suffrage to women, all within the last 150 or so years).

(5) The change in (4) has spread widely around the world, but not yet universally. Nevertheless there are powerful forces (for good) exerting pressure on those societies which continue to treat women as less than equal to men.

(to be cont'd)

Peter Carrell said...

(cont'd)

(6) No church is immune to the changes in (4) so that even in churches denying priesthood and episcopacy to women, there are new roles for women as teachers of the faith (including appointment to theological colleges), as members of church committees and councils, and as leaders in ministry. One interesting example of the latter is the way in which Roman Catholic parishes in NZ are being led by 'pastoral leaders' who are lay people, and in a number of instances, women.

(7) Responses of churches to changing circumstances are responses to 'nudges of the Spirit'. Some have responded further than others (e.g. by ordaining women as priests and bishops), but all are moving into a new place in the history of the church.

(8) That this is properly accorded a nudging of the Spirit stems from the prophecy of Joel 2:28-29 which speaks of the Spirit of God being poured out on men and women. A prophecy which was explicitly connected by Peter to the church's first Pentecost (Acts 2:17-21).

It has taken a long time, but the influence of the gospel of Christ has wrought significant changes through two thousand years of history, as the vision for humanity in creation has been restored, that men and women are created in the image of God.

Anonymous said...

You missed this point:

(9) Responses of churches to changing circumstances are responses to 'nudges of the Spirit'. Some have responded further than others (e.g. by ordaining gays and lesbians in sexual relationships as priests and bishops), but all are moving into a new place in the history of the church.

Al M.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Al,
Your point (9) causes me to rewrite my point (7)!

Now: (7) Churches responding to changing circumstances seek guidance from the Word and the Spirit in order to do the right thing. Thus 'nudges of the Spirit' have led to a variety of responses. Some have responded further than others (e.g. by ordaining women as priests and bishops), but all are moving into a new place in the history of the church. Along the way there are ongoing discussions about whether certain actions are consistent with the Word and/or the traditions of the church.

Carl Somers Edgar said...

Dear Peter,

This is a very multi-faceted question, which it seems appears differently to different people. My facet, if I can put it like that, is the sacramental one. Putting it rather crudely, I am concerned about a kind of ABC of the priesthood: Absolution, Benediction, and Consecration. The last of these is, of course, of supreme importance to a Catholic Anglican as it is to an Eastern Orthodox or a Roman Catholic - that is, to the great majority of Christians both past and present. If you do not believe in the doctrines of the Eucharistic Sacrifice or the Real Presence, then the matter is very different because it is reasonably possible to tell by observation whether or not someone is a good pastor or preacher. It is not possible by observation to tell whether the bread and wine have been consecrated or not. And speaking for myself, I do not believe that any part of the Church claiming to be at one with the undivided Church of the Fathers has any right to quite wilfully cause doubt in such a vital matter of Christian life. Furthermore, as I have pointed out on my own blog, it is only by tradition that we know that there are four gospels and not five. Likewise, we know by tradition that Eucharists celebrated by men are valid in the Catholic sense. We can have no such confidence that the same would be true of Eucharists celebrated by women - and certainly not without a much greater degree of consent on the part of the universal Church.

Carl Somers Edgar

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl,
Yes, there are different perspectives!

I am unconvinced by the perspective you bring. Consecration is observable via observing the presence of priest and congregation and hearing the words used in which we remember with thanksgiving the sacrifice of Christ and invoke the Holy Spirit. Our faith that consecration takes place according to the intention of the church as it gathers for eucharist is faith in the action of the Triune God, not in continuity with the tradition of the church.

If the tradition of the church is so necessary to consecration why do we not use the words (say) of Hippolytus than the words we do use? The words we do use are revisable according to the best insights of the scholarship of the church: witness the Roman effort currently to issue a new English Mass, itself aiming to be (more) faithful to the Latin form ... interestingly not to the Greek form of the most ancient church!!

Where I have some sympathy with the perspective you offer is on two points, one I think quite minor, the other of more significance. I accept that we should take more care on the matter of of proclaiming unity with the undivided church of the Fathers (minor). I agree that the direction some Anglican churches have moved in re women bishops is not helpful to the cause of ecumenical unity between Anglicans, Romans, and Eastern Orthodox (major). But that will be overcome when the latter two see the light :)

liturgy said...

I hold to a sacramental perspective, but need to highlight an error in the logic of Carl’s comment. He writes, “we know by tradition that Eucharists celebrated by men are valid in the Catholic sense.” That is not correct. It should read, “we know by tradition that Eucharists celebrated by validly ordained men are valid in the Catholic sense.” The stress is on validly ordained – not “men”. Whether women can be “validly ordained” is what Carl is actually talking about. Carl’s “great majority of Christians both past and present” do not accept that he, though he is a “man” (Carl’s stress) is “validly ordained” (my stress and that of the church catholic). At best we are deluded, wearing funny clothes, and participating in a hollow ritual, at worst we are involved in a scandalous, mocking sacrilege. The only way IMO, following his logic, that Carl can cease to “quite wilfully cause doubt in such a vital matter of Christian life” is to cease presiding or to be ordained by a bishop accepted as validly part of apostolic succession by the “great majority of Christians both past and present”.

Peter Carrell said...

Now, Bosco, I need to thank you, and Carl, for providing reasons 1001, 1002, and 1003 for me being 'evangelical' and not 'catholic' :)

liturgy said...

I'm confused, Peter, what was the tagline of this blog-site again?

;-)

Blessings from

Bosco
an orthodox charismatic evangelical catholic

http://www.liturgy.co.nz/blog/orthodox-charismatic-evangelical-catholic/87

Peter Carrell said...

Yes, Bosco, the tagline will probably have to go; changed to something like, "An evangelical attempt to reconstruct the Anglican Communion along proper lines, without intention of incensing catholic Anglicans in the process."

Anonymous said...

A question, then, for Bosco (bearing in mind that most western Anglophone Protestant churches are offshoots of the Church of England or the Church of Scotland): Is a Presbyterian or Methodist or Baptist or (procul absit!) Brethren communion service/Lord's Supper/eucharist/whatever it's called - "valid"?
What does 'valid' mean in this context?
Are these groups churches as the 39Articles describe them?

(I trust you can see where this is going.)

Al M.

liturgy said...

That's certainly kind of catchy, Peter. And with the acronym "eatrtacapl,wioicaitp", quite memorable! The comma means that there is also the allusion to our province's very memorable name and acronym - where the comma is also so important.

liturgy said...

I don’t know why Al’s question is for me, Peter. I was merely following Carl’s “facet”. That “facet” would not call a Brethren Eucharist “valid” – but then, I’ve never heard of Brethren desiring their Eucharists to be valid in the Catholic sense. As to these being “churches” – again, the obvious exemplar of Carl’s “facet” does not regard the Church of England as a “church” and has been at pains to proclaim that. Again, a little research would have given Al this information, so I don’t know why it’s asked of me, and no, I don’t know where this is going – certainly nowhere I would seek to follow.

Carl said...

Yes, Bosco is absolutely correct. I see no reason (and certainly not yet) to assume that God agrees with our conclusions concerning the ordination of women. Bishops can lay hands on the latter (decently, and in order, of course!) as much as they please, but no one has yet shown that the ordination of women - at least to the priesthood and the episcopate -has God's approval as well as that of General Synod. Thus, there may no such thing, whatever the bishops might do.

Carl.

carl said...

I wonder what Bosco means when he implies that I do not see the Church of England as a Church. It would helpful (and interesting!) to know.

Carl

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Bosco will know that for Carl, to be an Anglican means to be a sacramentally connected part of the unbroken Western branch of Catholicism in historic episcopal succession, just as Armenians, Copts, Assyrians and others assert that they are eastern branches of the Church Catholic.
what I was asking was, what makes a eucharist 'valid' in Anglican terms (other than the trivial and changeable sense of following canonical rules)?
Does a Presbyterian communion have the same meaning before God as an Anglican eucharist?
Al M.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl,
I find your comments offer an interesting lead in this discussion! But my response is too long for a single comment, so I am going to post instead!

liturgy said...

Sorry if you took that from my poorly worded comment, Carl, my allusion was to http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20070629_responsa-quaestiones_en.html and similar rather, than to you personally.

The Doctrine Commission of our church met about this very question, Al. General Synod passed that clergy of the (former) Negotiating Churches (this, of course includes your specific Presbyterian example) may preside at Anglican altars and use Anglican liturgy. But the Doctrine Commission ruled that these are not equivalent to Anglican Eucharists. When I asked a formal question at Synod whether clergy and/or people would be informed that this was actually our church’s doctrinal position, I was told no. Some might take this to be ecumenically dishonest … I’m sure if you provide your address, Peter can send you the Doctrine Commission’s formal report as this appears to intrigue you so much to keep pressing forward on this.

Anonymous said...

"The Doctrine Commission of our church met about this very question, Al. General Synod passed that clergy of the (former) Negotiating Churches (this, of course includes your specific Presbyterian example) may preside at Anglican altars and use Anglican liturgy. But the Doctrine Commission ruled that these are not equivalent to Anglican Eucharists."

Thanks for your answer, Bosco. So other Trinitarian churches have different sacraments, do they?
Walks like an (Aylesbury) duck, talks like a duck, but is really a Scottish grouse.
Curiouser and curiouser.
Al M.