Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fine tuning the case for women bishops

My bishop, +Victoria Matthews is in England as I write, roundabout now contributing to a 'fringe' event at the C of E's General Synod which will make a significant decision about the future of women bishops in that church, as well as what polity surrounds women bishops in relation to those not accepting their leadership. The signs augur very well for an overwhelming decision in favour of women bishops with ten dioceses so far voting in their synods for women bishops.

Naturally arguments continue for and against women bishops so that recently Ian Paul has written in favour and in the last day or so, David Ould has responded with a contrary fisking of Ian Paul's argument.

Without running through all the details of their debate, I generally accept David Ould's point that Ian Paul's argument has weaknesses if not a central weakness inasmuch as it is based on a subjective interpretation of what the Spirit is saying to the church at this time. While many Christians may think such an interpretation is a strong point in favour of any mooted change, evangelicals are typically resistant to such arguments on the positive ground that we want to see the text of Scripture which favours the change and on the negative ground that we see church history as littered with disasters when the Spirit has been followed at the expense of the Word.

Thus this latest outbreak of this debate prompts me to put down a few ideas of my own about this running argument within Anglican evangelicalism, an argument which is a lively part of the reason for the recently announced AMiE. These ideas of mine could support the strikingly consistent enthusiasm of the English synods for women bishops would be rightly taken up by General Synod.

But also in my mind is a meeting I went to two nights ago in which a young woman gave a Bible study to a mixed gender group which was simply one of the best ever Bible talks I have ever heard in my life. I cannot not ask, I will keep on asking, does the Bible provide clear and definitive evidence that this young woman should not have done what she did, that the organisers of the meeting were in error, and that I should not have received the teaching she gave.

Here are some ideas I think are best avoided

There is evidence for women being presbyters and bishops in the New Testament. If it is there it is hard to find and even harder to get people to agree that it is there.

Jesus only chose men to be the Twelve. True, they were men, but is it straightforward to then conclude that women were not apostles? (Junia in Romans 16:16 constitutes evidence that women may have been apostles.) Further, the Twelve is clearly associated with the sense that Jesus came to renew Israel as the kingdom of God, thus the patriarchs were replicated in the men Jesus chose. But forming that group says nothing about the roles the Miriams, Deborahs, Esthers, and Huldahs of the kingdom of God will take up.

Jesus set up an unchangeable tradition of leadership. There have been changes to the tradition. His primary leadership group of Twelve were Jewish men who were with him and were witnesses to the resurrection. Jewish gave way to Gentilic; 'with him' gave way to those who 'believed in him'; 'witnesses to the resurrection' somewhat naturally died out as the years rolled by; even 'men', noting Junia, may not have been strictly followed. We might also note with specific reference to Roman Catholic invoking of tradition that the tradition changed when celibacy was required of its bishops and priests.

For nearly 1900 years the church misread Scripture. That kind of idea opens up a hornet's nest about the reliability of the Spirit at work within us, about a God who seems uncaring about how long we live in error, and so on.

Here are some ideas I think are worth exploring

Two conjoined questions: Whether the New Testament lays down a fixed schema of church leadership or offers a history of the development of apostleship, episcopacy, presbyterial and diaconal ministry in which flexibility and adaptation of leadership occurred according to changing circumstances? and Whether the New Testament sets out a freedom in Christ for the church to make decisions as it sees fit providing these decisions are not repugnant to Scritpure?

The situation of women in many parts of the world has changed in such a way as to open up the possibility that we should re-read Scripture to ask whether it provides for the possibility of a reformed understanding of Christian leadership in a new age. When women go out to work away from the family hearth and home, when women take up opportunities to learn theology to doctoral level (which is not, of course, the only measure of theological learning), when women are supported by the church in being leaders in business, politics (cf. support for Margaret Thatcher, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann), the arts, education, medicine, welfare and other areas of society, and when women are not constrained to child-rearing duties for most of their lives as they once were when routinely they were mothers to a dozen or more children and life-expectancy was shorter: we are in a new age. When we re-read Scripture with the questions of a new age about the roles of women in respect of church and home, does Scripture prohibit women leading and teaching men in every context and every age?

The situation we face is not one in which the Spirit is contradicting the Word but one in which the Spirit is bringing forth new light from the Word.

To the extent that the concept of 'roles' is invoked in some circles so that men and women are equal but different - equal in status but different in roles, how strongly and clearly does Scripture teach that roles for men and women are fixed for all time?

In respect of ministry, is ministry essentially Christ's ministry? If so, then in a very important sense we are all, men and women, helpers or assistants to Christ in his ministry. It is Christ's priesthood (hiereus), not ours: our presbyteral or 'priestly' (Anglicans/Roman Catholics might say) ministry (presbuteros) is always an assistant's role to the Head of the Church.

There is plenty more to say, of course! But these are a few ideas to consider avoiding and a few ideas to explore further.

65 comments:

Bryden Black said...

How come what I said earlier on the thread regarding “Anglican Doctrine”, mutatis mutandis, applies again. I wonder why?!

“Here I have especially been helped (I confess!) by the likes of Oliver O’Donovan’s On the Thirty Nine Articles (1986), ch.7, on Art 19, and his recent The Ways of Judgment (2005), esp. Part III. ... For there have to be forms of “communication” (O’Donovan’s word, one which also invokes the Holy Spirit) among the Church’s visible form(s), which establish the desired dialectic of “household” and “city”, the contours of which will allow the four creedal “marks” to flourish and interpenetrate as “word-and-sacrament” are duly performed and our bodies and minds “conformed” (Rom 12:1-2 again) to the Gospel.”

And there really does not seem to be anything conclusively to deny [note the form of this negative, which parallels the Anglican position re 3 orders: I sense, and have sensed for a long time, Ian Paul has got it right re 1 Timothy] women’s aspiring to this eschatological society’s ministry of “oversight” - especially when the criterion of apostolic succession (Acts 1) was being a witness of the resurrection: er; Mary in the Garden was the first! And “oversight” has as its main purpose faithful adherence to the “communication” of the Gospel’s reality - viz. the identity, nature and purpose of the Messiah of Israel’s death and resurrection, unto the Father’s Glory - humanity’s restored Image. All the rest really is historical happenstance.

Happy reading and digesting of Oliver's text folks!

David Ould said...

Thanks for this, Peter. It's really helpful - allow me to address your points in turn.

There is evidence for women being presbyters and bishops in the New Testament.
I'm in happy agreement with you. In which case I'd add - to the extent that the NT is descriptive of ministry then this, surely, is an important observation.

Jesus only chose men to be the Twelve. True, they were men, but is it straightforward to then conclude that women were not apostles? (Junia in Romans 16:16 constitutes evidence that women may have been apostles.)
I think you're on shaky ground here. But the conservative argument needs to be tightened. I would put it like this - to the extent that Episcopacy is an "apostolic" ministry, we should recognise that Jesus only appointed men. I'm really not sure that the Junia line is one that bears much fruit. The phrasing there is, surely you concede, ambiguous. Therefore it's not really accurate to say "it constitutes evidence" rather we should say "if read a very narrow way to the exclusion of other readings, it describes Junia as an apostle - even then, the word "Apostle" was used in a variety of ways". Hardly conclusive, let alone even persuasive.

Jesus set up an unchangeable tradition of leadership. There have been changes to the tradition.
I'm mixed on this one, but then I'm mixed on the whole issue of tradition anyway. I think the question itself is a red herring. We ought to simply state "the NT ...." and go with that.
As you point out, RC "Tradition" has a habit of changing, but then I'm no fan of RC Tradition.

For nearly 1900 years the church misread Scripture.
Well, exactly. But, at the end of the day this is what any revision is going to end up implying no matter how it seeks to cage the shift in the language of the Spirit.

Some other thoughts on your other thoughts.

Yes, the roles of women have changed substantially and much for the better. BUt since when does that overturn Scripture? COuld we even, as the Church, be courageous enough to argue in the face of that change that some is not good. Ultimately it would, even then, still be an argument of experience over Scripture.

If we are to argue the "Spirit brings new light out of the word" then we still can't avoid arguing that we've been in darkness for 1900 years. Really?

Our ministry is not so much Christ's ministry (a flawed view of priesthood, in my opinion) but rather primarily a teaching ministry that witnesses to the Resurrection of Jesus and the fullness of what it means for Him to be Lord. It seems to me that there is more than sufficient evidence in the NT to show us how that ministry should be ordered.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Bryden and David for commenting.

To argue that we might re-read Scripture in the light of change to the status and roles of women in society is not an argument of experience over Scripture; it is an argument for reading Scripture with new carefulness.

To draw new light out of Scripture is not to impute previous darkness, rather the possibility of greater light.


Rather than argue the toss on whether the ministry is Christ's or not, I would like to commend your understanding, David, that our ministry is primarily a teaching ministry that witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus etc - a ministry which began with women!

David Ould said...

To draw new light out of Scripture is not to impute previous darkness, rather the possibility of greater light.

Come now, Peter - when we say that the Spirit is leading us to contradict what He has apparently led us to believe for 1900 years then that ism in your words, imputing previous darkness.

our ministry is primarily a teaching ministry that witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus etc - a ministry which began with women!
Again - come on! You equate the simple joyous declaration that "we have seen the Lord!" with didactics? They're hardly the same. Why will those arguing these things keep coming up with such contrived statement?! Even the NT shows an abundantly clear distinction between that first wonderful declaration of news and the later apostolic preaching.

Peter Carrell said...

Oh, David, we need way more of the joyous declarations of the resurrection than the didactics. You are right, they are different, with the latter having to work really hard not to be boring. (No telling jokes to lighten the fare, please, there is no Scriptural mandate for such rhetorical tricks.) Poor young Eutychus, that apostolic preaching literally bored him to death. But just suppose for a moment that we have two people who know the apostolic teaching very well. The woman can deliver that teaching well; the man cannot. On my and other's approaches, we can ask the best person to teach to do so. On your approach you cannot do so, leading to the impoverishment of the congregation and the constraint of the woman's gifts.

It is not a question of the Spirit contradicting what we have believed applied in the way life was, but of the Spirit guiding us to consider new application in the way life is turning out to be different from the past. Praise God that our Creator is creative.

David Ould said...

On your approach you cannot do so, leading to the impoverishment of the congregation and the constraint of the woman's gifts.

Utter tosh. I might as well claim that you show such shocking lack of trust in the Spirit that you would so readily overturn His objective inspired word for the sake of your own subjective attempt to "experience" Him in order that you might justify your pandering to the current age.

It's not "creative" to utterly contradict what has gone before. It's just ... well ... contradicting what has gone before.

Doesn't it worry you that all this language you are using is exactly that used by the revisionists to justify their own revisions? Surely at some point that has to give you pause for thought. I'm sorry - for pondering.

Peter Carrell said...

Its not pandering to the current age to recognise in well-educated and trained women the ability to communicate the gospel and to teach true doctrine. Do you set out to be offensive in jumping to conclusions from evidence that is not actually set before you?

The only thing that worries me in this context is that I might be constrained by my own short-sightedness from fully understanding the Word of God. Sometimes that leads to revision, both a revising of views and a re-visioning of possibilities. Is there something intrinsically wrong with revision? I understand the heritage I enjoy because of the Reformation to be flow from revision: Luther, and Cranmer, in particular, are two Reformers who revised (and sometimes revised again) their views. Who do you admire as the theologian who never revised his or her views? (OK. Apart from Jesus?)

David Ould said...

But Peter, nobody is arguing against well-educated women teaching others! They're simply arguing that God had already clearly told us in what contexts they should do so.

I was ordained deacon alongside 8 well-educated godly women all of whom are now teaching effectively in various contexts. So less of the thinly-veiled accusations of chauvinism, if you're going to talk about insults.

And Luther and Cranmer didn't "revise" and bring in new doctrine. They reformed and restored the NT doctrine that had been so tragically lost by a church that insisted on increasing revision away from the Scriptural mandate.

Rosemary said...

You said, "But also in my mind is a meeting I went to two nights ago in which a young woman gave a Bible study to a mixed gender group which was simply one of the best ever Bible talks I have ever heard in my life.

Well don't leave us in ignorance, tell us what she taught please.

James said...

What I don't understand is: why the urgency to do this now, when there are a great many arguments to refrain from discussing this in a manner as pointed toward deciding it in the next few years?

1.) We value Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians; and we value the gift of women's ministry. If we so terribly disrupt our relations with the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox - aren't we doing women's ministry in world Christianity more damage than good, in preventing our good relations with them, and preventing them from understanding the ministries of our ordained women?

2.) In the Church of England, our ordination of women has been paired with a great problem amongst women. I.e., the faith of our women clergy has been shown to be significantly less than that of our male clergy in the survey conducted by Christian Research in 2002. If we have not found ways of caring for our female clergy in this ultimately important sense, it is likely that our female bishops will also experience such neglect or abuse. We have not even done serious study of this matter. It would be more responsible to discuss ordination of women only after we have a better understanding of our ordained women, and how we can nourish their faith.

3.) Throughout the ages, lay womens' ministry has been of inestimable importance in the life of the church. We have as yet to fully understand the impact of the ordination of women upon lay womens' ministry.

4.) Much of our debate has been marred by sloganism and influence of secular sources with little understanding of faith or the workings of the church. There are many other indicators that we (in the Church of England) are not in a state of health. This is the sort of decision which can not be easily turned back, if we later discover we are wrong. We are also at the point of casting out that portion of the church which, by the standards of the 2002 survey, register as having clergy with the soundest faith, after apparently having broken promises to them. Furthermore, it seems that WATCH (and perhaps other advocacy groups) have been working hard on this issue in a manner without much attention to faith - with the very high numbers of clergy associated with this group who seem from the survey to suffer from a very deprived and stunted faith. Our efforts at advocacy have been flawed and too-narrowly focused, needing to take account of other essential issues - e.g., womens' faith in God; and clergy's faith in God.

This tells me that we can indeed have discussions about the issue of women bishops; but we shouldn't assume that we should be deciding this issue for good within the next five or ten years.

For those who feel their patience is being tested: why not also feel impatient about the state of faith in our church, and of our women clergy in particular? It's the nature of a limited body like a church that we can't do everything at once. But the faith of our female clergy should be a higher priority than their ability to fill various offices, especially if it's not clear that their filling these offices is, at the moment, helpful to them or to the broader church.

And if we do not have the hope of a greater faith amongst our clergy in general - it may do us better to simply disband, and request our followers to find spiritual guidance and fellowship amongst other, better churches.

James said...

If we look at the Roman Catholic church -

A great upheaval came in doctrine during the nineteenth century, particularly in making certain unofficial, pastoral doctrines regarding the Virgin Mary into official doctrines - which also separated that church from other Trinitarian churches.

This corresponded to a period of great political and territorial loss in that church - a loss which perhaps we can see as providential - but nonetheless brought about destabilizing forces which may have swayed minds away from wise and spirit-guided decision making. "We can make up for what we are losing by gaining [ ... ] and cracking down on the temptations of Protestantism."

It took decades of work in re-shaping unity between Roman Catholics and protestants, with these new official doctrines standing very much in the way of unity, and still very much forming an obstacle to unity, often referred to in obfuscating ways as to hide the greater unity we most certainly do possess in being Trinitarian Christians. It is not uncommon for discussions about Roman Catholics in protestant circles to be derailed and ended with words about the Immaculate Conception.

It is clear that the Communion is now suffering upheaval and loss, having declared itself to have an "ecclesial deficit" in the Alexandria meeting, and a "torn fabric" in the emergency Lambeth meeting, with many of its leaders condemning it by their absence at its most important meetings.

Each church which affirms women bishops now contributes to further separating the Anglican Communion from the greatest part of Trinitarian Christianity - at a moment when we can least afford to be so separated, and when each further act of separation casts more doubt upon our commitment to the body of Christ.

Making such a decision at such an obviously dark time in the life of the Communion surely will not bode well for our women bishops. It will be very easy to dismiss them - and all bishops - as unnecessary ornaments, or perhaps as pointing to a "higher and non-literal meaning" of a kind of celestial authority, but whose words most certainly needn't be taken literally - and we will be powerless to put such teaching aside with reason, and will need to resort to the authority of ecclesial courts and heresy trials to put it aside.

It is already so easy for AMiE to put aside concerns about "ecclesial collegiality."

If the episcopacy is to have de jure authority - it must also be clear that we, in our generation are those authorized to make such important decisions regarding the episcopacy. Or the episcopacy's authority will devolve to the ugly exercise of de facto authority, with de jure authority exercised outside of the episcopal, de facto authority - either contrary to it, or untied from it.

Anonymous said...

RE: "When we re-read Scripture with the questions of a new age about the roles of women in respect of church and home, does Scripture prohibit women leading and teaching men in every context and every age?"

Ack -- that question has nothing at all to do with "does Scripture prohibit women from holding the office of priest or bishop in the church".

What a hopelessly worded question that is -- rather like asking the question "should Christians hate gays?" and then claiming that that's the question that deals with whether those in a same-sex sexual relationship should be in leadership of the church.

The debate over women in leadership in the church is unconnected to whether women get to lead in all sorts of secular areas. Scripture does not preclude that work at all.


Sarah

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
There are no thinly veiled accusations of chauvinism here; but your charge of pandering to this age is offensive: to women who seek to serve the Lord Jesus Christ by using the gifts and knowledge the Lord Jesus has given to them. By all means say they are expressing their ministry in the wrong context or contexts, but please reconsider charging them with 'pandering'.

As for the Reformation: if it was merely rediscovering NT doctrine, how come Luther and Calvin disagreed so strongly? Why was Cranmer not a thoroughgoing Calvinist? And why did Cranmer change his views on the eucharist several times? Recovering NT doctrine is not a simple matter, and it is likely that as Bible-believing Christians seek to understand Scripture fully, they will revise their views from time to time.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,

In the context of an evening for which the theme was Judgement, in a series on the Sermon on the Mount, the Bible study was on Matthew 7:1-5.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi James,
The urgency could be:
(1) Not an urgency at all (it is now a long period since the C of E approved women being priested).
(2) An urgency of the gospel: the reception of the gospel in a 21st century Western culture is helped by a meta-narrative for the gospel which finds common accord with the meta-narrative of the culture. In crude terms, perceptions the church is anti-women, or unjust towards women do not enhance the hearing of the gospel.
(3) An urgency of history: some of your concerns re allegations that women priests in the C of E are not so orthodox etc could be assuaged by getting this issue out of the way, getting on with the business of being a church in which women may be bishops, and pushing ahead to the period when the church is relaxed about gender and looks instead at the quality of faith, in every sense of that word, which resides in the candidate for episcopal office. (Here in ACANZP I think orthodoxy among all our priests has risen in the last two decades, not declined).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi James (2 - re the RC angle to your comments)

I suggest you take into greater account in your narrative of global unity, the pressure within the roman Catholic church to consider the ordination of women (noted, recently, by no less a figure in the global episcopal hierarchy than the Archbishop of Lisbon).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Sarah,

We could ask whether Jesus (or Paul) living in the West today would insist that the leadership of the Jesus movement-becoming-the-church-of-God, flexibly finding its way from Twelve Apostles, to expanding to incorporate deacons, to developing somewhat vague distinctions, or even indistinctions between the roles of episcope and presbyter, while commending women in all sorts of ways, from witnesses to the resurrection to teaching future key leaders of the church, would crunch down to the point of absolutely prohibiting gifted, skilled, knowledgeable women from being discerned for and appointed to the roles of episcope and presbyter.

In short, to the specific question does Scripture prohibit women from being episcope or presbyter, the answer is 'No'; to the question would Jesus and Paul working in todays world so appoint, 'Yes.'

Anonymous said...

RE: "We could ask whether Jesus (or Paul) living in the West today would insist that the leadership of the Jesus movement-becoming-the-church-of-God, flexibly finding its way from Twelve Apostles, to expanding to incorporate deacons, to developing somewhat vague distinctions, or even indistinctions between the roles of episcope and presbyter, while commending women in all sorts of ways, from witnesses to the resurrection to teaching future key leaders of the church, would crunch down to the point of absolutely prohibiting gifted, skilled, knowledgeable women from being discerned for and appointed to the roles of episcope and presbyter."

Well that's much better [if needlessly wordy] than asking the question: "does Scripture prohibit women leading and teaching men in every context and every age?" since the latter applies to all sorts of leadership roles that Scripture does not address but Scripture **does** clearly address whether women should be appointed to the roles of episcope and presbyter.

RE: "to the specific question does Scripture prohibit women from being episcope or presbyter, the answer is 'No'; to the question would Jesus and Paul working in todays world so appoint, 'Yes.'

Thanks for answering a question that I did not ask you -- I already knew your opinions on the issue.


Sarah

Fr. J said...

The repeated chorus of "1900 years" is a bit disingenuous. The Church has not been addressing this question for 1900 years. There are no arguments from the Reformation era about this, nor from the middle ages, nor from the patristic period. No one was asking the question.

This, it seems to me, is the crucial difference between the question of the ordination of women and the question of ordaining those in active homosexual relationships. While there have been attempts to argue that the biblical authors and all the generations that followed had no understanding of modern partnered gay and lesbian relationships, the evidence for such a claim is not forthcoming. The doctrine of sex being expressly for marriage, expressly for men and women in their gendered roles, is one that is made explicit in scripture, reiterated by the Fathers, and repeated in almost every generation of the Church's life. The same cannot be said for the ordination of women, particularly when we look at the ministry of the sacrament.

All of that being said, there are of course passages in the New Testament which discuss the role of women in teaching in the Church which may or may not be applicable to this conversation, depending on how one exegetes. I would love to see some discussion of those passages, rather than a constant return to the refrain, "Never been done before!" and "Jesus only chose men!" Those are red herrings.

Peter Carrell said...

HI Fr J

FWIW here are some things I have written in the past:

http://hermdownunder.blogspot.com/2009/06/complementarian-hermeneutics-warning.html

http://hermdownunder.blogspot.com/2009/08/undermining-creationism-supporting.html

http://hermdownunder.blogspot.com/2009/09/reading-paul-on-ordination-of-women.html

http://hermdownunder.blogspot.com/2009/09/response-1-to-issue-raised-earlier.html

Rosemary said...

WOW, Matthew 7:1-5 .. I'd love to have heard that, so much that is interesting in that short passage. Was any reference made to 7:21-23, that's something else I've given a great deal of thought to.

Peter Carrell said...

I don't think so, Rosemary, it was tightly focused on 7:1-5.

David Ould said...

There are no thinly veiled accusations of chauvinism here; but your charge of pandering to this age is offensive: to women who seek to serve the Lord Jesus Christ by using the gifts and knowledge the Lord Jesus has given to them. By all means say they are expressing their ministry in the wrong context or contexts, but please reconsider charging them with 'pandering'.

Again, you do me a disservice by distorting what I'm saying. The argument panders but I have made no actual statement about the women themselves. Frankly, I see many of them as victims in the whole thing - they've been wrongly persuaded that their value is now defined by their role. Others have been taught to listen to a subjective sense of "calling" over and above the objective testimony of the Scriptures. That harms not only those women but everyone around them by propagating a really poor model of where we find authority in the church.

Further, you then go on to call this an "urgency of the gospel" thereby tarring those of us who are opposed with opposition to the gospel itself. Again, perhaps you could be urged to ponder whether that's really helpful.

Ultimately what do we have? We have a section of the Church make grand claims about a massive revision of the previously received good order of things. And they go further as to make it a gospel issue - thus casting out those how have committed no crime other than not changing.
Wonderful. And yet you accuse US of being the ones causing the grief.

Rosemary said...

James, thank you for these thoughts, they are helpful. With particular reference to your first part..

Your second point, that of studying what is required to nourish the faith of women, is one I have raised here before. Having experienced two women in full time ministry in our local church, and at more of a distance, seen the cost to women of full time ordained ministry, I think this is an extremely valid point.

With regard to your third point, it has seemed to me that lay ministry, exercised by men OR women, is no longer valued or regarded as of great importance by the leaders of our church.

You also said .. “If we do not have the hope of a greater faith amongst our clergy in general - it may do us better to simply disband, and request our followers to find spiritual guidance and fellowship amongst other, better churches.”

That won’t happen of course, sinful man who is unfortunately convinced that he is in charge of God’s church [as I once was, please Lord forgive me] will never disband and trust in God to that extent. However, as I said yesterday, that doesn’t mean that God won’t lead others away from a church where as you say, spiritual health is so poor.

Lastly, in answer to a letter provoked by a bible study in the church where we’re at present serving, I was astonished to realise that the clear teaching instructions given to ‘older’ women in Titus 2, does not include teaching the Scriptures. For some reason I had always thought that was included. We are to teach younger women how to accomplish the very difficult task of loving their husbands and children above themselves. Hmm.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,

I leave it to readers here to judge that when you describe my argument in support of women's ordination in these terms, "you might justify your pandering to the current age" whether there is a distinction between the argument pandering and the women and their supporters pandering. I also leave it to readers who may wish to comment on your use of the word 'victim' in description of ordained women.

In my other comment you pick apart, you have rushed over the word 'could'. I responded to another commenter questioning whether the C of E was impatiently rushing ahead or not. I put forward a possible counter-argument, in terms of a comment, somewhat concisely.

I think there is an argument to be had - but definitely an argument or debate, not a proposition from on high, as to whether being seen to oppose the full inclusion of women in every layer of the church's leadership is helpful for the progress of the gospel in the West. I would hope the debate could be had without the arguments descending to the level of talking about one another as being charged with crimes, tarred as being anti-gospel and what have you. There was certainly no intention on my part of implying such a charge in what I said.

Are we as evangelicals free to raise the big questions of what the gospel is for our world today, a world in which very few people go to church in the West, and even among those who do go, evangelicals are often a minority? I hope we have that freedom, and I hope we can converse without the kind of reaction you display here.

I would be interested in other commenters engaging with these important issues. Perhaps I am off-beam!

David Ould said...

Are we as evangelicals free to raise the big questions of what the gospel is for our world today, a world in which very few people go to church in the West, and even among those who do go, evangelicals are often a minority?

Well of course we are! But that's not what is being debated here. What if I were to say "surely the changes in our culture should lead us to consider whether Jesus really was divine?"
I hope there would be uproar. Just because we have a change in culture does not mean we automatically mandate the shifting of positions.

I understand what you're doing- you're persuaded that as a culture changes it is incumbent upon us to reapply the Scriptures with sensitivity to the new questions asked by that shift in culture. But what's going on isn't actually the asking of questions - it is the clear advocacy of a new position on something the church has been pretty clear on for a very long time. It's not questioning at all - it's making new (and poor) arguments. Further, it doesn't really look like we're examining our culture at all, merely being swept along with it.

I hope we can converse without the kind of reaction you display here
Look, I am simply frustrated with weak arguments being made in the name of evangelicalism.

I could almost weep with the weakness of some of the arguments. And the weeping is not because of the issue itself - frankly I would much prefer the whole thing to go away. The pain is because this issue is going to raise a whole generation of people who think they're evangelical and trust the Bible when they do no such thing. They just go fishing in the New Testament for "clues" because that's what's been modelled to them.
Where do we end up? Surprise surprise, exactly where our culture already is!

Anonymous said...

So, Peter, you as an “Evangelical” argue for women bishops with one (note one) biblical reference – the highly disputed Romans 16:16! That’s it!

As David Ould and others point out you can rewrite your argument as follows:

"+Gene Robinson is in England as I write, roundabout now contributing to a 'fringe' event at the C of E's General Synod which will make a significant decision about…

Naturally arguments continue for and against…

But also in my mind is a meeting I went to two nights ago in which gay person in a committed same-sex relationship gave a Bible study … one of the best ever Bible talks I have ever heard in my life.

The situation of homosexuals in many parts of the world has changed in such a way as to open up the possibility that we should re-read Scripture to ask whether it provides for the possibility of a reformed understanding of Christian leadership in a new age.

The situation we face is not one in which the Spirit is contradicting the Word but one in which the Spirit is bringing forth new light from the Word."

Why, as David Ould makes so patently clear, is your line in the sand homosexuals? Why not women in church leadership (consistent with 2,000 years of Christian reading of the Bible), divorce (consistent with 2,000 years of Christian reading of the Bible), or any other number of topics?

Why do you hold a revisionist position in other topics but not homosexuals? And then insist that you can speak for evangelicals and as one?

Steve

Bryden Black said...

1/2 Re “urgency”, and cultural and/or historical moments (a number of commentators).

There is another way of ‘reading’ these things. I recall all too well a conversation with a senior cleric in the Diocese of Oxford during the mid 1980s. His take on women’s ordination was to say quite simply, “What we are experiencing is the patience of God”. That is, to use an expression of the ABC’s, the Gospel sows a “time-bomb” into cultural history, which just happens to have exploded in the 20th C, and whose pressure waves we are still having to deal with during the 21st in the Church. It has ever been thus!

The trick is to discern between genuine “explosions”, ones that are appropriate vis-à-vis Gospel reality, and ones that are merely of historical happenstance - and ones again which actually pervert the Gospel. This is no new exercise! The 4th C saw it re Jesus’ genuine identity, and Peter C has already posted some of his findings derived from RDW’s Arius tome. In relation to which we must see that flinging texts across sundry divides does not quite solve the issue - Jn 10:30 vs. Jn 14:28 e.g. What is necessary is to drill down to the essential grammar of the Story, to which the texts of Scripture bear overall witness, and from which each text takes its cue. True; all those relevant texts when duly assembled go to establishing this very grammar. Yet, what exactly counts as “relevant”?! Back to Oliver’s Ways of Judgment.

A key form of the contemporary question re women’s ordination to either the presbyterate or the episcopate might very well be: May women “represent” such “oversight” - where “representation” is the heart of his Part II, and where “oversight” is an essential feature of Part III. But where the matter of “oversight” and the ministry of episcope is so carefully ‘assembled’ by Oliver and crafted as to be able to see where we might truly suspend “judgment” on particular historical/denominational forms, viewing them as in the end compatible (Anglicanism vs. Presbyterianism, pace Hooker), and where such forms might be justifiably construed to be either too thick or too thin (my terms, not Oliver’s: e.g. Rome’s papal claims or some Penty groups).

“Representation” is key, due to the issue being one of office, of guarding the Gospel vis-à-vis those within a ‘place’ and those without, beyond a given horizon - that is, those who belong to the local church and those who belong to the Church catholic. And because of the latter, this is why all the fuss! But then we come to the essential questions: where is the one holy catholic apostolic Church to be found? And, can its forms of episcope be reformed?

Peter Carrell said...

I am left wondering, David, what you find good, true, and laudable in Western culture!

Bryden Black said...

2/2 Essentially I would say the forms of the Church are, following Oliver, “trichotomous”, distinguishing between the catholic church which is invisible, and the visible church which is also catholic, to which those belong who simply profess Christian faith; and then again between the visible catholic church and the “particular churches which are members thereof” - that is, the plural church organizations. Such a catholic church is just [sic] the gift and call (or task) of God, the “communion” of those in Christ Jesus. The trouble begins when we find such a claim as the RCC’s that “the one Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church” (Ut Unum Sint, § 86, etc). For that “subsistence” is ALSO (apparently) only “founded” via the Petrine ministry: “For this reason too, the existence of the Petrine ministry, which is a foundation of the unity of the Episcopate and of the universal Church, bears a profound correspondence to the eucharistic character of the Church.” (Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of the Church Understood As Communion, May 1992, end of § 11). But, as Oliver painstakingly details, and questions, from where did this “founding” suddenly appear, where hitherto in §§1-11 there was no need or mention of it?! What’s its theo-logic?! For ARCIC III’s “Gift of Authority” has smudged the careful distinctions and elucidations of ARCIC I & II re the historical emergence of the papacy, especially as to what’s happenstance and what’s possibly ‘normative’ in the providence of God, all in relation to precisely episcope. For the crux is this: the Church witnesses to the Kingdom of God; that is its primary calling, and indeed its unique, social and political, gift! And where that witness resides is precisely in an eschatological ‘place’, one where gender relations reflect either a pre-Fall situation (in some eyes) or certainly a post-Christ situation, where creation is either restored, at the least, or completed “in Christ Jesus”, at best (echoes of Irenaeus), with this revelation awaiting its fulness as per Rev 21-22. And in the latter case, the NT’s “grammar” is most clearly, with respect of gender relations, utterly equal; it is only post-Fall and pre-Christ that there is any conceived hierarchy! And the likes of 1 Tim 2 are just the exceptions that prove this grammatical rule - contextually driven thanks to the Artemis cult in Ephesus, a piece of happenstance.

I have tried to foil two fronts at once above, addressing both the RCC’s claim to a magisterially fixed form of “oversight” ala MALES, as well as those who claim women’s ordination is “repugnant” (Art XX) to a plain reading of the NT text and its grammar. This is not exactly “fine tuning” ala Peter C, but rather a thicker, more essential because grammatical, approach. Such an approach only surfaces when the mission of the Church crosses particular boundaries/encounters particular horizons [“Mission is the mother of theology”, Martin Kähler]; e.g. Hellenistic views of ‘deity’ in the 4th C, and/or now anthropological views. A cultural bomb has most certainly gone off, one which, given the western history of modernity, is frankly a mixture of both the fruit of Christianity and autonomous humanism (itself I would argue a distortion of the Faith - but one predicated on the Faith!). Echoing Barth’s Romans, it is as we examine these cultural “craters”, formed by this new situation, via indeed a re-reading of the NT itself - but also via a re-reading of what we have hitherto taken to be our base hermeneutical grammar - that we may either accord with the patience of God and embrace the novelty or conclude that that patience indeed resists one more time yet another expression of our human folly!

David Ould said...

I am left wondering, David, what you find good, true, and laudable in Western culture!

Desperate Housewives and Ice Hockey.

Oh, and fajitas.

Hang on, goose-down duvets.

Nope, that's not it - Traffic Lights. Yes - Traffic Lights.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Steve,

Revisionism is not intrinsically ruled out for evangelicals. It raises questions about how we work through theological and biblical issues. Have we ever changed our minds on a matter for instance? Do we read the Bible differently to when we were younger? Do we belong to a church, for instance, which disagrees with another church on the interpretation of Scripture on a matter? How do we resolve the difference in views if both those church claim to be biblical, evangelical, Protestant and so forth?

I make no claim to speak for evangelicals. I like to think I am one, but perhaps I fall down on your definition of an evangelical? It could be interesting to learn here how you define what an evangelical is.

On what basis could one say that I have I drawn a 'line in the sand' concerning homosexuality? There are many issues around these days. Also on this blog, for instance, you will find that I do not agree with diaconal presidency (one well-known evangelical diocese thinks otherwise); I agree with the Covenant (many evangelicals do not); and I am open to closer relationships with Roman Catholics (some evangelicals are not so open).

In respect of the difference between a person in a committed same-sex relationship and a woman, each giving an excellent Bible study, there is one simple difference. The person in the relationship made a choice to enter the relationship; a woman makes no choice about her gender.

As for my offering only one text: there are others. Of course! I have written extensively on some of them on my Hermeneutics and Human Dignity blog, links to some of those posts are given in a comment above. I make no pretence in this post to offer a full discussion of all relevant texts and all possible interpretations of them.

Rosemary said...

Peter, you invite comments when you say, “I would be interested in other commenters engaging with these important issues. Perhaps I am off-beam!” I don’t think it’s that you’re off-beam so much as utterly convinced that you are right, so you are simply unaware of the injustices of your remarks.

For instance, just now you said, “But I and many evangelicals are not liking that side of the line; perhaps because we know godly women who do not like it either.” Marvellous, that implies that I and the many women who do not so believe .. are ungodly. Oh I accept that’s not quite what you mean, but it’s what you say. I have often pointed out this sort of unjust remark to you, and you always pooh-pooh it. I can only say that it is deeply felt. You addressed a similar remark to me yesterday, implying that I don’t know the Gospel .. same thing really, I’m ungodly.

You are also undecided you tell me, on whether or not those who believe as I do can even believe what we believe [which smacks of the thought police] and certainly that we cannot teach any such thing, because apparently, a synodical decision beats a scriptural discussion. Another injustice that I have previously noted. There are I’m afraid Peter, many.

So when you say, “I would hope the debate could be had without the arguments descending to the level of talking about one another as being charged with crimes, tarred as being anti-gospel and what have you. There was certainly no intention on my part of implying such a charge in what I said.” I have already shown you that you DO in fact make remarks that indicate that those who oppose such thinking are ‘anti-gospel.’ In your defence, I think there are two things. First, you are so convinced of the ‘justice’ of your beliefs, therefore you sincerely believe we are a danger. Secondly, you are simply not careful [as indeed I am not] in what you say.

Rosemary said...

Lol .. traffic lights David? I remember when my children adored traffic lights, but they’re so cold, not good for the teeth at my age!!!!!

Mind you, traffic lights versus roundabouts could lead to a good discussion!!!!!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,

If I say there are godly Roman Catholics it is does not mean I think Protestants are ungodly. Let me blunt: it is simply unfair when I say something positive about one group of people for hearer or reader to infer that I mean something negative about another group. For the record: there are godly Anglican Christians on both sides of debates which divide us these days.

When you write, "You are also undecided you tell me, on whether or not those who believe as I do can even believe what we believe [which smacks of the thought police] and certainly that we cannot teach any such thing, because apparently, a synodical decision beats a scriptural discussion. Another injustice that I have previously noted. There are I’m afraid Peter, many." I assume you are referring to some discussion we have previously had about teaching against the ordination of women in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia. I am not at all clear that your description fairly characterises my view on this - "thought police" would not be the first thing that came to my mind! For what it is worth, let me state again:

(1) Licensed ministers, lay and ordained, of our church need to respect the canons and constitution of our church as a matter of integrity in accepting the licence and signing the declarations accompanying it.

(2) One aspect of respect is to uphold the ordination of women by at least not publicly teaching against it. (Similar, quite unremarkable requirements would hold for, e.g. infant baptism, confirmation, priestly presidency of the eucharist).

(3) There is a place in our church to seek support for proposals to change our constitution and canons, namely via our synodical processes. All members of Synod have the right to bring a motion to Synod, including licensed clergy members. Thus any member of Synod (a) not believing in the ordination of women, or (b) seeking the right within our constituion and canons to publicly teach against the ordination of women is able to bring a motion to synod for support. Such motion at the diocesan level could include a request for the resolution to be taken to General Synod for consideration.

(4) I would hope any member of our church seeking to change something in our church would avail themselves of the democratic channels for doing so.

Bryden Black said...

Hi Rosemary! I do appreciate the grist you add to this particular mill; it reminds me of synod breaks in the car park, with wafting smoke in the air, as you continue to mutter about such and so’s comments - which were usually as you described them accurately!

I have been pondering for a while the last wee series of remarks you made to me about headship in Ephesians, and its implications now for our current discussions. As we both know, Paul’s use of headship language is hotly debated (and both of us may look up the learned articles and essays on the topic; I’ve done customarily more than my fair share!). When all is said and done, I have only one question of Ephesians and one of 1 Cor 11.

What does Jesus’ actual mission do to the way we understand “headship” talk from now on? And how might the sheer economics of the Roman and Greek household affect the discussion (particularly as they were not uniform across the ancient Med)? The sorts of answer I have in mind parallel the sorts of things we find in Phil 2:1-13, with Paul’s taking up the very language of those verses in Phil 3:2ff. Ouch! is my response! For all those great “power”, “strength”, “might”, etc. words of Eph 1:15ff read differently when duly baptized into Christ Jesus.

And then re 1 Cor 11, we also have to take into account the full consequences of the wee phrase, “nevertheless, in the Lord”, v.11. For the full scope of the entire Letter once again shows us the kind of ‘Lord’ Jesus is: so that’s my question of 1 Cor.

My grist for your mill - as you no doubt puff away (puns not intended).

David Ould said...

When all is said and done, I have only one question of Ephesians and one of 1 Cor 11.

What does Jesus’ actual mission do to the way we understand “headship” talk from now on?


If I might be so bold, I think the question itself is the problem. The way it's currently stated it appears to acknowledge the difficulty of those Pauline texts and then seeks to somehow ameliorate them with a more general appeal to "Jesus' ministry".

But that, surely, is the wrong way around. Isn't the right question to ask, "how do the words of Christ's apostle in 1Cor11 and Eph 5 (and 1Tim 2) further enhance our understanding of Jesus' mission?"?

Because isn't that actually the way it works? The Apostolic message is a further application of the mission of Jesus - it shows us how to carry out that mission in the detail of the life of the Church. Rather than setting the one against the other it actually shows us the true way to carry out that mission of Jesus.

Rosemary said...

“For the record: there are godly Anglican Christians on both sides of debates which divide us these days.”

Thank you Peter, that too is a step forward and I’m truly thankful.

Before I continue, my thanks too to Bryden, who pays me the respect of assuming that I have some scriptural understanding of the matter, thank you, I will think on!!

Now back to Peter, let me recap a little if I may.

Way back when, we personally met with Archbishop Eames, who assured us personally, as the representative of both the Anglican communion and the Archbishop of Canterbury, that the views we held would always be fully accepted and valued, just as we were fully accepted and valued members of the Anglican church.

Then his official report came out which also stated that both sides of this equation had scriptural value [for want of a better word] and a single decision could not be made between them. [In my own words]

Then we had the Windsor Report, which in turn stated that this particular issue was adiaphora, basically saying that this was a second order issue upon which we could agree to disagree.

So what is happening now? Well, we’re being told we cannot teach what we believe both here and in the UK. [Making it a first order issue, NOT adiaphora] In other words .. promises are being broken. We know, from the actions taken against us which include flying Bishops down from a different island, that we are NOT welcome members of the communion. We WOULD be if we held a different theological position, a direct contradiction of my first three points. You suggest that I must now formally require General Synod to approve a right to teach what I believe. Strange that when I have been promised that I would always have the freedom to do so. Do you wonder why trust is missing between us Peter? Deep down I feel absolute frustration about that, it is a sword thrust into my heart. We have worked for His church, within the denomination to which He called us, we have done so to the best of our ability .. and voluntarily, although privately we haven’t hidden our beliefs, we have never spoken them from the public pulpit of the church of our land. It’s a different matter entirely when folk try to PROSCRIBE what we can and cannot say. That is why I went so far as to mention the ‘thought police’ Peter, forgive me if it upsets you, but one is left with that feeling.

Peter I’m serious, you cannot advocate as you do on this blog, people signing on to a covenant, when you cannot keep your promises, it’s a nonsense. Why should we trust anything you say?

One more thing, I’ve read with interest the conversation on David Ould’s blog and the research one scholar did into what exactly it means that God created Eve [women] to be ‘helper.’ Apparently, he comes to the conclusion that a woman’s role is simply to bear children. I don’t think I necessarily agree with that opinion, although there IS that uncomfortable phrase in the New Testament about a woman being saved through childbirth. Now [as I may have mentioned to you before] I have always wondered about Jesus telling us that when we marry, the two become one flesh. I’ve thought about that for many, many years. Today, as I read David’s blog I realised something. My ego is as great as anyone’s, bigger probably, I’m a mouthy so and so .. but if I’m to be sort of ‘subsumed’ into one, lose my identity so to speak, if I’m called to be nothing more than a child bearing vessel to achieve what God wants me to achieve .. then so be it. I trust Him.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,

(a) I acknowledge there may be a discrepancy between the Eames assurances (if I may so describe your conversation) and how I understand the constitution and canons of our church. Surely the thing to do first is not to mistrust me, but to check with a church chancellor as to whether I am correct. I may be wrong.

(b) There are a number of things over the years which we have discussed together which you have freedom to teach in our church, which is a broad church. As a matter of fact, if you are teaching without a bishop's licence, you personally have more freedom than I do as to what you teach!

(c) I think I am actually making a quite simple and obvious point re proscription of teaching: given that our church has approved the ordination of women to the offices of deacon, priest and bishop, we (who in our licences accept this decision) are expected not to teach Scripture publicly in a manner contrary to that decision. I then made a further point that anyone wishing to reverse that decision has opportunity through our synodical processes to lead a move to reverse it. All I have said in the previous two sentences is logical in the framework of a constitutional and democratic organisation.

(d) As far as I can make out, nothing I have said in (c) implies the proscription of teaching about (e.g.) woman as helper, husband as head of family, wife to be submissive to her husband, and so forth.

(e) I would urge licensed readers, whether lay or ordained, reading this comment who might disagree with me to consider carefully our integrity as licensed ministers: if we have signified our agreement to the authority of General Synod then it is simple honesty to minister under that authority and not against that authority. There is an alternative: do not receive a licence which requires submission to an authority you do not wish to submit to. [I hasten to add, Rosemary, that ministers in our church, such as yourself, who do not have a licence are free of such consideration].

(f) To make my points here again in a different way: there is a difference between private conscience and public teaching. I commend you and Wally for acting with integrity through over twenty years of ministry here, in which you honoured our canons and constitution while keeping your own theological commitments. For me that is not in anyway in doubt. (But you will be aware that 'proscription' was invoked, bishops flew about etc, when another minister publicly wrote against women in episcopal ministry. As far as I am concerned, I do not in anyway mix up your and Wally's ministry with that other set of events).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,

You mentioned a couple of other things!

Yes, if an Anglican has difficulties re trust in relation to canons and constitution, then the Covenant would not decrease trust.

Hmm, I understand what you say about being subsumed ... but I do not think I want to comment specifically around the topics of a woman/childbirth/marriage. Other women comment here from time to time. It would be good to hear from them.

Bryden Black said...

Thanks for the engagement David O.

Actually, if anything, the way you pose the issue is classically askew! Firstly, I “acknowledge [NO] difficulty” at all; just that everything “must pass through the eye of the needle of Christ Jesus and notably his death and resurrection” (to paraphrase Jüngel). And, secondly, that “everything” includes such notions as headship, Lordship, even ‘deity’ itself. For “everything”, quite literally “everything”, is subject to the bar of Jesus and his death. Crux probat omnia!, Martin Luther.

Now; I think some apostle might have taught us all that ...! Together with Mark and John, et al.

So when it comes to our present issue, women’s ordination, what indeed is our hermeneutic? For my money, I will run firstly with such theologians of the Cross as Paul, Luther and Jüngel; and then try to build on others like Oliver O’Donovan, who offers us a staggering programme which reassesses our “Ways of Judgment”, both theoretical and practical.

Anonymous said...

There are so many comments here now, I cannot see where you say as Rosemary quotes, “But I and many evangelicals are not liking that side of the line; perhaps because we know godly women who do not like it either.” - perhaps you have retracted your comment. My point, to press what I began, is that such a comment can easily be rewritten as, “But I and many evangelicals are not liking that side of the line; perhaps because we know godly homosexuals in a committed same-sex relationship who do not like it either.”

I am also surprised at your apparent suggestion that anyone who is not holding a licence can preach and teach whatever they like in the Anglican Church. Is there not a licensed Vicar in each place who oversees teaching, and would be required to stop, prevent, and repudiate such teaching?

You are also not pursuing Rosemary's point to its logical conclusion. You continually press the importance of abandoning NZ Anglican autonomy, but when Rosemary brings up such a point beyond NZ's shores, suddenly you reduce everything to checking with NZ's autonomous status. Her point about your inconsistency in relation to your advocating of the Covenant I think needs more examination, as do her other points.

Steve

Rosemary said...

Sigh, I get so tired of going round and round this roundabout, perhaps traffic lights ARE indeed the best thing since sliced bread!!! This wearing one down by the same old, same old certainly runs one out of puff, and I only bother to answer this your latest Peter, because of those who may read this thread. By the way, when I say I don’t trust you, it is in relation to this matter only. I’d trust you with my life on a personal level Peter, should we ever be in that position, but this is huge. We don’t know it’s height nor it’s depth. Our creator didn’t create a world of disorder, there IS order down to the tiniest grains of sand under the ground in Christchurch, that is my faith and my hope. I trust Him as far as I’m able. I wish I was better in the matter of obedience .. sigh .. but the old hymn is so very correct, it’s all a matter of ‘trust and obey, for there’s no other way.’

I don’t have to check with the canons of our church, or indeed the chancellor in order to decide whether or not I can trust your word on this matter Peter .. unfortunately. You prove my case yet again in this very post. Let me be clear on one point, I have taught ONCE on the role of women at the invitation of our full time women’s worker, and only for the members of our church who were invited. I’m not a teacher, being married to one has taught me that I don’t aspire to be one either.

You say, “We (who in our licences accept this decision) are expected not to teach Scripture publicly in a manner contrary to that decision.” Oh really? So no leaders of any congregation ever teach anything contrary to the canons of our church? Everyone knows that is not true Peter .. everyone. There are things taught in pulpits of our church in the province of New Zealand that are completely contrary to what the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer DIED for. These are not matters adiaphora .. and yet we haven’t flown bishops around the country to do something about it. By your own admission, it was a letter in the paper that achieved that. Amazing. I myself have sent you link[s] to sermons preached in our own Diocese that are contrary to matters of first importance to the Gospel of Jesus, not second order issues in other words and NOTHING is done about that. Not a word is said .. and yet on this particular issue, LOTS of words are said. What does that say about all your well crafted words encouraging us to believe that you support the diversity of our church and think it is a wonderful thing?

Another thing, I don’t WISH to ask General Synod to reverse it’s decision. As Bryden referred to earlier, I’m of the opinion that we should be patient, although that is far from easy most of the time.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Steve,

You bring up three issues (but I recognise you touch on more and press me to respond to more).

(As a matter of clarity, yes, I did retract and offer a revised comment; and Rosemary cited some words I used in the retracted comment before its retraction).

(1) I understand you to be pressing the point that if one revises Christian practice on one issue then one should revise on all issues ... or come up with a really great reason not to do so. One response is that the church has somewhat ad hoc-ly over the centuries revised some matters and not all (e.g. on usury, on remarriage of divorcees, on capital punishment): does a Christian have to revise on every issue presented? Another response, more relevant perhaps to the issue at hand, is to note that moral integrity is important to Christian teaching, so I would find it difficult to say that someone living in a wrong relationship taught wonderfully; whereas for a virtuous woman teaching well, I have no problem complimenting her.

(2) Certainly an unlicensed lay person preaching or teaching in a parish should only do so under the authority of his or her licensed vicar. But that is not the only sphere for an Anglican layperson to teach: vicars cannot prevent (say) a society of laypersons being founded; nor lay people writing articles for newspapers; nor lay people blogging!!

(3)I have not pressed the importance of abandoning our autonomy; I have pressed the importance of lessening our autonomy and increasing our interdependence. The Covenant as I understand it is quite clear that it is not intended to remit the continuing authority of the canons and constitution of member churches: my obligation to follow them will not cease if the Covenant is instituted in respect of our church.

I hope this may offer some clarity to you.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,
Might you be underselling yourself as a teacher? I have learned a lot from you through our conversations - teaching is not only that which occurs when we give a 'formal talk/sermon to a group/congregation.'

I appreciate that you would trust me in other spheres of life. I hope you trust me as I go up to preach at Hanmer tomorrow!

I would hope our archbishops and bishops are consistent as they lead us, but you are right: there is evidence that not all are treated alike re infractions of our practice and doctrine. You like me probably wonder if St Matt's in the City and their provocative billboards are treated with sufficient disciplinary seriousness!

It would be to go round and round a familiar subject if I took a response much further.

Best wishes,
Peter

Rosemary said...

We're praying for the people of Hanmer and the Anglican church in Hanmer Peter, and I'm delighted that you're preaching there tomorrow, but right now, I've got a match to watch!!!

Thanks for the kind words .. Rosemary

Fathe Ron Smith said...

Problems? ...."when the Spirit has been followed at the expense of the Word" - Peter carrell -

By 'the Word' I am presuming Peter that you are referring to the words of the Scriptures.

Surely The Word made flesh by the Spirit - the Living Christ - takes precedence over words in the Bible - important though they are for a basis of faith. This is precisely why the Celebration of Christ's Presence in the Eucharist is more powerful than merely reading about him in the Scriptures.

The Spirit of God - in conjunction with the of the Sacraments of Christ, in the Holy Common-union - is the guide par excellence into all the Truth - as Jesus declared.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Jesus set up an unchangeable tradition of leadership"

- Peter Auld -

What! Like sending Mary Magdalene - apostello - to bring the Good News of the Resurrection to the male disciples. The Scriptures are no longer 'written in stone', they were given as a pointer towards the inimitable 'Word-made-flesh' in the Person of jesus Christ. The Bible is not an idol, but a GUIDE.

Jesus was not merely representatively male; he came to represent ALL humanity - male and female. The social and religious situation of his day would have prevented Jesus from appointing female apostles openly. It was not until later that the Church and the world came to realise the importance of the leadership of women in human affairs.

Why are the ConEvos so frightened of women in leadership?

carl jacobs said...

Father Ron Smith

"Why are the ConEvos so frightened of women in leadership?"

It's not fear. It's faithfulness. Why do liberals presume that conservatives must hold their position out of ignorance, malevolence, or fear? Those are not the only options.

"Surely The Word made flesh by the Spirit - the Living Christ - takes precedence over words in the Bible - important though they are for a basis of faith."

What do you know of the Living Christ absent the words of Scripture? You cannot have a relationship with someone you do not know. Your subjective experiences do not constitute authoritative knowledge. Not for you and certainly not for me. They do however provide a means by which we may pour our own desires into an empty shell we call 'Christ.' They allow us to receive new revelation and new guidance that (mysteriously enough) conforms to the desires of our hearts. Thus do we steer the ship by its own bow.

This is the danger. This is the source of fear. If you want to understand the reason for it, study the unhinged doctrines that have led people into error upon error upon fatal error. Some say "The Spirit does a new thing! See, my experiences have confirmed it!" I will not overturn the Revelation of God on the basis of subjective impressions that have been detached from the very Scripture God gave to test and prove the desires of men.

carl

Father Ron Smith said...

Carl presumes that I do not treasure the words of the Scriptures. Having been a member of a religious community for some years, and a priest for thirty, I do have some understanding of the Scriptures. However: "Be ye doers and not only hearers of the Word" is a matter of experiencing the Living Christ in the Sacraments of the Church (as directed by the Scriptures) and is an essential element of 'knowing' the Living Christ - not merely hearing of Him.

"Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in me!"

Anonymous said...

Carl, you say

"Your subjective experiences do not constitute authoritative knowledge. Not for you and certainly not for me. They do however provide a means by which we may pour our own desires into an empty shell we call 'Christ.' They allow us to receive new revelation and new guidance that (mysteriously enough) conforms to the desires of our hearts. Thus do we steer the ship by its own bow."

How, then, do you respond to Peter here, an evangelical who writes "in my mind is a meeting I went to two nights ago in which a young woman gave a Bible study to a mixed gender group which was simply one of the best ever Bible talks I have ever heard in my life."?

Steve

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Carl. I don't have the patience myself to answer Ron's drive-by shootings, or his failure to grasp the real, historical and biblical character of catholicism. He doesn't engage in dialog or Bible study with those he dismisses, but simply claims to have a subjective knowledge of "Christ" which is better than prayerful study of the Bible by participating in a certain sacramental rite with bread and wine - a rite that is itself commanded by the Bible and interpreted by the same. He is unable to explain why or how the "Christ" he claims to encounter thereby is different from the figure acclaimed by Unitarians, Jehovah's Witnesses etc.
In other words, his notion of "catholicism" is idiosyncratic and unhistorical and has more affinity with Quakerism's "inner light" and Anabaptist-like claims to direct illumination by the Holy Spirit that circumvent the Bible and the historical church. Didn't Thomas Muntzer know better than the Bible?
If Ron wants to think of himself as a catholic in any historically and theologically coherent sense, he should read the works of one such as Joseph Ratzinger.
"Palaiologos"

David Ould said...

Ron, I'm genuinely clueless as to what you're going on about. You talk about Luther's theology of the Cross but then where have I ever proposed the contrary "theology of glory"?

Or could it simply be that you're using "Theology of the Cross" in a manner entirely divorced from Luther's original intent and meaning?

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that Fr Ron quite obviously holds together knowing Christ and knowing about Christ. Others here are creating a false dichotomy and then coming down on the side of knowing about Christ. Even an atheist can get the highest score in a Bible-knowledge exam, or the rattling off of theologians who have written about a particular verse. As to "drive-by shootings" - do we not quickly recognise in others what we are prone to ourselves?

Alison

Anonymous said...

OK, so I do have a scintilla of patience:
"I do have some understanding of the Scriptures. However: "Be ye doers and not only hearers of the Word" is a matter of experiencing the Living Christ in the Sacraments of the Church (as directed by the Scriptures) and is an essential element of 'knowing' the Living Christ - not merely hearing of Him."
Why do you insist on setting up false polarities and misrepresenting what others are saying? Just who do you know who actually says we should "hear the Word" (not Christ but 'the word' - the text isn't about sacramental rites but the Scriptures, BTW, but I won't linger on that point) but NOT do it? Either you are accusing unnamed others of rank hypocrisy (and have a self-secure spirit) or your point is banal.
How are you able to judge that you are led better by Christ than a devout Mormon or Jehovah's Witness or Quaker whose subjective experiences of what he/she calls "Christ" may be just as intense as yours?
And how can one be faithful to Christ if one engages in sexual behavior contrary to Mark 7.21? How is it possible to AVOID wrestling with what his words mean? Just taking bread and wine with "holy" feelings isn't enough. How many Irish and American RC priests now behind bars made that mistake?
The point is that the church lives under and by Scripture. Every orthodox catholic understands that. I have read enough Ratzinger to see that is what he teaches as well. "catholic" doesn't mean sacramental Quakerism.
There - scintilla extinguished.
"Palaiologos"

carl jacobs said...

Farther Ron Smith

"Carl presumes that I do not treasure the words of the Scriptures."

Either that, or I periodically read the comments on 'Thinking Anglicans.' In any case, one may treasure the Scriptures without recognizing their authority. It is the later proposition that is held in doubt by a statement such as..

Surely The Word made flesh by the Spirit - the Living Christ - takes precedence over words in the Bible - important though they are for a basis of faith.

They are correct who say "One can know about Christ without knowing Christ." But that wasn't my point. It does not necessarily follow that a man who knows Christ may receive authoritative subjective guidance that overturns the Scripture. A man cannot for example say "I have received a new understanding of Scripture from God and authenticated it by my subjective experience. That which was once unholy is now holy." But people do it all the time.

What would such a man say to one who says "I have also received a new understanding of Scripture from God and authenticated it by my subjective experience. That which was once unholy is still unholy." Is God the author of confusion? Is He doing a new thing but only in certain places?

But I do not have to guess what would be said. I see it written all the time. The response would be "Your vision is nothing but the raving of a fearful, malignant, ignorant, reactionary mind. If you truly understood, you would agree with me." Precisely so.

Shoot the heading of the prow of the ship, and mark our current course accordingly, Helmsman.

carl

And, yes, I know all about Peter in the Book of Acts. That was my consciously chosen image. Peter was an Apostle by whom the Spirit breathed out Scripture. His experience is not normative for the believer in general. And anyways the whole story is set forth in ... Scripture. If similar revelations in Scripture can be found about (say) homosexuality or WO, then I will gladly submit. But I won't listen to someone who says "I have had a new revelation." No, you haven't.

carl jacobs said...

Steve

How, then, do you respond to Peter here, an evangelical who writes "in my mind is a meeting I went to two nights ago in which a young woman gave a Bible study to a mixed gender group which was simply one of the best ever Bible talks I have ever heard in my life."?

I would say that his observation is irrelevant to the issue of whether women can hold spiritual authority over men. By way of analogy (and let me state that I am NOT asserting moral equivalence), how would I respond to the assertion "I met a man married to his own daughter, and they seemed quite happy together." Experience cannot overturn established authoritative boundaries.

carl

Father Ron Smith said...

As usual, Peter the Greek, you win by your word-count the argument you, yourself have erected. It must be wonderful to be able to give yourself an entirely spurious Greek name; but then Hebrew might be a little less attractive to you - being the Biblical scholar you so obviously want to be thought to be.

However, your long and sometimes tedious contentions do not fool those of us who are longer in the tooth! God give you many years!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Steve,

If a woman can give a talk which is utterly sound in doctrine, and undergirded by a virtuous life, but should not in fact give it, because of 'established authoritative boundaries', do you think that means that God has arbitrarily designated men "good" and woman "bad" re teaching authority? If it is not arbitrary, what reason would God have for permitting men and prohibiting women from using their God-given brains and God-given lips to teach sound doctrine?

David Ould said...

what reason would God have for permitting men and prohibiting women from using their God-given brains and God-given lips to teach sound doctrine?
Are you trolling now, Peter? In all your lengthy work on this topic haven't you heard a decent answer on this?
I'd be very surprised if you hadn't.

Peter Carrell said...

No, David, I haven't had a decent answer on this. Would you care to attempt to give one?

David Ould said...

do you know what? I'm staggered. There is such a wealth of writing on this issue and you claim to have never come across the argument of order.

Seriously, I'm flabbergasted. You have not, for example, worked through the Piper/Grudem edited compilation on this issue? Never assessed the arguments being made somewhere like cbmw.org?

What sort of a "conversation" is this if you've not actually gone to the classic explanations of what your opponents believe? No wonder the stereotypes and misrepresentations keep getting bandied around.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,

I am staggered, and not for the first time, that you do not read what I write: I did not not say I had never come across an argument such as the argument of order, what I wrote was "I haven't had a decent answer on this". The key word is "decent" meaning here "convincing." No, I don't think the argument from order is a convincing explanation for why women with God-given brains and God-given mouths who are faithful, sound, and solid in doctrine might not preach God's Word to a mixed gender congregation.

However I accept that you think the argument from order is a decent one. We differ in our estimation of decency of order!

Anonymous said...

Ron, I don't understand your last comment, which doesn't engage with my arguments and sounds perilously ad hominem - but I'll let those better versed in the taxonomy of logical fallacies deal with that.
As for the relative attractiveness of ancient languages, I've actually studied (and translated) more Hebrew in my life than Greek, but I don't know that has to do with anything. My point throughout has been that your claim to be a "catholic" doesn't meet the historical, biblical and dogmatic meaning of that word. You seem much closer to Quakerism (albeit sacramental Quakerism) or the radical Anabaptists in your claim to direct illumination and encounter with Christ that (apparently) transcends the Scriptures.
"Palaiologos"

Bryden Black said...

Apologies David O, but when I saw the addressee as “Ron”, I figured you meant Fr Ron Smith. But then scanning back over sundry comments I see now the content of your comment was probably addressed to myself. On this assumption ...

You are right: I was not indulging in a piece of historical theology, viz the Heidelberg Disputations (nos 19 & 20) of 26th April 1518. Rather, I was going much further than the ‘early Luther’, to build upon a basic insight of his overall theological method, one which addressed especially well your comment about the alleged relationship between Gospels and Epistles. For while I agree with you we need not “set the one against the other” - the entire canon is our brief, and there is no room for the practice of a ‘canon within the canon’ - the principle highlighted by Paul in 1 Cor 1-4, and picked up in particular by Luther, to be eventually turned into his maxim, Crux probat omnia, has proven especially rich down the centuries. Viz. my quoting Jüngel, for example. But Paul is not the only NT writer to display this principle. Viz. again my mentioning Mark and John. I could have mentioned Revelation, just to cap off another section of the canon.

So; what don’t you understand? How the Crux probat omnia principle might work? And therefore how it might be applied to the likes of women’s ordination? And/or certain hermeneutical assumptions behind folks’ positions vis-à-vis WO? Dig, man, dig into those concealed bits of your own methodology, to lay bare what supports what. Never forgetting to enjoy the ride too! Barth would love a joyful theologian at all times! Especially one who warrants “traffic lights” as he does! For when asked once what else he, KB, might have wanted to be if he had not become a theologian, he replied, “a traffic policeman”!