Friday, February 10, 2012

Why would God appoint Elizabeth to be queen and not to be bishop?

I encourage opponents of women being bishops to review their theology. Perhaps if I were in England I would more strongly use 'urge' rather than 'encourage' given the proximity of time to the likely decision re women bishops in the C of E.

In theology we are talking about God and trying to make sense of God, who God is, what God has said, why God might do some things and not other things, and consequentially this leads to talk about how we might live and organise life on earth. It is important that this talk of God in relation to our lives is responsible because it is not only about securing the truth, it is also about our witness to God in the world.

Part of our responsible talk about God is that we press for an ever deepening understanding of what God's Godness is. For instance, we can understand God to be less than God - a smaller god than the true bigness of God. Ancient Israel often had this deficiency in their theology, not recognising that God was God of all the world. The apostle Paul's great difficulty in his mission was banging heads with those who thought God was only the God of Israel and thus the people of God needed to be made Israelites.

So when we think of God ordering the world the whole counsel of God in Scripture challenges us to remember that God is the God of the whole world, not (as I fear we fall into thinking) God of the church alone. This God is consistent in being God across all dimensions of life and consistent in seeking his will to be done on earth as in heaven in all dimensions of life. In respect of leadership God appoints leaders in the world (Romans 13) as well as in the church. But it would seem odd of God to permit women or men to be leaders in government but only men in the church. To think that God has reason for preferring only men to lead the church is to raise the question what difference God makes in respect of his dominions if the church may not be led by either gender similar to nations.

Of course it could be argued (I imagine it might be, here in the comments) that God really prefers men only to lead in any of God's domains. But that still raises questions such as why God has destined the two great Elizabeths to be Queens of England and Supreme Governors of God's Church of England. We cannot say God has not destined them to their respective roles as events could easily have turned out otherwise (a healthy long living son for Henry VIII! Edward VIII to have fallen in love with an acceptable woman!). Nor can we say that these have not been godly women. In our day Elizabeth II has been an extraordinary witness to Jesus Christ (most recently in her Christmas 2011 message).

There remain questions about what texts such as 1 Timothy 2:12-15 mean within a theology which understands God to be gender neutral about leadership, but these texts can be understood within such a theological understanding (e.g. that the situation of the Ephesian church, hidden from our eyes, required such an apostolic ruling in order to bring godly order to an unruly congregation).

But the more urgent question I put to opponents of women as bishops is the question of Why God would appoint Elizabeth to be queen and not to be bishop? Answers must responsibly address questions about God in relation to church and society, to the eternal kingdom and the kingdoms of this world. I look forward to your comments.

Incidentally, it is of great interest to me that Romans where we find a strong argument concerning God's appointing of governmental leaders (Romans 13) is also the Pauline book which most fulsomely talks about church life being led by a mixed gender array of leadership (Romans 16).

65 comments:

Father Ron Smith said...

Good arguments, Peter!

Rosemary said...

You say .. “I urge opponents of women being bishops to review their theology.” Or what Peter? Is there a consequence? Do you start posts about any other strand of theology that way? You seem able to ‘live with’ differences in theology with everyone, but in this particular case you ‘urge’ .. from which we get urgent. What is so ‘urgent’ about this matter Peter? What will be the consequences? I think these are questions you need to answer rather than me. Reformed evangelicals in our Diocese have already answered them.

Secondly, I’m not clever enough to work it out, but I think your premise is incorrect .. “God has chosen women to be leaders in the world, therefore God chooses women to be leaders in the church.” I need someone who is an expert on logical fallacies. Does it have something to do with families? God has chosen women to bear the children, therefore women should be the ones to raise them, teach them, lead them? Sounds a bit patronising to me! I’m left with questions. For instance, I’m in total agreement with you when you say that the church has disenfranchised women for centuries. That the Pauline picture of both genders as being ESSENTIAL for the well being of the church is correct. Does it follow that women must be in charge? If you could show me the logic of that I’d be grateful. I know my own tendency is to lead, to take charge, and I constantly have to fight a battle to ‘submit’ to God’s Will, but I assume that is the same for both genders. He calls us to be ‘witnesses’ to Him in the life of His Kingdom, both secular and sacred. [Not that much seems ‘sacred’ in our church these days!]

A last small point. The ‘order’ God created in this world .. the whole of it Peter, not just the church, begins in Genesis. I personally believe it’s where those who support the cause of women as bishops went wrong. Yes, the church has mistreated women for many centuries, but actually it’s mistreated many other groups too .. children particularly come to my mind. I’m not at all sure however, that to give women equality in terms of church leadership, makes up for OR corrects that mistreatment. Surely they need recognition as PEOPLE. Recognise why God gave them to the church AND to the world. Really appreciate them as a gift from God. The same thing goes for children, who are COMPLETELY disenfranchised in our church.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,

I have changed the opening to the post - you make a good point in your observation re 'urge'.

I would not claim to be beyond logical fallacy. I guess I think my point is slightly different to what you express: if God is untroubled by women leaders in government, why would God be troubled by women leaders in the church?

Women do not have to be in charge of anything. The question I am always teasing out is whether women must always never be in charge of congregations and dioceses. Certainly my motivation is not the right the wrongs of the ages (it would be good to right those wrongs, but I do not think we can do that in this instance). My motivation is to do the right thing full stop.

Your response deserves more discussion but I must stop there for now.

Father Ron Smith said...

As I have said, Peter: Good Posting! One doesn't need to be a student of theology to be able to agree with your reflection. God's Image rests in every single human being - from macho-male to ultra-feminine.

And Mary Magdalene was proto-Apostle.

RMBruton said...

Peter,
The next two hurdles to be crossed, before destruction of the C of E is complete, are (a)disestablishment and (b)repeal of the Act of Settlement.

Tim Harris said...

You have touched on a key and telling inconsistency in the case based on creational order. If it is creational, then it should be advocated with reference to leadership in all of society, and not just within the church. There are some prominent exponents who argue just that, even to the point of saying that it is wrong for a male to accept street directions from a female. That is an extreme instance, but it does highlight that the logic of the 'creational order' argument should apply just as much to politics, schools and universities, business and so on - perhaps not in insisting that society change its practices, but in instructing women with a Christian commitment not to take on such roles, and for men not to accept the authority of women in such positions.

Needless to say, I don't accept such views one bit, but the case from creational order along role differentiation lines (which I believe is exegetically, hermeneutically and theologically flawed) is advocated very inconsistently - as your post highlights.
+/- Tim

Kurt said...

Yes, indeed! Good arguments!

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Rosemary said...

Tim, you say, “the case from creational order along role differentiation lines (which I believe is exegetically, hermeneutically and theologically flawed) is advocated very inconsistently.”

At the end of the day Tim, you must .. and have said you will .. treat those of us who disagree with you as not only equals, but as having Scriptural grounds for so believing. Just as we agree to differ with Baptists or Arminianists. Is that correct? I do hope so.

Your concern appears to be to show those who believe as I do, to be ‘exegetically, hermeneutically and theologically wrong. I hope that I’m wrong there. Many people do this, including one particular commenter here, but I think it behooves us to try not to do so. Please let me say that as a woman in the church, a member of the laity, I look to you as a Bishop to help me to understand and interpret the words of Scripture carefully and truthfully. I tend to get my back up and not listen when you only imply that I’m wrong, without any ‘right of reply’ so to speak.

I personally don’t think God intended the word translated ‘helpmeet’ to have the boundaries you appear to impose. I don’t pretend to be a theologian Tim, so I’m unaware if I’m exegetically or hermeneutically wrong. I’m a woman seeking to try and understand God’s role for me in my Christian walk .. not only that, but the role of women generally, and I don’t see any limits. [continued]

Rosemary said...

For instance, Queen Elizabeth, as a strong believer, can have no doubt that God has asked her to ‘help’ her country and her church as Queen, because there can be no doubt in her mind that should He have wanted a person of a different gender to do so, He would have arranged it to be so. At least that is my faith. He is that much in charge of our world. The only ‘inconsistency’ I see in that is in those who limit the interpretation of the word ‘helpmeet.’ Especially in those who feel they must ‘instruct’ women, as if they are incapable of understanding God without their input!!! How patronising!

Now you obviously feel that if a woman is called by God to be ‘helpmeet’ to her country and her church as Queen, then she must too be called by God to lead the church in other ways. That is the problem I raised with Peter. I think it’s a logical fallacy, but I’m not clever enough to work out why. You too think it’s a logical fallacy, but in the opposite way. You believe that because God calls women to take up roles within our society, that He must therefore wish the same for the leadership roles within the church, His Kingdom. Is that not a logical fallacy too? I think the question raised by Carrie Sandom on the link I gave the other day .. that if you put a woman in charge of a parish in leafy Devon, she will never reach the local men for Christ .. needs to be taken into account. Does putting a woman in charge of such a parish ‘help’ the church? Help the men that God wants to reach in that place? Sure it will I hope ‘help’ the women and children, but will the men ‘hear.’ That they should .. that genders are completely equal .. I have no doubt, but that’s not the question .. it’s will they [men] hear? Is this the best thing to do for the church's benefit. I'm NOT saying that just because a person is of the male gender he will necessarily be better you understand, something Peter suggests I say. No, the question is, is that the way God ordered our society? Are we right to encourage women to take up such roles? What and where is our God given instruction to do so? I don’t think it’s clearly proscribed Tim, but I cannot see that it is clearly instructed either. Perhaps you will gently show me that I am wrong?

I don’t believe there are any limits on the term ‘helpmeet.’ I don’t think it’s a subservient role in any way. Just as you must submit to His authority .. so must any woman who wishes to try and serve her Father within His Kingdom. Not thinking about herself and what she can achieve in the way of ‘kudos’ .. nor what is 'just' in the eyes of the world .. but thinking of the way in which she can best serve Him, and the church He has called her to, His Kingdom on earth.

Rosemary said...

Silly me .. I've just thought! Of course there's a limit to 'helpmeet.' It's the answer to the question .. does it help?

Father Ron Smith said...

"I look to you as a Bishop to help me to understand and interpret the words of Scripture carefully and truthfully. I tend to get my back up and not listen when you only imply that I’m wrong, without any ‘right of reply’ so to speak." - Rosemary -

Rosemary, you have exercised your right of reply - many times on this issue. That doesn't automatically make you right. all it does, is to accept your 'right of reply'.

'Right' is sometimes different from our assertions. Truth is Truth!

Anonymous said...

Rosemary, your position appears consistent, in that you follow what the Bible says in a straight-forward manner – God doesn’t play hide and seek with His teaching, continually change His mind, or require you to dig deeply into the scriptures and come out concluding the opposite of what it appears to say.

Fr Ron, your position appears consistent, in that you sit lightly to the literal Biblical teachings, and see core values as evolving into new expressions throughout the church’s history.

Apologies if I misrepresent the two of you – but I’m trying to express two consistent approaches.

Peter, however, wants to follow option (a) for some things (homosexuality) and option (b) for others (women bishops). Sure you can. But you cannot call it consistent. Either “I encourage those in favour of women being bishops to review their theology of homosexuality” or “I encourage opponents of homosexual activity to review their theology of women bishops.”

Peter appears to misunderstand that Queen Elizabeth is supreme governor of the Church of England. Women involved in church governance is no argument whatsoever for women being ordained bishop. Rosemary is quite correct. In fact I think Rosemary herself has been involved in church governance. To put it a bit plainly: Peter is confusing governance and management.

Dave

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Dave,
I am not confusing management and governance: bishops have a governance role in the church; queens and female presidents/prime ministers have a role in the governance of nations. I am asking why God would appoint women to lead nations and not appoint women to lead churches. So far I have not received an answer.

As for consistency: I am arguing that:

- God is consistent, not forbidding women from leading nations or churches.
- Scripture is consistent in affirming the human dignity of all people created and redeemed by God, forbidding no one from participating in the life of the church on the basis of their identity as man/woman, slave/free, Jew/Greek, and, we may reasonably extend, of whatever sexual identity
- Scripture is also consistent through its whole counsel in determining that God expects his people to be single or married (which means, to a person of the opposite gender).

On what basis do you explain God distinguishing between leadership in the church and leadership of nations in respect of women being able to take up roles in either sphere?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,
I don't want to argue over 'helpmeet' or whether women led churches can nevertheless have great men's ministry, but to raise the question why what you say necessitates (a) no woman ever preaching to a mixed church congregation (never: not even occasionally) (b) no woman ever being ordained a presbyter/priest with a share in the leadership team of a male-vicar-led church?

A supplementary question or two could be these: would men really have a problem with women occasionally preaching? Could not an ordained woman priest/presbyter on a leadership team be a wonderful 'helpmeet' to the male vicar?

Perhaps I am misunderstanding your position and if so I am happy to stand corrected.

Rosemary said...

Well I don’t want to argue either Peter, very unproductive. I’ve come to believe that just as we ‘hear’ when God permits us to ‘hear,’ so what I have to say will be heard when He makes it clear, and not before. Nothing I say will convince anyone, all I can do is try to explain what I believe has been made clear to me. You and I have talked about this before, many times.

There SHOULD be women in all leadership teams, otherwise you are not using all the wisdom God has given you. So your last point [a share in the leadership of a male-vicar-led church] is one I believe SHOULD occur. In fact in my life experience, that is normal. Ordain women if you feel it’s necessary, I cannot see that necessity at all, but I have no objection either. But as I move from the Old Testament to the New, I would say that I don’t think women should be in authority over a mixed congregation. Your interpretation here differs, but as I said earlier, I arrive at the New Testament with eyes that have understood Genesis differently. With regard to preaching, I’m extremely uncomfortable with women preaching to a mixed congregation. I have frequently heard women preaching to women, they have much to teach me.

As to your supplementaries .. the answer is I really don’t know. Has God blessed men by opening their ears and eyes as a result of a woman’s preaching, and only as the result of a woman’s preaching .. you can probably answer that better than I. What I have seen is the amazing way women are able to pastor or help those of the male gender in certain situations. Not teaching/preaching situations. As to your second, women ARE wonderful ‘helpmeets’ to their men/church/vicars, I’m surprised by the question, do you believe they must be ordained before that can happen?

Tim Harris said...

Hi Rosemary. Sorry for the delay - have taken a refreshing Sabbath rest today. Be assured I respect your commitment to Scripture and desire to understand it aright, and even more importantly, to follow it. I do not presume that any of us have perfect insight into such matters, and that we indeed all stand as equals in need of God's grace and enlightenment.

However, I do not regard all arguments and views as equal. Some are stronger and more coherent than others, and processes of dialogue allow for any of us to courteously point to weaknesses, and the reasons for our views, with the invitation for responses such as you have given.

To clarify my view (and hopefully also my critique): I do not believe there are any grounds for role differentiation along gender-based authority lines in Genesis 1. Both male and female are given the identification and mandate as equally in the image and likeness of God. When we come to Genesis 2, I also contend that it is simply not about 'roles'. It cannot be read into the use of 'ezer' for it is not an integral element of the word itself. It would need to be established on the basis of context, and that is flagged by the phrase 'it is not good' - in contrast to Gen. 1. This phrase indicates the point at issue - that something is lacking in creation so long as man is alone. The man alone is incapable of fulfilling what is expected of him, and it becomes clear no animal can make up this lacking. The partner 'corresponding' to man is identified as 'bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh', completing creation, so that male and female together are able to fulfill God's calling for humanity.

The passage is about inter-dependance and the need for a complementary relationship - with no reference to different roles. It is simply not there in the text of either creation account.

Tim Harris said...

Rosemary (cont.) - I have offered these comments by way of explanation of the views I expressed earlier. I do take seriously the need to teach and engage with Scripture - but always with the invitation to all to 'search the Scriptures' for themselves, and dialogue on that basis.

I have explained my understanding of the NT previously, but my point in agreeing with Peter's post is that the use of a passage such as 1 Tim. 2:9-14 is either addressing a specific context (as I argue), or (if understood as appealing to creational order) it applies to all of creation, not just the church. In which case, it would be wrong for the Queen to exercise any authority over men, whether within the Church or throughout the realm.

I am interested to know how those who accept the legitimacy of the Queen's authority over males within her dominion establish (in the text) a demarcation between authority in the church or throughout creation generally - as the creational order view would more consistently require.

Anonymous said...

Tim provides a perfect example of my point. When it comes to homosexuality – what the Bible says must be applied in all places for all times; when it comes to women being ordained bishop “1 Tim. 2:9-14 is addressing a specific context”. It is not relevant and applicable anywhere else. There is no reason why God has it here in the Bible.

I guess the same logic applies to the next couple of verses: “an overseer [bishop] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife”. Doesn’t apply any more? I don’t see any fuss being made about it – guess it’s not homosexuality.

As to “1 Tim. 2:9-14 applies to all of creation, not just the church”, St Paul doesn’t think so, but what would he know, he only wrote it – not to mention that it’s inspired.

Ripping it out of the context of verse 8 is the first mistake. This is St Paul’s instruction to men in public worship. It is followed by his instruction to women in public worship. NB. not to women in “all of creation”, but in public worship. The teaching here is consistent with other places (eg. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35).

Adam was not deceived as Eve was deceived by the serpent; but was persuaded by his wife. Genesis 3:17 , "hearkened unto . . . voice of . . . wife." But in Genesis 3:13 , Eve says, "The serpent beguiled me." Being more easily deceived, she more easily deceives ( 2 Corinthians 11:3 ). Last in being, she was first in sin-indeed, she alone was deceived. The subtle serpent knew that she was "the weaker vessel" ( 1 Peter 3:7 ). He therefore tempted her, not Adam. She yielded to the temptations of sense and the deceits of Satan; he, to conjugal love. Hence, in the order of God's judicial sentence, the serpent, the prime offender, stands first; the woman, who was deceived, next; and the man, persuaded by his wife, last (Genesis 3:14-19 ). In Romans 5:12 , Adam is represented as the first transgressor; but there no reference is made to Eve, and Adam is regarded as the head of the sinning race. Hence, as here, 1 Timothy 2:11 , in Genesis 3:16 , woman's "subjection" is represented as the consequence of her being deceived.

Errors in ecclesiology lead to and are sourced in errors in soteriology.

Dave

Rosemary said...

It’s not that I disagree Tim, it’s that I see the woman’s role as supportive. That man could not do it alone, you point out, but you don’t point out that women should do it FOR him. I believe totally in the equality of men and women, but I believe God asked us [women] to be supportive, not to take the lead. That IS the point of difference, because it’s our interpretation of this early Scripture, that colours our interpretation of the later New Testament words.” [continued]

You say, “I am interested to know how those who accept the legitimacy of the Queen's authority over males within her dominion establish (in the text) a demarcation between authority in the church or throughout creation generally - as the creational order view would more consistently require.

I did answer this in an earlier post. I see no limits on women [or if you prefer on a woman’s role] from the earliest texts OTHER than being supportive. [Helpmeet] Whether that support is towards one’s country, one’s husband, men within the church family, all without the church family, there’s no limit. I think that is implicit within the term ‘helpmeet.’ It’s a term that is used most often of God Himself, so He gave us a role that is extremely important and if I may use the word, delicate, easy to abuse. The criteria is help .. not lead, help. Do you see the role of Queen as that of dominator rather than servant? It certainly has been in the past, but is that how our present Queen sees her role? I personally see her as a particularly Godly woman who sees her role as servant of all. [continued]

Rosemary said...

However, continuing that line of thought, and with respect, pointing out that you haven’t answered my question on this, it is not explicit. It may be implicit that we [women] are to be helpful and supportive, but it does not explicitly say, either in the Old or the New Testament, that women should lead, have authority over, or dominate in terms of leadership. That is when, in my own thinking on the matter, the fact that Jesus chose no women as Apostles, comes into play, I think that is VERY meaningful. God Himself when He came to earth as Jesus Christ, didn’t choose women to be the foundational pillars of Hs church, His Kingdom. I don’t see that as an insult to women generally, I see it as a tremendous example of His love for us. A love that the male gender should emulate in my opinion, NEVER exercising ‘domination’ over them. I also don’t think that makes women second class. Far from it, I think the role [and I apologise for continuing to use the term but I cannot think of a better one] of support and help is an extremely responsible one that is not easy to follow. But then I don’t think the role of the male gender is easy, I don’t envy you it, it’s a HUGE responsibility, especially as you have responsibility for women, children, the spiritual wellbeing of the church .. His body, as well as the whole of creation. I’d better stop there!!!! Heavy stuff.

Rosemary said...

Oops, I notice I've put in two 'continued' marks, but have only put two posts up .. hope I did that right. No way to know until Peter puts them online. Sigh .. there's always something with me.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Dave,
We live in a changing world. The church addresses those changes in various ways. Some changes will be more consistent with God's Word than others, but we make them anyway.

I have never found a church which is very consistent in respect of 1 Timothy, where, for inatance, men raise their hands in prayer and the church runs a welfare scheme for widows. Do you know of such a church?

The other matter on which I think we deserve your views re consistency is what the church should do in response to the many people among us who are divorced and ask their ministers/priests to be married. Do you think we should respond to them in a merciful way (albeit not strictly consistently with Jesus and Paul's teaching), or apply that teaching with strict consistency?

I look forward to your responses to these matters for consistency is, as you say, important.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,
I appreciate your argument about women as helpers and men as having responsibility to lead, but I do not find it an adequate argument to explain the roles women take up.

To me it seems as though (according to this paradigm) God was not pleased that Huldah, Deborah, the Queen of Sheba, and the (albeit idealised) woman above rubies in Proverbs 31 led people rather than remained within the paradigm of helping. (One might add Queen Elizabeth 1 and Margaret Thatcher to the list as women who led governments in a way that, acknowledged, QE2 does not).

We might need to agree to disagree but I do not think the New Testament is clear cut at all about women remaining within the paradigm of helping as you have outlined it. Priscilla, Junia, Lydia spring to mind as women who led, and even if in the first two cases it is always in association with their husbands, the sense is that they co-led, not that they were "helpers" to their husbands' "leaders" role.

There is also the matter of women who are placed by circumstances in needing to be leaders and not helpers only: a widow for instance. in 1 Timothy Paul enjoins younger widows to remarry and to have children; but by implication he was acknowledging that in the meantime they had the role of being leaders of their households, and that if they were not able to remarry then they would remain leaders of those households.

I would like to think that I am disagreeing with you not because I do not understand the case you are making but because understanding it I nevertheless do not find it sufficient to explain all biblical instances of women who lead, nor instance in history and contemporary life in which women lead governments and churches in appropriate ways.

Rosemary said...

I KNEW it .. I forgot the beginning, and everyone is going to read it last now. Sigh .. oh well, better that I put it in ..

First Tim, I have the deepest respect for the passion both you and Peter feel for women as a gender. I think that passion to give women what seems equable and just .. drives you both, and it’s both good and honest. The fact that I disagree doesn’t blind me to that fact.

You say, “ I do not believe there are any grounds for role differentiation along gender-based authority lines,” AND .. “something is lacking in creation so long as man is alone,” AND .. “man alone is incapable of fulfilling what is expected of him.” Lastly, as a summation perhaps, you say, “The passage is about inter-dependance and the need for a complementary relationship - with no reference to different roles.”

Rosemary said...

Thanks Peter. Remember that in my thoughts about Genesis in particular, which I think sets the pattern for the rest .. lets say as this applies for instance to a widow, something which as far as I'm concerned God has ordained, there is nothing in my interpretation of 'helpmeet' which limits her leadership in such a situation. It is a God given situation.

Peter Carrell said...

That is a helpful clarification, thanks Rosemary!

Father Ron Smith said...

Rosemary speaks here of a woman's role being that of supporter of the male of the species. There is very good biblical precedence for exactly the opposite: where Joseph was the supporter of Mary, who bore the Son of God in her womb. She, as a 'mere' woman, became the source of God's humanity in Christ

Joseph's role in all of that was to support Mary - to the point where he even agreed to make her his wife, when everything seemed to conspire against that.

But then, I guess, God thinks differently from us humans.

Father Ron Smith said...

I must say that I do find it slightly ironic that a woman, who thinks that women have no role in teaching men in the Church - about theology - should then exercise what she sees as her 'right' to teach men on this site about what she se;s as God's will for both women and men in the Church.

Is that not a teaching role? Where the 'teacher', a woman, makes the assertion that she is right and the males (clergy in the Church) are wrong? Sounds didactic to me, and a little bit concufed!

Anonymous said...

Peter, it seems to me that there are two consistent approaches:
a) working out the core values, especially in Jesus as presented in the Bible, and applying these in a changing world
b) reading the Bible in a straight-forward manner and following its instructions as God’s unchanging word whatever the changing circumstances

I suggested Fr Ron exemplifies (a) and Rosemary (b). Both are consistent in their approach.

You appear to me to follow a third approach, one that is unsystematic, and appears prejudiced. As you say, “We live in a changing world. The church addresses those changes in various ways. Some changes will be more consistent with God's Word than others, but we make them anyway.” So you are content to be inconsistent with God’s Word – except in the area of homosexuality.

You ask me, “what the church should do in response to the many people among us who are divorced and ask their ministers/priests to be married. Do you think we should respond to them in a merciful way (albeit not strictly consistently with Jesus and Paul's teaching), or apply that teaching with strict consistency?”

Answer me first, then, “what the church should do in response to the many people among us who are homosexual and ask their ministers/priests to bless their committed same-sex relationship. Do you think we should respond to them in a merciful way (albeit not strictly consistently with Bible teaching), or apply that teaching with strict consistency?”

Dave

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Dave,
Indeed I think we should respond to homosexuals in a merciful way and likely that will not involve applying the teaching of the Bible (on certain interpretations) strictly. Whether such mercy should extend to changing the definition of marriage re "a man and a woman" and whether that mercy should extend to adjusting the standard of celibacy or marriage for ministers of the church is a question to consider.

Part of that consideration is whether the mercy the church across most denominations and most theological schools of thought has extended to divorced people remarrying constitutes a precedent for the kind of mercy we should show to same sex couples.

Now, could I please have an answer to my question about your understanding of what the church should do in response to the many divorced people presenting for remarriage. If you further avoid answering this question I shall consider that any need on my part to further respond to your comments here is at an end. I look forward to your response.

Anonymous said...

"Now, could I please have an answer to my question about your understanding of what the church should do in response to the many divorced people presenting for remarriage. If you further avoid answering this question I shall consider that any need on my part to further respond to your comments here is at an end. I look forward to your response."

Dave must speak for himself. But if you can clarify the pastoral and theological issues, you should be able to arrive at an answer - with a flow chart, even?
1. Is remarriage after divorce possible for a Christian? Yes or No? RCs say no, other Christians say 'Yes, under some conditions ...'
2. If RC, then you have a pastoral question, but remarriage is out of the question.
3. Otherwise: determine the conditions - then apply the discipline!!!
You see, that's the root problem of modern Protestantism - it has no concept of discipline.
What do you think, Peter?

+Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin,
I am trying to tease out the situation where many Christians are remarried after divorces, divorces that have arisen through 'break down' of the marriage (but not involving unfaithfulness on the part of one of the spouses): such remarriages occur in all churches*, including evangelical/biblical churches (and there are often more remarried ministers around than one might have thought). Has the church been consistent with Scripture in permitting these remarriages? I think there is a simple 'yes' or 'no' answer.

*Yes, I understand the Roman Catholic church has its "annulment" process to avoid "divorce" but my knowledge of some situations which have been deemed to have warranted "annulment" is that the word "annulment" is made a nonsense. As far as I am concerned such situations are "divorces."

Anonymous said...

So what you are saying is: There are divorces, and then there are divorces...
Well, no argument from me. Of course the churches have been inconsistent: they function like any political agency, where majority will prevails, even or especially when couched in appeals to sympathy. The "simple" solution is for the church to return to the old discipline of refraining from officiating in such ceremonies. A civil marriage is a marriage, and a Christian marriage is no less a Christian marriage for being conducted in a registry office - indeed, there was no such thing as a 'church wedding' in NT days.
This is what I mean by defining or clarifying theological principle.
+Martin

Tim Harris said...

Rosemary - available time is limited, but I do want to affirm that I appreciate the helpful approach you take to dialogue - you listen carefully, seek clarification, and state your own views in a helpful manner. My response would be along very similar lines to Peter's above. Our main difference is over notions of gender differentiated leadership in Gen. 2 (I don't think it can be distinguished in Gen. 1).

We will need to agree to disagree over that, but be assured of my respect for the integrity with which you have understood and lived that out. I certainly want to affirm the value of support roles - I guess I would underscore the calling to be *mutually* supportive as we each go about exercising whatever gifts and callings God has bestowed upon us, and in that I suspect we are not that far apart in practice.

I will need to pull out of the discussion at this point - a busy week awaits...

Grace and peace be with you.

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
Only just read your original post after some internet problems, and also had to do some thinking about it, too. It's a thoughtful question, in that it holds together God's dominion over both his people and the world.

I'm not sure it is right to argue from a particular situation (established CofE with a Queen as supreme governor) to the general (therefore God approves of women in all leadership roles in society and the church). I think you have to do it the other way around - this is what God thinks about leadership of the church and society - and then apply it to the particular context we live in. I would also make the point that these days (although certainly not in the days of Elizabeth I) the Queen's role is a ceremonial figurehead, rather than possessing real authority over the church.

So, in terms of the more general argument about leadership in society, it's true that God wants his kingdom to grow in all the world. However, he doesn't seek to establish a Christian state. The NT assumes that states are free to organise themselves in a number of different ways. They ought to be just and righteous, but the specifics of the OT law about the ordering of society is not applied to states in the NT. Therefore, I don't see any reason to apply the teaching about male leadership of church congregations to state institutions. The vehicle of God's gospel in the NT is the church, not the state.

So, I would argue that the NT presents women and men in ministry together, but with a man with the ultimate responsbility for the local congregation, especially with relation to preaching and teaching roles. For our context, that would mean priest in charge (senior parish minister) and bishop's roles ought to be reserved for men. The NT doesn't apply those arguments to state institutions, so we should encourage women to take on those roles. In the peculiar case of the CofE where a woman is both head of the state and of the church, I'll leave that to the Brits to figure out!

Anonymous said...

“Now, could I please have an answer to my question about your understanding of what the church should do in response to the many divorced people presenting for remarriage. If you further avoid answering this question I shall consider that any need on my part to further respond to your comments here is at an end.”

Clearly, I have touched a sore spot.

Martin has presented some of the different approaches that Christians use with integrity and consistency. I have outlined two approaches that I think have integrity and consistency. One I am calling (a) which ignores the letter of the Bible but lives what is understood as the spirit of the Bible – I do not think that marrying people as often as they like has integrity. I think that the Orthodox have followed this approach. The other I am calling (b) which follows the plain teaching of the Bible. I think that Roman Catholics have followed this approach. And traditionally Anglicans did so. I see no reason why both positions (a) and (b) cannot together be followed within one church institution.

What I have understood Anglicans in New Zealand doing is going from one of the strongest anti-marriage after divorce positions to leaping over (a) to the position where there is absolutely no limit on the number of times one can be married in church.

I am pleased you acknowledge “I think we should respond to homosexuals in a merciful way and likely that will not involve applying the teaching of the Bible (on certain interpretations) strictly.”

It is then interesting that you continue: “Whether such mercy should extend to changing the definition of marriage re "a man and a woman"” Surely the issue of what the blessing of a committed-same-sex relationship is called is the least of concerns?

“and whether that mercy should extend to adjusting the standard of celibacy or marriage for ministers of the church is a question to consider.” Once again, we return to ideas that, when translated to anything other than homosexuality, there just is no discussion from you. Let’s put to one side the crypto-clericalism – we are all ministers of the church. The Bible is quite clear in its plain teaching: the ordained are to have only one wife (ie male ordained, unless you are extending Biblical marriage to woman and wife). Where has your discussion been whether the “mercy [of marrying the divorced] should extend to adjusting the [Bible’s] standard of [husband of one wife] for ministers of the church is a question to consider”?

Where has that discussion been from all those now battling so desperately about committed same-sex couples? Prejudiced? Inconsistent?

Dave

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrew
QE2 is one among many who could be cited here (QE1, Queen of Sheba, Margaret Thatcher, Helen Clark and, of course, Julia Gillard) as being appointed by God (Romans 13:1). I am raising the question why God would permit women to lead nations and not the church. In your response I do not see what is special about the church which means it can only be led by men. Is there something intrinsic to the gospel which requires male leadership of the church?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Dave
The 'sore spot' you have touched is that you have charged me with inconsistency while giving no insight into whether you are consistent or inconsistent re application of the Bible in relation to a notoriously difficult issue for 'biblical Christians' to be consistent on.

In the end you have not answered my question. You are welcome to do so but our correspondence is in a hiatus until you do. Others are welcome to engage with you here but I will not do so until you give an answer.

Anonymous said...

Dave writes:

"Peter, it seems to me that there are two consistent approaches:
a) working out the core values, especially in Jesus as presented in the Bible, and applying these in a changing world
b) reading the Bible in a straight-forward manner and following its instructions as God’s unchanging word whatever the changing circumstances

I suggested Fr Ron exemplifies (a) and Rosemary (b). Both are consistent in their approach."

No, this is not correct, because Ron Smith errs in a very basic "core value", sc. as Jesus affirmed, "*Male* and *female* he made them and for this reason a *man* shall leave his parents and cleave to his *wife*" etc - in other words, sexual dimorphism is intrinsic to marriage, the very creational point that post-Christian liberalism denies - with Ron Smith's enthusiastic assent. "core values", in any case, is a notoriously slippery and subjective idea, as Ron's morphing liberalism demonstrates. Catholic theology is something quite different from thematic religious liberalism: it is primarily about discerning the structure of theological thought or doctrine that underlies and integrates the words of Scripture.

Whether remarriage after divorce is permitted for Christians is an exegetical issue. Divorce and remarriage certainly existed under the Old Covenant (along with polygamy). The question has nothing to do with same-sex partnerships, which are not marriages.

+Martin

Anonymous said...

Martin misunderstands your point, Peter, reducing “Whether remarriage after divorce is permitted for Christians [to] an exegetical issue.” Martin, Peter thinks it possible we should respond to divorcees in a merciful way (albeit not strictly consistently with Jesus and Paul's teaching). ie. having done the exegesis and found the teachings of Jesus and Paul to be against marrying divorcees, we respond instead in a merciful way. My response, Martin, is that a similar approach can follow for blessing committed same-sex couples: having having done the exegesis and found the teachings of the Bible to be against this, we respond to homosexuals instead in a merciful way. This has nothing to do with your misinterpretation that it requires such a relationship to be marriage – it is merely a consistent response to exegesis that we no longer apply, and I have given a long list where such is the case.

Peter, I challenge you in your contention that marriage of divorcees is a “notoriously difficult issue for 'biblical Christians'” – I see no real, intense debate about it in comparison to homosexuality, and none whatsoever in the parallel about its place in ordained ministry. The sore spot should be that 'biblical Christians' are inconsistent – they bring a passion to homosexuality that they do not to divorce. Even when the latter is explicitly addressed by Jesus himself, and the former is not.

As to your claim that in the end I have not answered your question about my understanding of what the church should do in response to the many divorced people presenting for remarriage, I am at a loss how to be clearer:

Each ordained minister needs to provide as consistent a position as possible – some will follow what I have called (a) (see above) and will be open to marrying a divorced person; this will be done case by case; it is not limitless (as currently in some places), I suggested the Orthodox model where I think the limit is three; others will follow what I have called (b) following the plain teaching of the Bible. Ordained ministers are not to be forced from one position to another – but nor are they to be inconsistent, applying methodology (b) for homosexuality and (a) for heterosexuals.

Which bit of your question have I not been answering, Peter?

Dave

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Dave
You are starting to be clearer (thank you), but you have not actually told us whether your own approach is (a) or (b). You refer instead to "Each ordained ministers needs to ..." Given your strong critique of my position it is hard to respond with a critique of your position when you will not declare it.

I understand the passion being brought to the questions of homosexuality (compared to the situation with divorce/remarriage) to be engendered in part by the fact that there is a prospect of (and beginnings already of) schism over the former and not over the latter. If we are going to divide I think it worth checking out whether we have our arguments investigated well. (You must notice that this thread started with the ministry of women in the church, a non-issue for many, but a lively issue for others, especially where schism is in prospect, as it seems to be in the C of E).

I think divorce and remarriage is a notoriously difficult issue for 'biblical Christians' not because arguments continue over it (rightly you observe they more or less do not) but because it is a notorious weak point in associated arguments about homosexuality, a matter (as you rightly observe) on which Jesus said something but which we act (if not believe) is trumped by mercy. I suggest it is a notoriously difficult issue, further, because in my experience divorce and remarriage in the life of a (to use labels) conservative biblical evangelical Christian is often associated with a paradigm shift towards a liberal/progressive (but in its way still biblical) theology.

In the end, inconsistent though I may be charged by you and others to be, I think there is consistency in arguing that it is impossible to find from the Bible any support for formal ecclesial blessing of same sex partnerships but it is possible to find support for the blessing of a new marriage (at least on a case by case basis) as well as for the leadership of women of mixed gender congregations, while at all times being required to show mercy to all people.

But I would like to know, without prevarication and resort to talking about what position others might hold, what your own position on divorce and remarriage is. I look forward to the partial clarity of you previous comment becoming full clarity.

Rosemary said...

Sigh .. so the conversation is over, or has moved on.

Never mind Rosemary, they will have to answer those questions one day! What’s more, it will become obvious to all that the male gender leaders failed so spectacularly to give the Gospel message at Christmas, and they WILL give thanks for the woman who HAS got an audience of millions who did give it!! Maybe even wonder why the Lord provided her at this point in time! They’ll eventually be forced to answer the question .. where is the [explicit] instruction in Scripture that women should have dominion over men .. and they’ll work out the difference between church and state .. honestly they will!!! .. Just not to me. Proper thing too.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary
In a way I do not wish to continue this conversation, but you use some words which raise a question for me:

if we grant that Scripture does not give explicit instruction that women should have "dominion" over men, where is the explicit instruction that men should have "dominion" over women?

"Dominion" is about lordship and I am interested in where I am instructed to have lordship over my wife and daughters, let alone the women of my congregations!

Anonymous said...

"My response, Martin, is that a similar approach can follow for blessing committed same-sex couples: having having done the exegesis and found the teachings of the Bible to be against this, we respond to homosexuals instead in a merciful way. This has nothing to do with your misinterpretation that it requires such a relationship to be marriage – it is merely a consistent response to exegesis that we no longer apply, and I have given a long list where such is the case."

And my response, Dave, is that you have given up the struggle to be a consistent biblical Christian, and there is no point belonging to a "church" where God's mercy is so savagely misunderstod.

Dave: the Cross IS God's MERCY. Do you not understand what that means? The implications for living the Christ-shaped, God-pleasing life? Do you know what that means?

Further, I don't know what you mean by "my misinterpretation". I said Rom Smith doesn't understand the catholic theology of the nature of marriage.

+Martin

Rosemary said...

Sigh .. I wish everyone was a farmer’s son or daughter!!! I really don’t know why you think dominion is about lordship. Well I suppose I can just about grasp it .. but not in the sense, taken from Genesis, that God gave us ‘dominion’ over the earth and all that is in it. Peter, I’m not a theologian, nor do I pretend to be one, in fact with my flibberty gibberty mind, it’s impossible that I should be one, so I’ll leave it to you to discuss ‘lordship,’ ‘headship’ and whether the word should be ‘source’ or not. Sigh .. it’s a good way I suppose of not answering my question yet again though!!!

As a farmer, you have ‘dominion’ over the farm and everything in it .. not just the sheep and cattle, but the birds that fly over it, the flies that gorge on the dead beasts .. everything. And one of the first things that you learn is that everything is interconnected, held in balance if you like. If you put too much fertiliser on the land, or the wrong sort .. it isn’t just the land that suffers, it’s everything else, the cows, sheep, birds and flies. It’s also you the farmer, so it behooves you to CARE, to have RESPONSIBILITY for that farm. That is the meaning of dominion as far as I’m concerned. It has nothing whatsoever to do with sovereignty, domination, subjection .. all terms I hear connected with the word dominion. If you as a farmer have dominion meaning sovereignty, domination or subjection over your farmland and everything that lives and grows on it .. you’ll fail BIG TIME, in fact you’ll likely starve!!! Same in a parish, you have care for .. and responsibility for the people of that parish, and it behooves you shoulder those responsibilities carefully. Sometimes you have to make what might appear to be tough decisions .. to cull for instance. The land will only provide for so many .. so there comes a time when you must cull .. so be it. Well you can see where I’m going I’m sure.

There .. I’ve answered your question.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,
OK I can live with "dominion" as (I can't think of a better term) "stewardship", perhaps even "guardianship" (kaitiakitanga) rather than "lordship."

I like your farming illustration of care and responsibility. Thank you!

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
Thanks for your response. I wasn't only arguing about QE2 but more generally that in NT times, God through the scriptures does not proscribe particular forms of government or requirements for state leaders. The focus is much more on helping Christian believers to grow in faith and flourish under whatever leader or system of government they have.

I think perhaps your position over-emphasises the continuity between God's people and the world, ie there should be a consistent position on female leadership in both domains. I would argue that there is also a discontinuity, and that different principles apply. To give another example, we don't insist that state leaders have to be Christians or follow the 10 commandments or worship at a church regularly, because we apply different principles.

As for the theological justification, Paul's argument in 1 Tim. 2 and 1 Cor 11 rests on creation order - men and women are both created in God's image as equals, but there is an ultimate responsibility laid upon men. If Tim Harris (or you) have an article where he or someone else explains more fully why you think that only applies to that particular context I would be happy to read it. I'm not sure I agree that a creation order argument has to apply to the whole creation. After the fall, God seeks to redeem the whole creation through choosing a particular people with special responsibilities, in order to bless all peoples. The Jewish law didn't apply to other nations, but to Israel, in order that other nations might see the wisdom of the God of Israel and come to worship Him also. Likewise, apostolic instructions to the church do not automatically apply to the state. Again, I am happy to consider anything that argues a different perspecitve.

On another topic, I noted Canterbury diocese (CofE) has approved the covenant - made me wonder if some other Canterburians of the NZ variety might soon follow suit?

Father Ron Smith said...

"I said Rom Smith doesn't understand the catholic theology of the nature of marriage." - Anonymous +Martin -

Bishop Martin (Anonymous) - has no idea what I understand to be Christian Marriage - except that it might, in some way, be different from his. I do wish, +Martin, you would stop that silly habit of presuming to discern my innermost thoughts of theological precepts.

There are other biblical understandings of marriage - than that of a heterosexual coupling. One of which is the 'Marriage of the Lamb'. Also, in secular talk there is a marriage of minds. One doesn't want to be so narrow-minded as to bring all things down to a common denominator - lest there be alternative ways of describing a ritual relationship.

I find biblical literalists are often pedantic about securing what they see as the only meaning to a set of words. What do you, for instance, make of Jesus teaching mainly in parable form? No attempt at literal accuracy there. God obviously intends us to use our minds in communion with the Holy Spirit.

This is what worries me about the promotion of the gift of tongues as 'THE sign' of Baptism in the Spirit There is sometimes a questionable interpretation given, that is swallowed hook, line and sinker..
without proper corroboration.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, and others on this thread; You may be interested to learn that WATCH (Women and The Church), a movement in the Church of England, has just sent this message to the House of Bishops:

"This debate is about the place of women.

The opposition to women bishops is based on their being women - whether that is about an interpretation of the Bible which maintains that women are forbidden to have authority over a man, or about following the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches in not recognising that women can represent Christ at the altar."

This is only part of their letter which can be read in full at the weblog 'Thinking Anglicans".

The current 'Code of Practice' arrived at in G.S. 2011, and later affirmed by the majority of the dioceses of the C.of E. allows opponents of Women Bishops to be ministered to by a male bishop - at the express invitation of the Woman Diocesan. Sadly, the 2 Archbishops want to bend backwards to further undercut the authority of the (Woman) Diocesan - a procedure which would result in a two-tier episcopate. That would be a pity.
One prays that the Code of Practice remains unaltered in G.S. July.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrew,
Necessarily concise responses rather than expansive (and, no, I cannot quickly point you to an internet paper re 1T2:12):

(1) If I understand Tim correctly, both he and I are asking why God's lordship over the running of the world is gender-indifferent re government but not re the church. What advantage for the gospel accrues from prohibiting women from leading? (One can go further and argue that in the new world order we live in, where I resolutely argue that life is very different today from the Bible for (educated, franchised, freed from fear of death in childbirth, freed from annual pregnancies constraining life to hearth and home) women, it is a disadvantage to the gospel for the church to insist that the Bible "clearly" teaches the prohibition of women from leading and teaching mixed gender congregations). There is a theological context, in other words, for seeking to understand how 1 T 2:12-15 applies in our world, and a reasonable theological question to raise whether this passage in toto established for all human generations, all human changes, and all human contexts that a woman may never ever lead or teach a mixed gender congregation.

(2) The creational aspect of 1 T 2:13-14 (that is, that 2:12's prohibition rests not on local concerns but on an understanding of the general, universal character of women following from Eve's deception) is a two-edged sword in today's world. One the one hand it offers, prima facie, a wider basis for 2.12 applying to more than the church in Ephesus; on the other hand, prima facie, it is saying that the problem is the inherent flaw of "deceivability" of all women, in every generation, including your and my wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, female friends and colleagues.

To the latter I say, "nuts"! So I dig deeper into the passage, and I do so on the basis that elsewhere in the Pastorals, women are entrusted with teaching sound doctrine (to other women and to children). That leads me to ask of 1 T 2:12-15 what it actually means, especially the extraordinarily enigmatic 2:15 which (again, prima facie) is teaching salvation by works - the works of bearing children (but that doesn't fit with the gospel of grace, and doesn't work for women unable to bear children so, again, I dig deeper to see if I can understand what is really going on here). What am I left with?

(a) Incomprehension
(b) A question: is Paul here dealing with a controversy, the other side of which we do not see clearly?
(c) Another question or two: is the controversy about human sexuality and its inherent goodness (cf 1 T 4:3 re teachers who forbade marriage)? Is Paul prohibiting forceful (don't usurp authority) women teachers (don't teach deceitfully about sex and marriage) and encouraging women susceptible to their false teaching (go ahead, marry and have children because this will not affect your salvation)?

So: the prohibition does arise because of circumstances in Ephesus, but it does have wider application: to all churches where forceful women are teaching deceitfully.

Anonymous said...

+Martin isn't "anonymous", at least by any dictionary definition he knows of that word.
+Martin isn't an (ecclesiastical) bishop either: the (admittedly whimsical) prenominal "+" is a medieval touch which (as learned people know) means "a sinner under the cross", and is there to keep him humble. :)

I am not concerned here with metaphorical uses of "marriage" to denote some kind of social union, e.g. a business amalgamation or a political union like the UK - which can involve more than two parties (political polygamy, if you like). Ron has only confirmed my point, and even here he fails to note that in the Bible's metaphorical "marriage of the lamb" the Church is the wife and Christ is the husband. I can only go by Ron's written words, and they inspire no confidence that he understands catholic teaching on marriage, but rather he is a liberal Protestant who sits loose to the actual teaching of Scripture and considers modern liberal thought as his grid for interpreting and evaluating the Bible. Well, be that as it may - but that isn't catholic theology, it's bog standard liberal Protestantism. Ron may not like this, but this is the path that ex-Anglo-Catholic Richard Holloway took - en route to his current atheism. Ron should read some good catholic theology on marriage: John Paul II on the theology of the body on the Roman side, Geoffrey Bromiley ('God and Marriage') on the evangelical side.
+Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrew
Brief comments about 1 Corinthians 11:

(1) If the 'creational basis' of the teaching here is important, why do we not see in evangelical Anglican churches an insistence on women wearing head coverings and not have their hair cut short?

(2) If the creationally-undergirded application of 1 Corinthians 11 re head coverings and hair length is routinely ignored, why is it insisted upon in respect of 1 Tim 2:12? (To invoke "Dave" here on this thread, where's the consistency!?)

Father Ron Smith said...

Bearing in mind the fact that this post is really about the place of women in the leadership of the Church, I shall, after this one point, not engage further with +Martin's egregious discourse on my theological capability, by drawing reference to his latest assertion, concerning his ecclesial status; in attaching a + (normally reserved for Bishops) before his name, as:

"a medieval touch which (as learned people know) means "a sinner under the cross", and is there to keep him humble".

Whether his assertion of 'keeping him humble' is true - or not - I will leave that to others to judge.

Saint Francis once implied in his discourses to his Brothers, that: "Learning can be a terrible burden to be overcome, which should be borne lightly, and without boasting".

Rosemary said...

I know this website has it's enemies, but this chap doesn't have their full approbation in his effort to answer the difficult question found in 2T2:15. I'd be interested in your reaction to it. http://www.cbmw.org/Journal/Vol-2-No-4/Saved-Through-Childbearing

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,
Kostenberger mounts a good argument.

I find it strange that having argued so strongly and comprehensively that 1 T 2:15 means women must be centred on their home-making role (in order to be preserved from spiritual danger) he suddenly introduces from nowhere in 1 Timothy the notion that this does not means their roles are limited to the home. I am sorry Rosemary but if Kostenberger is correct to that point in his paper then we need to urgently (because of spiritual danger) preach that all our women doctors, teachers, nurses, etc give up their work outside the home.

I don't think he is correct, which will be a relief to many women readers here, because he at best is speculating on the parallel between 1 T 2:15 and 4.14-15. It is a strange shorthand which anticipates rather than follows the longer version of an explanation.

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
Thanks for developing a considered response to my points. I understand it's a bit hard to have a detailed theological debate on a comments thread. I hope you'll understand if my responses are brief as well :)

Another preliminary - what I and many others are trying to do here is be faithful to Scripture, to follow the words of Christ and his apostles and apply them correctly to our context. I don't have an anti-women agenda, nor a desire to keep the church in the past or discriminate against women. I have benefited from the ministry of both men and women - ordained and lay, in parishes and outside. I hope all commenters here will recognise that and treat each other with respect and brotherly love.

I certainly agree with you that the world is a different place today and women have more opportunities, education, and skills for both "secular" work and ministry - praise God for that. As I've said before, women were part of ministry teams in the NT and hosted fellowships in their homes. If the argument in 1 Tim 2 was about lack of skills or education or a particular problem in the Ephesian church, I would gladly say that's not the same context as today and we can apply the teaching differently to us. But it goes back to the creation of men first, arguing that there is an additional responsibility for men in leadership. I'm not sure the point about deceivability means all women are liable to deception more than men - rather that Eve's deception has consequences for all women, as do Adam's for men. So, the principle seems to be additional male responsibility for the congregation. In our context, I don't think "silence" or "full submission" are required to implement that principle, but rather a male head of a ministry team with both genders. As for child bearing, that's a tricky verse, but I understand some interpreters take it as "birth of a child" ie Jesus, rather than saved through their child bearing.

In 1 Corinthians 11, I think it is applying the principle of "headship" to a particular cultural context, regarding length of hair. Notice the women can prophesy and pray, if they have long hair. (Notice too it says nothing about hats - just hair length!) We don't have that cultural issue, so we would apply the headship principle in a different way - having a man as leader of a both gender ministry team.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrew,
We could have a principle or an ideal that mixed ministry teams were led by a man with flexibility around exceptions to this. In practice there are parts of the evangelical world (as well as the whole of the Roman and Eastern worlds) where there is utter inflexibility: in absolutely every context imaginable a woman may never ever preach to a mixed gender congregation and never ever lead a ministry team, no matter how gifted, educated, blessed, faithful, true, and pure. This is an extraordinary absolutism to pin to the Bible whether basing it on 'headship' teaching (which is never clearly expounded but needs to be distilled and deducted from various passages) or on 1 T 2:12 as a universal rule.

You yourself here write about these passages in a manner which demonstrates the exegetical difficulties and thus uncertainties as to the meaning and application of 1 T 2 and 1 Cor 11.

So, I put it to you that a continuing insistence on constraining the ministry of women in leadership and teaching, based as it is on creaky foundations, must raise the question whether some prejudice or bias exists which is suspicious of women in their womenhood, against women being women, or fearful of what might happen if women lead.

Why, in the name of God who created humanity to be male and female, who redeemed men and women to be one in Christ can we not embrace, celebrate and foster the ministry of women in leadership and teaching?

To support women taking up leadership and teaching roles when they are gifted, equipped and qualified by character to do so does not in any way shape or form lessen the need of men in leadership and teaching to be responsible before God for the discharge of their duties.

Anonymous said...

Peter, I cannot keep playing your game of shifting goal posts and morphing questions. If you do not want to respond to me – that is your own decision and not dependent on my answering an ever-changing, unclear question. That you are unwilling to address my point does not surprise me, as I do not think you have a response to having one approach to heterosexuals and another to homosexuals. This has been my very point. Homosexuals are a convenient minority to apply some power dynamics which most would not dream of applying to women or heterosexuals. I have honoured the consistency of those here who do apply such consistently (Rosemary, Andrew)

For the record I quote your question again: “Now, could I please have an answer to my question about your understanding of what the church should do in response to the many divorced people presenting for remarriage. If you further avoid answering this question I shall consider that any need on my part to further respond to your comments here is at an end.”

I responded that the church should allow ordained ministers to be faithful to their personal conviction on this issue. This means some ordained ministers will never take a wedding of someone who has been divorced. Others will take such a wedding. I do not think that a person who continues to divorce and seek marriage again and again without limit should be blessed in church. I suggested, in such a case, seeking the wisdom of the Orthodox tradition of limiting it to three church weddings.

+Martin, I understand God’s mercy as much as Peter does, because if you look carefully, you will see that my phrasing is merely replicating his for a not dissimilar issue.

Dave

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Dave,
I suggest there is a difference between the clarity of your answer to the question just given in the comment above (a clear statement of what the church should do; yes, my question was about the church) and your answer above were, to be honest, speaking about what each minister should seemed to me to be about the convictions of others and not your own. I am none the wiser about your own personal convictions (would you or would you not remarry a divorced person ...) but I accept and acknowledge that you have answered the question. Thank you.

I wonder if the church will permit me to live with inconsistent personal convictions?!

Father Ron Smith said...

I do sometimes wonder, if there is an absolute barrier in the Holy Scriptures about women preaching to men, why on earth the Risen Jesus sent a woman - Mary Magdalene - to tell the Good News (Gospel) of his resurrection to the male disciples?

The disciples didn't believe Mary. Why? Because they, too, thought, that God would never give a woman that sort of ministry to men. I've heard of going 'back to the Bible', but surely, that's a bit too far?

Or - to the sola scriptura people - does that bit not count?

Rosemary said...

Hmm, sorry Peter, I should have made things clearer. I was interested in his discussion of the word ‘save,’ because I suspect it’s understanding that which might give us a clearer picture of this vexing verse.

You say .. “if Kostenberger is correct to that point in his paper then we need to urgently (because of spiritual danger) preach that all our women doctors, teachers, nurses, etc give up their work outside the home.”

Is that sarcasm Peter? It’s so hard to know when you can’t hear the voice inflexion, but that is domination Peter, the mistake that’s been made for centuries in the name of ‘protection.’ We must never forget freedom. That we all have the choice, all of us, women included Peter. The ultimate freedom is to choose to obey, just as the ultimate freedom is to choose to submit to His Lordship. You cannot take away that freedom, to do so is domination, not dominion.

You have spent part of your time on this board, [with too many posts on it now I suspect] asking and re-asking a commenter to reply to a question you put. I asked both you and Tim to answer a question too Peter, and neither of you did, although it would have been quite easy to say, “No, there is no explicit command to give women leadership positions in Scripture.” There are several specific commands in Scripture for women to consider, but I think the greatest of these is that we are created to be ‘helpmeet.’ An overwhelming honour. However all women need to consider this individually, think about our ‘freedom to choose’ to either submit and obey, or not. I quite understand the sheer frustration of looking at our male counterparts and thinking, “They’re doing such a shocking job.” However in my opinion, that doesn’t let us off the hook of considering that reason for creation. [continued]

Rosemary said...

You say .. “So, I put it to you that a continuing insistence on constraining the ministry of women in leadership and teaching, based as it is on creaky foundations, must raise the question whether some prejudice or bias exists which is suspicious of women in their womenhood, against women being women, or fearful of what might happen if women lead. Why, in the name of God who created humanity to be male and female, who redeemed men and women to be one in Christ can we not embrace, celebrate and foster the ministry of women in leadership and teaching?”

Chuckle .. sounds a bit like Eve in the garden of Eden doesn’t it? ‘Did God really mean…’ Please acknowledge Peter, that the basis for the beliefs you hold, are on equally ‘creaky’ foundations! There is no specific instruction or command, just your modern cultural imperative and recent acknowledgement that we [women] are indeed equal.

Ron said .. “Jesus sent a woman - Mary Magdalene - to tell the Good News (Gospel) of his resurrection to the male disciples? The disciples didn't believe Mary. Why? Because they, too, thought, that God would never give a woman that sort of ministry to men.”

[Sound of laughter fading into the distance.]

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary
No sarcasm intended: I am trying to make the point (which would be better with voice inflection accompanying it) that I just don't think 'preserve' (a la K'berger) is the right translation (which is no disrespect to a fine argument mounted for this proposal for a word which there is much argument over).

I apologise for not answering your question, pleading oversight in haste and not avoidance: Yes, I cannot think of a verse which commands women to take up leadership positions.

Yes, I agree, that in respect of what Scripture says, especially via stories with implied lessons, models, examples and applications, there are 'creaky foundations' for what I am arguing.

Apologies in advance if I am not taking up other matters you raise. I must fly ...

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron and Rosemary,
The serious point about the women witnessing to the resurrection is that women were given responsibilities by God in the apostolic era to spearhead the spread of the good news, responsibilities which included communicating the resurrection to men. Building out from the starting point of these gospel stories it is no surprise or deviation from the norm to find Priscilla working with Aquila to put Apollos right on a few things, or to come across Junia named as one of the apostles (and all in a glorious mix of men and women involved in leading the Roman churches), or to read of Paul urging Euodia and Syntyche to sort their differences, describing them as co workers in the gospel mission. We might add that John addressing one of his letters to the 'Elect Lady' is also of a piece with the significant role given to women in the first morning of the resurrection era.

Father Ron Smith said...

I feel that arguments trying to defend a primitive understanding of the role of women which would suggest that God, in the Church of today, would not harness the ministry of (suitable) women to take responsibility for leadership roles; are just based on prejudice, domination by men, or just plainly inoculated against understanding of evolution in the Church.

The horse has already left the stable. It now needs cleaning.

You're on your own now, Peter. There are none so blind as WILL NOT see.