Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What precisely is the reason for not ordaining women?

Amidst stimulating discussions here about the ordination of women I find myself continuing to be surprised by comments made here or on other sites I am reading.

In broad terms when a man offers for ordination all is well. A simple act of seeking the ordering of church in service of Christ. But when a woman offers all is bad. Let me count the ways.

- it is an act of seeking power or of being valued through ordination

- it is demeaning to women who do not seek ordination and implies that the only valued ministry is ordained ministry

- it is an act of disobedience to God whose will is clear that men and women have different roles in life

- it is theologically and christologically unsound since it has been revealed that Christ's eternal functional subordination is a model for the functional subordination of women to men*

- while there is no intrinsic problem with women running anything which involves authority or teaching over men (schools, hospitals, governments, etc), there is an intrinsic problem with a woman - no matter whether of sounder mind, education, grasp of doctrine, leadership skills - taking a leader role over men in the church

- we probably shouldn't be ordaining anyone, now we think about it, because there is no such thing as 'priests' separate from the priesthood of all believers

I continue to remain a man of simple amazement that the ordination of women is such a hornet's nest of problems and difficulties. It would be good to have a simple and straightforward reason for not ordaining women.

If you are tempted to supply one, please do not waste my time by suggesting it has anything to do with power, ambition, being valued, diminution of other women in ministry, clarity of roles for men and women (there simply is no such clear teaching in Scripture), an analogy to Christ's functional subordination whether that is eternal or otherwise (where in Scripture is the analogy impressed upon us?), or to some intrinsic problem with women so that while capable of running a government they are incapable of running the church. And let's not waste time on the priest/priesthood of all believers: no Anglican church is currently considering abolishing priests. These things are smokescreens, not least because they are not applied to men.

What precisely is the reason for not ordaining women in a church which ordains men?

PS It seems that my question here amidst a largely "Protestant" discussion is well-mirrored in this article about a Catholic conversation
---
*Believe it or not, I have even read (thankfully not here), that women will continue to be functionally subordinate to men in heaven!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

26 comments:

Mr. Mcgranor said...

Don't play the game of Protestant in parenthesis. You are what you are. Despite the identity complex of the eccentric Protestantism of Anglicanism. Followed by the subversion of the 'anglo-Catholic'. Which leads to pretending that secularization of Protestantism is actually Protestant. Because you want to be catholicity. People in hell either want ice water, or a hot drink; because its either cold as hell, or hot as hell. Either way, Scripture does not sanction women clergy. Only deaconess' and partnered husband and wife ministries--with the man as the head.

Andrei said...

What precisely is the reason for not ordaining women?

What precisely is the reason for ordaining women?

What are the fruits of this innovation where it has been applied?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrei
Notwithsatnding my anger at your approach, you have asked a question about fruit of ministry which is reasonable to ask.

The answer is simple: the fruits of women's ministry, like the fruits of men's ministry is on a spectrum. Good, bad and indifferent. I have come across food fruit from women's ministry in the two Dioceses I have served in. (For the particular, that is fruit of ordained and lay women's ministry).

MichaelA said...

We don't ordain women as presbyters or episkopoi because Christ and his Apostles did not do so, and they made it clear in their teaching why they did not do so.

And in the Anglican church in particular we also take note of the practice of the sub-apostolic church and the patristic church, which similarly did not ordain women as priests or bishops.

I don't know if that is one of the forbidden explanations that follow your words "please do not waste my time by suggesting it has anything to do with ..." - my apologies if it does. ;o)

Peter Carrell said...

(This is a revised comment originally posted at 9.18 am and relates to my comment at 9.21 am)

Hi Andrei
The reason for ordaining women is that they are called and gifted by God for this service.

I continue to be so amazed by the kind of response you give here that I get quite angry as I reflect on what it is about women that elucidates so many questions antagonistic to them being ordained. I continue to ask myself whether they are defective in some way that God cannot use them within ordained ministry when he can use men (frail and fallible though we are).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Michael,

When you say, "We don't ordain women as presbyters or episkopoi because Christ and his Apostles did not do so, and they made it clear in their teaching why they did not do so.

And in the Anglican church in particular we also take note of the practice of the sub-apostolic church and the patristic church, which similarly did not ordain women as priests or bishops." my response is that I do not find this to be an explanation that wastes my time. By respecting the tradition the emphasis is put on the tradition and not on the perceived or implied deficiencies of women in ordained ministry.

Nevertheless your response raises some questions: when did Jesus ordain the Apostles? Can we build a case from the few instances of laying on of hands on men in the New Testament to a case that no women was ordained through to a case that the ordination of women is forbidden? Are we bound by all apostolic and sub-apostolic trditions? (If so, why do we not support widows in the way suggested in 1 Tim, or have our men raise their hands in prayer. How do we encourage the women prophets in our midst and where are the head coverings that Anglican women routinely wear? In short: is the Anglican church "pick n mix" re ancient traditions?)

Shawn said...

We ordain women for the sane reason as we ordain men, because they are called by God.

Nowhere dies Scripture forbid this. Nowhere is there any absolute teaching that women cannot lead churches.

That Jesus chose twelve men to by Apostles is true. But, that is ALL scripture says. It does not anywhere say WHY. Thus any opinion as to why is mere conjecture, not Biblical teaching. I think it highly likely that the why had nothing to do with leadership in the Church, and everything to do with the symbolism of a renewed Israel; 12 sons, 12 tribes.

But that is just my opinion. Scripture does not say, and thus, from a strict Sola Scriptura pov, it is wrong to insist on that which Scripture does not.

I'll have a go at the Pauline issues in another post.

Shawn said...

Not to mention Peter the virulent anti-semitism that crops up in some of the Church Fathers.

Tradition is important, but bot authoritative.

Peter Carrell said...

Indeed, and the much loved Luther of The Reformation said some almost unforgivable things about Jews which are best not referred to. Merely appealing to the past or to authorities is not enough!

When referring to Scripture we need to take on board the whole counsel of God, which included women in roles we do not always talks about. Reading elsewhere I have been reminded of the First Apostle to the Samaritans.

Shawn said...

I also believe that the notion that the 12 were the first Bishops extremely dubious. This is not taught in Scripture.

In fact it is interesting that nowhere in Scripture does it say that the choosing of the twelve has anything to do with worldly or institutional leadership and authority, or for that matter, authority over the Church. The word Apostle as the NT actually uses it is far closer to our understanding of the word missionary than it is to Bishop. The only authority mentioned is over evil spirits, and in fact the charismatic dimension of the work of Apostles is often (conveniently?) overlooked.

How many of those churches that insist women cannot lead also reject the clear Biblical teaching on charismatic gifts and spiritual warfare?

Kurt said...

Well argued, Peter. (And Shawn, too, surprisingly).

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

MichaelA said...

Hi Peter,

My apologies I won't get much time on the computer today, but thank you for questions from you and Shawn and others, and just wanted to say I will respond in due course. Briefly for now:

"when did Jesus ordain the Apostles?"

If you mean 'ordain as Apostles', I can get the verses but there are many of them and I will do that later. But if you mean, 'ordain as elders (priests)', I doubt that he ever did - why bother, when the office of Christ's apostles held far more authority than any priest? Note: they are the foundation of the Church, which is: “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” [Ephesians 2:20]. Special revelation is given only to them: “In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets”. [Ephesians 3:4-5]. And Peter writes that Christ gives us his commands through them: “I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Saviour through your apostles.” [2 Peter 3:2].

"Can we build a case from the few instances of laying on of hands on men in the New Testament to a case that no women was ordained through to a case that the ordination of women is forbidden?"

As you may notice from my post on the other thread, I don't work from the instances of laying on of hands. I suppose that might be relevant, but I work from the instances of conferring authority in the church.

"Are we bound by all apostolic and sub-apostolic trditions?"

We are bound by apostolic traditions, since the apostles were endowed with supreme authority in the church (see verses above). But they have to be properly understood. e.g. there are more than 20 attitudes adopted in prayer in the Bible (prostrate, beating the breast, standing, etc)and I don't read Paul as saying that the only one men can use is lifting their hands - rather, his emphasis in that passage is on 'holy' hands. Re women prophets - just encourage them - the only restrictions I can see in scripture are on the exercise of authority, and in the use of prophecy generally in the assembly(e.g. 1 Corinthians re doing everything in good order).

I can't see any direction by Christ or his apostles that we are to be *bound* by sub-apostolic traditions - they are not decrees of the apostles. But in practice we take a great deal of notice of the practice of the sub-apostolic church - they were in this before we were. I believe that is the attitude that Cranmer and the other Anglican reformers took when formulating the prayer book and articles - they went first to the scriptures, then to the fathers, then to the 'old doctors'.

MichaelA said...

I have escaped from other duties for a while, so here is a further response, this time to Shawn who wrote:

"In fact it is interesting that nowhere in Scripture does it say that the choosing of the twelve has anything to do with worldly or institutional leadership and authority, or for that matter, authority over the Church."

Please see my reference above to Ephesians 2:20, Ephesians 3:4-5, and 2 Peter 3:2. The office of apostle had everything to do with authority. In this context, your reference to the doctrine of sola scriptura is apposite, because the very foundation of sola scriptura is the unique authority conferred on the apostles.

"Nowhere dies Scripture forbid this. Nowhere is there any absolute teaching that women cannot lead churches."

I respectfully disagree. I will cross-post my references from another thread which you may not have seen:

The issue is the exercise of authority. In 1 Timothy 2:11-15, Paul says that he does not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man. Immediately after that (1 Timothy 3:2) Paul says that an episkopos must be "a man with one woman", i.e. a husband with only one wife. In 1 Timothy 5:17, Paul refers to the "elders who direct the affairs of the church", and they are male. In Titus 1:5, Paul gives a similar list of qualifications for an elder (presbyteros) which includes the same qualification: he must be "a man of one woman".

These explicit teachings are consistent with what we see in the rest of the New Testament: Jesus appointed only men to head the church, and commissioned only men to wield authority in it (see numerous references re the Twelve). The great commission was given initially only to men, i.e. the Eleven (Matt 28:16-20). When it came time to choose a new member of the Twelve, the apostles under inspiration of the Holy Spirit considered only men (Acts 1:21). At Pentecost, all the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit, but only Peter and the Eleven preached to the crowd (Acts 2:14). The new church then devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles (Acts 2:42). When we are given the list of five leaders in the church at Antioch, they are all men (Acts 13:1).

When deacons were required, all those chosen were men (Acts 6:3, 5-6). The scriptures later give us specific permission for female deacons (Romans 16:1, 1 Timothy 3:11) but they never give any such provision for female priests or bishops.

Peter Carrell said...

Except it is not quite as clear as all that, Michael, that it is an immutable law that women shall not be presbyters or bishops.

There is ambiguity as to whether Junia was among the 'apostles'; Priscilla and Aquila exercise a role which seems presbyteral even if the term is actually used; Lydia is the first leader of the church at Philippi; who is the 'elect lady' of 2 John; what role did the women leaders of the house churches of Rome play; what does it mean that Euodia and Syntyche are fellow workers with Paul (who seems to be bishop, elder, deacon and apostle rolled into one)?

Finally, has 1 Timothy set down an immutable set of church rules for all times, seasons, cultures and places? If so, where are men raising their hands when praying in public and what is being done about widows in churches these days?

And why am I not being paid double my fellow ministers!?!?!

Shawn said...

Thanks Michael for a robust and Biblically grounded critique of my post. Not that I agree of course, but it is always good for these debates to be conducted out of a love for God's Word and based on deep Biblical exegesis, rather than mutual accusations of character flaws.

Like you I am somewhat pressed fir time. I have just learn't that my 12 yo niece is going to have to go Starship Childrens Hospital for heart surgery because of a hole on the top of her heart, so I am preoccupied with that concern.

I will endeavor to make a reply that does justice to your post on the next 12 hours or so.

Blessings.

MichaelA said...

"There is ambiguity as to whether Junia was among the 'apostles';

Even if that were so, how does ambiguity help your case?

"Priscilla and Aquila exercise a role which seems presbyteral even if the term is actually used"

It seems to me that Scripture goes out of its way to show how their role is not presbyteral! But if you think there is something in the passage I have missed, I would be happy to hear it.

"Lydia is the first leader of the church at Philippi;"

She is? I can't see anywhere in scripture that even hints at that. Rather, the verses about Lydia are consistent with the position I have outlined.

"who is the 'elect lady' of 2 John;"

I don't understand the relevance of this?

"what role did the women leaders of the house churches of Rome play"

What women leaders?

"what does it mean that Euodia and Syntyche are fellow workers with Paul (who seems to be bishop, elder, deacon and apostle rolled into one)?"

You have actually supplied your own answer – Paul described many as his fellow workers, and that mere fact did not imply that they shared in any of his authority.

"Finally, has 1 Timothy set down an immutable set of church rules for all times, seasons, cultures and places?"

1 Timothy is scripture and therefore applicable for the church at all times and in all places. But like all scripture it has to be understood on its own terms.

"If so, where are men raising their hands when praying in public and what is being done about widows in churches these days?"

I do not see Paul in 1 Timothy denying that men can use any of the 20 or so modes of prayer set out in the bible – the emphasis in that passage is on the 'holy'. As for widows, what in Paul's words makes you think that he is directing that widows have to be looked after the same way in every church?

Janice said...

In the comments reference has been made to "the sub-apostolic church and the patristic church" with the claim that these did not ordain women as priests or bishops.

But then there's "The Hidden History of Women's Ordination: Female Clergy in the Medieval West" (OUP) by Gary Macy.

Here is the abstract.
For the first twelve hundred years of Christianity, women were ordained into various roles in the church. References to the ordination of women exist in papal, episcopal, and theological documents of the time, and the rites for these ordinations have survived. Yet, many scholars hold that women, particularly in the Western church, were never ordained. A survey of the literature discussing the ordination of women in Western Christianity reveals that most of these scholars use a definition of ordination to determine whether earlier references to the ordination of women were “real” ordinations that would have been unknown in the early Middle Ages. In the early centuries of Christianity, ordination was the process and the ceremony by which one moved to any new ministry (ordo) in the community. By this definition, women were ordained into several ministries. Four central ministries of episcopa (women bishop), presbytera (women priest), deaconess and abbess are discussed in detail in order to demonstrate particularly the liturgical roles women performed in the early Middle Ages. A radical change in the definition of ordination during the 11th and 12th centuries not only removed women from the ordained ministry, but also attempted to eradicate any memory of women's ordination in the past. The debate that accompanied this change has left its mark in the literature of the time. However, the triumph of a new definition of ordination as the bestowal of power, particularly the power to confect the Eucharist, so thoroughly dominated western thought and practice by the thirteenth century that the early definition of ordination was almost completely erased. (Emphasis mine.)

As for "What precisely is the reason for not ordaining women?" Macy concludes that back then,
Four factors contributed to the change. The Gregorian Reform Movement with its insistence on celibacy introduced a new and more virulent form of misogyny into Western Christianity. Roman law was read selectively to enforce the idea that women were incapable of leadership roles in the church. The biology and politics of Aristotle, newly introduced in the West, asserted that women were biologically and intellectually inferior to men. Theologians read scripture as supporting the assumptions of Roman law and Aristotle concerning the inferiority women and Eve in particular become the scapegoat for the Fall. No one cause seemed determinative in relegating women to an inferior status, but rather a concatenation of several mutually reinforcing factors.

It's available at Amazon, including in a Kindle edition. I might get myself a copy for Christmas once I figure out how to use the thing.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Michael,
My general point remains that the ways in which women figure in the NT development of the church opens the possibility of determining that taking the whole NT the case is not made decisively that many centuries later the ordination of women is ruled out.

Among the list of objections you raise I see the list of women in Romans 16 (a letter which makes no instruction re who/which gender should be leader) women feature prominently in a way which suggests they were among the elders of the Roman churches - particularly we might focus on Prisca and Aquila in whose house a church meets (and elsewhere in Acts we see Prisca teaching a man); Junia who may be counted an 'apostle' (but, I recognise, may not); and on Julia and the sister of Nereus who seem to be leaders of a church, "all the saints with them."

As for your reading of 1 Timothy, if you are going to read the urging, pressing and instructing of Paul in that way about men and widows, why not about women. You illustrate my general point through these posts: there is a bias which God doesn't share against women being ordained. Our bias should be for women being ordained, and our delight should be in working from what Scripture offers us as signs that in the apostolic church the prominence of women was at odds with their lack of prominence today.

Would Paul writing to the churches of Sydney today reel off a list of women in his greetings as readily as he did to the Roman church?

Anonymous said...

Janice makes a vigorous case for the restoration of the medieval practice of "ordaining" acolytes, exorcists and door-keepers.

What can one say but: Deus le vult! Next year in Jerusalem!

But don't stop there. Bring back the auto da fe too!

Martin

MichaelA said...

Janice, reading Macy's book (as opposed to an abstract, i.e. an extremely general summary) is a very good idea.

MichaelA said...

"particularly we might focus on Prisca and Aquila in whose house a church meets"

Hi Peter, I notice at a number of points you seem to assume that if a church meets in the house of a person, that person must have been the leader of the church - why do you make that assumption? I have been a member of a number of house churches and small groups over the last 40 or so years, and that has rarely been my experience. But in any case, why assume that it was so in the first century?

"(and elsewhere in Acts we see Prisca teaching a man)"

Yes we do: in company with her husband, and not in the assembly - they took care to invite him to their home.

"and on Julia and the sister of Nereus who seem to be leaders of a church, "all the saints with them"."

Don't you think that is a rather selective summary? Here is the verse:

"Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the Lord’s people who are with them." [Romans 16:15]

We therefore have three men and two women mentioned, one of the men is mentioned first, and nothing is said about leadership at all.

"As for your reading of 1 Timothy, if you are going to read the urging, pressing and instructing of Paul in that way about men and widows, why not about women."

Because I read Paul according to what he actually says! There is no point in reading things into scripture that just aren't there.

"Our bias should be for women being ordained..."

Why? You have never given a reason for this. You give the impression that you can't value women's ministry unless they are ordained. Does that mean that you don't value my ministry?

"Would Paul writing to the churches of Sydney today reel off a list of women in his greetings as readily as he did to the Roman church?"

Without a shadow of a doubt. In greeting people, Paul is not motivated at all by whether they are leaders of congregations - or would you disagree? Why is it so important that a person must be a priest or a bishop before they can be valued?

And, why did you even ask that question - what assumptions have you made about women in Sydney? (to explain my interest: one of them gave birth to me, two are my siblings, I am married to another, father to three more and grandfather to one, so far)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Michael,
I shouldn't assume that the women in Rome were leaders but I think you shouldn't assume that they were not leaders. Was the host only the host in a modern sense, "Yeah, sure, you can use my home for your study group"?

Prisca taught a man. It cannot have been too private because we know about it. Was her teaching more correct because her husband was with her? Was some defectiveness in her as a teacher of a man overcome because Aquila was there? She taught a man: no curse of Eve was upon her teaching!

It is not at all important that a person must be a bishop or a priest before they are valued. What is important is that if men can be bishops and priests, women can be too: because the essence of the respective offices is in people serving God and other people. If men can hold the offices and women cannot, women are entitled to know what the reason is, and to make a judgement as to whether it is a good reason.

Possibilities:

(1) God said they cannot be and that is it. (That doesn't help us understand why God said it).

(2) God said they cannot because they are defective in some way compared to men (that, at least, is a possible implication of 1 Tim 2:12-15). If so, might women be free to feel ever sol slightly devalued in God's sight?

(3) God said they cannot because that is not their role which is to be mums (that, at least, is a possible implication of the much discussed 1 Tim 2:15). If so, does that value women who cannot bear children?

The reason why I asked the question about the women of Sydney is that one of the ways in which people come to prominence in the life of the modern church is through ordination (just stating a fact, not saying it should be so). So I know the names of plenty of ordained men in Sydney through reading Sydney news, but know of very few women (lay or diaconally ordained). If ordination recognises the contribution a leader is making in the life of the church (not to "value" them but to set them apart decisively and publicly in the direction in which God is taking them) then I would expect that an analogous letter to the churches of Sydney would feature ordained women alongside ordained men.

(I am not assuming that Sydney women are not involved in ministry: they are. I am assuming that their comparative invisibility might have something to do with the refusal of the Diocese to order the ministry of women presbyterally or episcopally. Before you reply, could you pause and see if there are any Sydney women who might like to comment about their comparative invisibility? There are quite a few men speaking here about the ministry of women!)

Janice said...

Janice makes a vigorous case for the restoration of the medieval practice of "ordaining" acolytes, exorcists and door-keepers.

No. Michael A has said that there were no "episcopa (women bishop), [or] presbytera (women priest)" in the, "the sub-apostolic church and the patristic church".

I merely pointed to a book that says there were.

MichaelA said...

"Before you reply, could you pause and see if there are any Sydney women who might like to comment about their comparative invisibility?"

No I won't Peter. I am tough enough to put up with things that get said on blogs, but whether someone else joins any blog is a matter for them.

You might want to contact Claire whats-her-name who was the first to move to quash that order in Sydney Synod. But I don't move in those circles - perhaps try David Ould?

Anonymous said...

"Janice makes a vigorous case for the restoration of the medieval practice of "ordaining" acolytes, exorcists and door-keepers.

No. Michael A has said that there were no "episcopa (women bishop), [or] presbytera (women priest)" in the, "the sub-apostolic church and the patristic church".

I merely pointed to a book that says there were."

And I merely pointed out that the Western Catholic church "ordained" a lot of people for doing caretaking and liturgical tasks (I should have included 'lector') in parish churches which were never part of Anglicanism and the Catholics have themselves abolished. I seriously doubt the claims of this book, just as I (correctly) doubted Boswell's claim about 'same-sex blessings' in the Middle Ages.
Martin

Mark said...

Hi Peter,

If you are tempted to supply one, please do not waste my time by suggesting it has anything to do with power, ambition, being valued, diminution of other women in ministry, clarity of roles for men and women (there simply is no such clear teaching in Scripture), an analogy to Christ's functional subordination whether that is eternal or otherwise (where in Scripture is the analogy impressed upon us?), or to some intrinsic problem with women so that while capable of running a government they are incapable of running the church.

Heh, you ask for a statement of the reason but the context of that request - what I have just quoted - suggests that you are not going to accept any reason given.

You already know the kind of reasons why people are opposed to women's ordination and disagree with them. You don't just disagree with them, you display animus towards those reasons, and dismiss them.

Why then seek further reasons? Do you seriously think that somehow there is a reason out there that will convince you or that you might respect that you haven't heard yet?