Saturday, July 19, 2014

Radner on women bishops or, Why I am an evangelical!

Ephraim Radner offers a few thoughts at First Things on the ecumenical implication of the ordination of women bishops in the CofE. Mostly it is a standard canvassing of familiar issues: this is a nail in the coffin of formal unity between Rome and Canterbury, but not the only nail and in any case the body inside is "null and void". There is a sideways glance at Anglicans not agreeing to such ordination, including a prognostication re ACNA resiling from the ordinations it currently accommodates. The article ends with this:

"Without knowing how it will be parsed out, I can say that there is much of this acknowledgement, truth-facing, examination, and confession still to come among Anglicans and their brethren on the matter of women’s ordination and consecration to the episcopate. As on much else. Our work now is to determine how this will happen."
I think this means that Anglicans, Romans and Eastern Orthodox might one day speak honestly and/or change their minds (one way or t'other) and/or repent of what they have or haven't done re ordaining women. (But I am not sure ... your help in comments appreciated!)

My own take on these kinds of thoughts is "This is why I am an evangelical!"

An evangelical is a Bible-reading (so far so most Christians), Bible-respecting (so far not as many Christians as those who read the Bible), Reformation-influenced (so far every Protestant and Anglican), Reformation-keen (not all Anglicans, in my experience) believer who is for ever questioning things passed on as "tradition" or "reason" in the light of the Bible and who poses those questions with Reformation theology as a frame for the questions and as a lens for inspecting the putative answers, with a particular twist which asks "What the gospel of new life in Christ means for this generation?"

That last question, incidentally, brings out the 'evangelical' (i.e. gospel-orientation) in many Christians, as (to take a famous instance) we see happening in the current Pope.

So, I am not that keen on seeing doom and gloom, or simply yet further confusion on the ecumenical front as some are doing.

My keenness is on finding our what the gospel means today. If that means as we read the Bible we are overturning 1 year or 10 years or 1500 years or even 2014 years of tradition, or critiquing received or perceived reason, then so be it. As we find out the meaning of the gospel we should be finding it out as Christians. We should be, as the subtitle to Radner's article says, be 'Facing Truth Together.'

On the ordination of women, why think and write as though Anglicans are misreading the gospel? Our question to Romans and Eastern Orthodox (and to some of ourselves) is, Why do you persist in misreading the gospel?

Ecumenism is a global reading of Scripture together. But such reading comes from 'Facing Truth Together' rather than from (say) 'Presuming Tradition is True' or 'We will be "Together" Facing Truth when you agree with us'

An evangelical never presumes that a majority reading is right simply because it is a majority nor that the traditional or rational reading is right because it is traditional or because it is rational.

Some evangelicals might part company with me when I also say, conversely, that an evangelical ought not to dismiss a majority reading out of hand (the majority might be the church on the way to universal agreement; opposition to the majority might be over-emphasis on individualism), nor a traditional reading (since for the most part tradition is about the accumulation of universal readings of Scripture) nor a rational reading (since our ability to reason is part of God's gift of humanity).

What is important for an evangelical is that the truth of the gospel is found. Whether it is through affirmation of tradition or deconstruction of tradition matters little.

What matters is being faithful to Jesus, what he taught and what he did, upholding and proclaiming the news which he announced through word and deed. This is a whole Bible matter, not just a concern for the four gospels, because the law and the prophets enable us to understand what Jesus meant and the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles chart the way for  faithful understanding of the meaning of the gospel.

So, Yes, Ephraim, "acknowledgement, truth-facing, examination, and confession". But let it be a renewal of ecumenical relationships through a renewed reading of Scripture together, an evangelical ecumenism.

My own understanding of 'honest' (i.e. what people really think deep down) Roman thinking on ordination is that many Catholics are open to the ordination of women.

It might be that Anglican decisions are God speaking again to fellow Christians about what the gospel means for the ordering of our life together in the one - there is only one - body of Christ.

SINCE WRITING the above I have come across these two responses to the decision: English and Welsh Catholic and Russian Orthodox.

25 comments:

Glen Young said...

Hi Peter,
As a opening volley across your bows;let me seek clarification of
your on the 'Reformation keen'.
Does this include 'Contextualist
Theologians who are trying to fit the 'Word of God into today's world.
My understanding of the Word of God is that it is the 'Revelation once given to both a 'world which has been reconciled to the Father and sinful man who have been justified;through the life,death @ resurrection of Jesus Christ'.
As one looks back over human history, both throughout Biblical times and since;an emerging theme of rebellious man knowing better than God comes to the fore.In relative terms,does this not describe our history from the
'Enlightment through to the
modern secular society.
So how do we ever contextualise
the Word of God into a world which
is diameterically opposed to it?
I believe that the correct question here does concern woman's
human rights;but the competency of
their stewardship of His Church.
If one is to raise the issue of whether male leadershiphas been
incompetent;then the same question must be asked of womenI invite you to do an indepth sudy of the present Presiding Bishop of TEC(USA).
.

Glen Young said...

Hi Peter,A couple of typos in my
last post.
1/I believe that correct question does not concern woman's human rights;
2,.....must be asked of woman as well.I invite you......

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Glen
There is contextualisation and contextualisation.
One achievement of the Reformation was to contextualise the gospel into local languages instead of reserving it for Latin reading and speaking elites.
I assume you are not objecting to that!

Another achievement was to develop new contexts for presenting the gospel liturgically, so the BCP is a drastic revision of previously used liturgies (as well as being translated into English).
Again, I am assuming you are not objecting to that.

Fast forwarding to today, enlarging the ranks of ordained ministers to include women is a contextualising of the ministry into a world which is finally realising our humanity as both female and male created in the image of God and now one in Christ.

tachesterton said...

Another example of contextualization is the understanding by perhaps the majority of biblical scholars that when the lending of money at interest is condemned by the Old Testament authors (as it universally is), what is being condemned is not investment, or venture capitalism, but rather something more akin to payday loans at exorbitant interest rates. I understand that this particular piece of contextualization is particularly beloved of right-wing capitalists everywhere!

Tim

Jean said...

Hi Peter

Can't agree with you more on this post. I do not see at the local level any threat to ecumenical co-operation or unity. And there is a lot of ecumenical events now on the local level despite the 'politics' of theology at the top.

... the main tennants of belief in Jesus, his life, death and resurrection remaining the core connections between all christians and denominations as it should be.

Re seeking out the truth together on other issues with reference to scripture, yes indeed!

I did have to laugh at the post you referenced when the woman in question talked about how male ordaination as being found wanting...hence the effort to include women. Say what? Since when? What next?

It could be interesting if you got the opinion of Junko Preston. Since becoming a priest in the Anglican Church here (as you might know) she was instrumental in negotiating the ordination of women in her birth country Japan.

Blessings Jean

Glen Young said...

Hi Peter,
Thanks for the clarification.I would certainly not object to your
first two examples.
However,they are far different from what is meant commonly today,
by the use of the word.
Major issues arise,when we assume that we have come to some enlightment about the Scriptures
which the Apostles and Church Fathers did not obtain.
Hence,your last paragraph is interesting;"...is contextualising
of the ministry into a world which is finally realising our humanity as both female and male,created in the image of God
and now one in Christ."
Christchuch,must be a different world to Auckland.Here it would be
difficult to get that statement accepted in the Auck.Dio.Synod.
There would no doubt be a demand
to say"created in the image of a god' A great percentage of the
world in Auckland do not believe in the Christian God;let alone,
that female and male are one in Christ.
I think that you have somewhat of a task ahead of you,trying to establish that the present world has a greater valuation of of our fair sex;than did Moses,Solomon
(the Songs Of.)or St.Paul(Husbands,love your wives,even as Christ also loved the Church,and gave Himself for it.Eph 5/25.)
Most of the understanding of female/male relationships in this world;consists of secular and psuedo-scientific ideologies.In the final analysis,all these
'human rights' must be crucified as part of the 'old man'.
So any egalitarian vision of justice which comes about by man trying to turn the Word of God into ethical principles or systems is bound to fail.Bonhoeffer wrote a whole book on this very issue.

Father Ron Smith said...


"My own understanding of 'honest' (i.e. what people really think deep down) Roman thinking on ordination is that many Catholics are open to the ordination of women.

"It might be that Anglican decisions are God speaking again to fellow Christians about what the gospel means for the ordering of our life together in the one - there is only one - body of Christ." - Dr. Peter Carrell -

Dear Peter, couldn't agree with you more on this statement.

One problem with Roman Catholic understanding of the Gospel may be that it is not so long ago that Catholics in the pew were only aware of what the Bible says through the Lectionary Readings. They were rarely encouraged to discover the Bible for themselves. This came with the charismatic movement's influence in that Church, where the Faithful learnt to examine the Scriptures for themselves. Prior to this, R.C. doctrinal tradition ruled!

It is also true that the Roman Catholics I know - some of whom became Anglicans - are mostly in favour of women's ministry. They realise that the pool of young men wanting to join the priesthood is rapidly diminishing. The problem for them might be: Who will fill the gap? Women could be the only answer. Oh, wait a minute! What about married clergy? There's another departure from tradition.

The big question for all of us is; Where will future ministry come from - if not from the other half of the human race that is female?

Jean said...

Glen would the Auckand Diocesee truly have a difficulty with the verse, "created male and female in the image of God." - if so that is a bit concerning.

Actually one of the primary adovcates of human rights was a woman who after caring for her elderly mother and having a less than public life, had a vision of Christ on the Cross and followed her passion to stand up for children's rights. She campaigned after WWI for the reasonable treatment of German children after the war ended claiming they were no to blame for their parents actions (the first time it had been considered that children were not property).

She continued caring and advocating for war orphans and eventually ended up founding Save the Children. She then spent the later part of her life advocating the UN dedicate a special arm for children a.k.a. UNICEF.
But passed away before it happened. At the time she was concerned she would not (and she did not) live to see it through but was said to have realised with amusement that it being God's idea not her's meant it was His plan and He did not need her to see it through.

So the idea of human rights actually does have a christian back drop. Although some use it inappropriately in that the declaration of human rights is about basic rights, e.g. the right to food, to an education, to an opinion not about having the 'right' to do anything or justify anything we please.

Blessings Jean

Bryden Black said...

PC - “Why do you persist in misreading the gospel?”

My earlier (third) question re Motion 30 of our own GS, from the general article entitled “Sic et Non: Fudge or ~ Fudge”, was:
“how do people become sincerely mistaken? NB I do not say “are” mistaken; I am being resolutely historical here.”

This I sense Peter is a far better way of expressing the ecumenical stand off re WO. It also accords better with Radner’s subtitle, “Facing Truth Together”, and with his overall desires expressed in the article.

In relation to which, I’d also point out his concluding fourfold, “acknowledgment, truth-facing, examination, and confession” echoes forcibly Barth’s own definition of “faith”, viz. “acknowledgment, recognition and confession” - Church Dogmatics, IV.1, § 63 (as well as his own immediate context). In which light we may not view any notions of “truth” apart from the epistemic dimension of human faith.

That is furthermore to say neither Enlightenment notions of ‘certitude’ nor notions of ‘infallibility’ are really germane here - notwithstanding either the RCC or rump modernists! And yet at least the RCC does appreciate the real need for the element, “together”. Their catholicity is precisely what the AC has eschewed these past few years. “Consensus”, without any real effect, even among ecumenical relations, is not a synonym ...

To conclude, citing Janet Martin Soskice, in her contribution, “Naming God: A Study in Faith and Reason” in Griffiths & Hütter, eds, Reason and The Reasons of Faith, pp.241-254, at p.242: “The early modern crisis of knowledge was such that philosophy in many quarters became epistemology - the problem of knowledge. In retrospect, the anxieties about salvation that shook the late medieval church, although doubtless provoked by clerical corruption, indulgences, failed conciliar movements and so forth, had a good deal to do with uncertainty about everything. It is not clear that we are beyond the trauma of knowing yet.” (emphases original) It will be only as we Face Truth Together that we may heal the various traumas - re WO, or whatever else.

Glen Young said...

Hi Jean,
The point of my posting, was aimed at the notion of 'works without faith'.It is all too easy for the secular world to feel that it can salve its conscience by doing good works without having any foundational grounds to give them any reality.
My theology has been influenced by Bonhoeffer;hence my underlying theme that the reality of the world and of man, is rooted in the Heart and Mind of the Eternal Godhead.
So any belief, that our good works can make the world better; is to take our reality and the worlds reality out of the Eternal Godhead.Here,the the world,which was reconciled to the Father
through the life,death and resurrection of His Son;has now been made better by my goodness.
Therefore,any good works which do not originate out of our Costly Discipleship to Christ do not have
true reality.
blessings.

Jean said...

Hi Glen

Thanks for your post.

I agree the belief of being or acting 'good' is often used by people as a defense against acknowledgement of any sin in their lives, and as appropriating enough self merit to asway any guilt - such a foundation side-swipes the need for salvation.

I do not know if good works done aside from life with Christ contribute to making the world better. With this one must contend theologically if God is able to use people who do not yet serve Him as Lord for His purposes or not.

After our sermon yesterday on the parable of the weeds and the good seed it was apparent that only until the life is fully lived (the seed fully grown) can one truly determine if it is of the good seed planted by God, and of that only God is the judge at the harvest.

I recall a quote from Mother Theresa when a person turned up wanting to help and she asked them why. They responded to help out, do some good. Her reply was unless God has called you to this work you shall not be able to do it.

I have been meaning to read more of Bonhoeffer's writings when the brain space allows.

Blessings Jean

Father Ron Smith said...

"I do not know if good works done aside from life with Christ contribute to making the world better. With this one must contend theologically if God is able to use people who do not yet serve Him as Lord for His purposes or not. "

- Jean -

Plenty of evidence for this in the Bible, Jean. See the story of Cyrus, King of Persia.

Jean said...

... trying to be gracious and diplomatic Father Ron...

I think He does but my inference on this is based on stories such as you quote from the bible, there is the opposing summation I believe theologically of any acts not done 'in' Christ counting for nought in the end.

Glen Young said...

Hi Ron and Jean,
You quite correctly make the point of God using non-believers to achieve His Will.Many times,the
Prophets spoke of this.
But as oft as not,the non-believer would also come under God's judgement at' His Appointed Time'.
when one does God's Will, unintentionly,does it constitute 'GOOD WORKS'.Perhaps the nation of Israsile might not have seen their capture as good;though no doubt they would have seen being allowed to go home in the opposite light.
But,putting the question into today's context;are the 'good works'of non-believers sufficient for salvation? That their deeds might co-incide with God's Will;
is surely not the final critewria by which they are judged.

Jean said...

Hi Glen

The conclusion?

Unbelievere can do good works which are God's will and do make the world a bettter place to live, but the bible is clear on the point that good works alone are not sufficient for salvation.

Blessings Jean

Father Ron Smith said...

".In the final analysis,all these
'human rights' must be crucified as part of the 'old man'."
- Glen Young, July 20 -

You mean, Glen, like LGBTO rights are being 'crucified' in Nigeria, Uganda and now Brunei? And Women's Rights in many of our 'commonwealth' countries.

This type of 'crucifixion' of human rights you speak of, Glen, I'm pretty sure, would please neither God nor God's Redeemed in Christ. You seem to be advocating a sort of mock-Christian version of 'Sharia Law'- little different from fundamentalist Islamists.

Caleb said...

Here, here! Good explanation of what it means to be evangelical; I certainly agree and would be proud to call myself an evangelical on that description - though I probably don't know enough about the history of theology to say with absolute certainly that I'd agree with the part about Reformation theology.

Re: contextualisation, I heartily recommend Models of Contextual Theology by Stephen B. Bevans, in which Bevans looks at six different models for doing theology with reference to context. He suggests each is sometimes appropriate in different contexts. For the most part, the most appropriate model for our context seems to be the "counter-cultural model."

MichaelA said...

"On the ordination of women, why think and write as though Anglicans are misreading the gospel? Our question to Romans and Eastern Orthodox (and to some of ourselves) is, Why do you persist in misreading the gospel?"

Which is precisely the question that we orthodox evangelicals ask of you, Peter, "Why do you persist in misreading the gospel"?

"An evangelical never presumes that a majority reading is right simply because it is a majority nor that the traditional or rational reading is right because it is traditional or because it is rational."

Firstly, that is simply not true. Any evangelical who thinks that he or she does not presume this on a regular basis is simply deluding themselves. Its a normal way that all humans think.

Secondly, even in those cases where it is true, it is often used as an excuse. Wise evangelicals know that they are not the sole repository of wisdom. Therefore, if they are doing or believing something contrary to what the vast majority of Christians have believed in the vast majority of times and places, they ask themselves whether some aspect of their thinking might be fallacious. But note the qualifier: "wise".

MichaelA said...

Dr Radner writes:

"Certainly, it has been one of the sorrier aspects of North American Anglicanism that leading ordained women have been so roundly and predictably revisionist."

It may be "sorrier", but it is not in the least surprising. The same thing is about to happen in England.

Father Ron Smith said...

" And yet at least the RCC does appreciate the real need for the element, “together”. Their catholicity is precisely what the AC has eschewed these past few years"
- Dr. Bryden Black -

So, Bryden, is this the very same catholicity and convergence that is being questioned at this very moment in the Roman Catholic Churches around the world - in their questionnaire on doctrinal matters affecting the Faithful?

Even at this point of the self-examination, there are seen to be many points of difference about formerly de rigeuer doctrine.

There are many Catholics - especially in the third World - who do not see why contraception and married priests should not be allowed. These at the moment are fundamental points of doctrine, which at one time could never be breathed in public. Catholicity?

Bryden Black said...

I am fully aware of the so-called 39 Questions, Ron.

That said, I sense few people have really caught the point: Francis is indeed seeking great pastoral wisdom for the RCC of the opening decades of 21st C; and yet, he and others wld never rescind Humanae Vitae, which is utterly prophetic, IMHO, for example, just as they will never go back on the likes of JP 2's Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, I strongly suspect. Or are you unaware of the great popularizing work of Christopher West? The RCC’s Christian anthropology is just NOT a version of secular democratic liberalism!

As for married priests: this is of a different order. Otherwise RCC wld not be allowing married Anglican priests to remain with their wives when converting to the Ordinariate, for example (which I am unlikely to do, BTW!).

Meanwhile, the AC simply does not have the political structures - or perhaps even the will - to even resemble a catholic body politic any more. With the Covenant eschewed ... The difficulty with being in the midst of such historical upheavals is that we do not have the benefit of hindsight, of viewing the events say of 1562 - 1662, from 1665. How the Anglican franchise will look in 2030 is anyone’s guess.

Jean said...

Hi Michael

On the contrary I agree with Peter, you left out a following statement he makes on the blog:

"What is [most] important for an evangelical is that the truth of the gospel is found."

- more so than tradition, more so than rational conclusions such as the majority position/opinion is usually right.

Where is the biblical precedent for those seeking the truth siding with the 'majority' ?
In the rejection of the teaching of the prophets?
In the persecution of the early christians?
In Jesus's dismal of the Pharisees and church leaders as a brood of vipers?
In Job v's his friends and wife?
In the crucifiction of Christ our Lord?

Is it 'revisionist' to acknowledge the teaching, leadership and sacrifice of the early christians included Jews, Gentiles, Women, Men, Slave and Freeman?

Blessings Jean

Father Ron Smith said...

"Meanwhile, the AC simply does not have the political structures - or perhaps even the will - to even resemble a catholic body politic any more" - Dr. Bryden Black -

Perhaps the term 'contra mundum' might mean rather more than the conservative fundamentalisits understanding of the true foundations of Christianity, Bryden. The political aspect of Christian discipleship is not what holds us together. Our foundation is in Christ alone. He is the 'Rock of our Salvation' - Not the politicised groups of Christiands who each think they are the only 'Way, truth and Life'.

When I was baptised, I was baptised into Christ, not into a denomination with the limitations of a political agenda. Anglicanism is my room in God's House of Faith. My conscience is my own, and I bear that responsibility, in
Christ, in common with other people of similar conscience.

MichaelA said...

Hi Jean,

I don't agree that I left out anything relevant to Peter's post - my criticism remains the same as it was before.

You write:

"Where is the biblical precedent for those seeking the truth siding with the 'majority'?"

Since that is not what I have suggested, I do not see the relevance.

The points I made may be summarised thusly:

*You, Peter and others argue that the entire church has been wrong for most of its history, in understanding from scripture that only men can lead churches.

*It remains relevant to consider why all those Christians were right, and a small group of Christians at this particular time in history now claim to be right (which conveniently also happens to fit in with the secular spirit of the age). It raises the very real prospect that you and others like you are the ones deluding yourselves, not all those other Christians over the ages.

*This is directly relevant to the points you raised above - the only basis on which Jesus ever suggested that a majority were wrong about something was where they contradicted the clear teaching of scripture. He never followed the teaching that scripture can be ignored or bypassed because "conditions have changed". Rather, he taught the opposite - Scripture remains correct regardless of a change of conditions.

Father Ron Smith said...

Even when Scripture contradicts itself? YES? NOOOOOO!