Friday, February 26, 2010

When Anglicans read Scripture ...

... we do so, or should do so with due care and humility. Thus, for instance, our orders of ministry (bishop, priest, deacon) we understand to be consistent with Scripture but not required by Scripture (and thus we acknowledge the valid claims of, say, Presbyterians to assert that their ministry orders are also consistent with Scripture). We follow the practice of baptizing the infants of believers because we understand this to be consistent with Scripture, an ancient practice of the church, and a sacramental action justified by theological argument of the Reformers. But we are not so silly as to assert that we are commanded directly and unequivocably in Scripture to so baptize.

Thus when we examine the question of 'headship', taken up in some comments below on my post A Successful Model of Ministry, particularly as Anglicans, we might ask careful questions of Scripture as to whether the principle of male headship is a principle required by Scripture or simply consistent with Scripture.

Here are some Scriptural facts which the principle of male headship as an organising principle for church life seems to overlook:

(1) In 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 the argument Paul weaves with reflections on God/Christ, Christ/man, man/woman leads to this conclusion, "Judge not for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? (11:13-15, ESV). Nothing is said here about leadership in the church, nor about women not preaching/teaching to a mixed gender congregation (indeed, it is presupposed in 11:5 that women will be praying and prophesying in mixed gender congregations). Further, as a matter of experience, the specific practice Paul urges here, women having covered heads and long hair, is not followed in most Anglican churches today, including most Anglican churches asserting the principle of male headship.

(2) In 1 Timothy 2:1-15 nothing is said about male headship in church or in the home.

(3) In Ephesians 5:21-33 it is clearly stated that 'the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church' (v. 23 ESV), but nothing in this passage (or its near equivalent in Colossians 3:18-19) mentions male headship in congregational life. In both Ephesians 5:23 and Colossians 1:18 the clear, direct, unequivocal statement about the 'head' of the church is that Christ is the head of the church.

That the combination of texts cited in (1) - (3) above is consistent with the principle of male headship as an organising principle for congregational life is not in doubt. But it is simply not the case that this principle is required by Scripture in general, or these passages in particular. Let's state this another way: nowhere in Paul's letters, and certainly not in 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy or Titus, is there a sustained theological argument aimed towards the singular conclusion that human heads of congregations must be male.

Further, it is exceedingly strange that the one thing these passages push very close to requiring* in respect of church life, the covering of the heads of women and that their hair be long (and men's hair be short) in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, is not required in many of the churches of God these days. Actually I know no Anglican congregations where this is required. (*I say 'push very close to requiring' because Paul himself in 1 Corinthians 11:16 seems to hold back from saying 'this must happen'). On what basis is this clear outcome of the passage minimised and the unclear deduction of the principle of male headship maximised?

(As an aside, it is worth noting that in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 Paul mounts a powerful theological argument for a custom in respect of clothing and hair length, which most of us feel free to ignore in a time and place which is different to first century Corinth, but in 1 Timothy 2:12-15, when evangelicals raise the question whether the ruling drawn from this passage (Woman may not teach or rule men) applies beyond the particularities of ancient Ephesus, evangelicals adhering to the principle of male headship insist that Paul's supporting theological argument (i.e. 1 Timothy 2:13-14) means we cannot ignore the ruling!?)

Back to the principle of male headship as an organising principle for congregational life: it may be claimed as a principle which is consistent with Scripture; it may not be claimed as a principle required by Scripture.

Finally there is this consideration: as the principle of male headship is being applied in Anglican churches we are finding these developments in practice. (1) An absolute law that no woman may ever or in any circumstance teach or lead a mixed gender congregation. (That is, the application of the principle is not (say) 'Ideally congregations would be led and taught by men, but we acknowledge that in practice it is hard to achieve this in all congregations on all Sundays of all years'. No, it is an absolute prohibition.) (2) A response to our time in which women are being educated theologically and upskilled practically in the arts of teaching and leadership whereby women's conventions are being organised at which the best of women speakers speak to women. Ironically this means that there are women speakers emerging with well recognised gifts of teaching and leadership, including the ability not present in all teachers, of holding a large audience, yet whose gifts are not transferred into mixed gender congregations.

The simple question to ask of Scripture is this: if the principle of male headship is not required of Scripture, on what other basis may we understand 'I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man' to be an absolute ruling governing the life of the church in every time, place, circumstance and culture. Is it conceivable that Paul the affirmer of Phoebe, Prisca, Euodia, Syntyche and Junia, as well as the acknowledger of women praying and prophesying audibly in congregational worship, intended his ruling in 1 Timothy 2:12 to mean that an able female teacher of Scripture in the twenty-first century - so able, for instance, that she can speak profitably to hundreds of women at a convention or can write down her teaching clearly and convincingly in pamphlets or books accessible to men and women - could never, ever teach a mixed gender congregation?

I will only permit comments arguing against this post from members of churches where women have long hair covered when they worship :).


Tim Harris said...

Peter, you are proving to be much too much of a distraction to be healthy for my working life ;-)

Quick comment at this point - I'll come back later to engage with you further.

For women to wear their hair down was a culturally provocative statement of flouting conventions of 'shame' - and sexually provocative to boot. It was equivalent to women exposing their arms in Muslim society, or for women to be going topless (or near topless) in today's western culture.

Hopefully, these are not practices encouraged in today's Anglican churches - although at times one wonders ;-)

Tim Harris said...

A quick point of clarification in my comment above - and it is actually intended as a serious analysis of the passage.

For a woman to present herself with her hair down in public was an overt statement that "I'm available sexually". For a wife to do so was to shame her husband, for it was an obvious slur on their relationship.

Why would Paul need to exhort the men and women as he does in Corinth? Two clues: one, there is well attested evidence of the equivalent of a 1st century feminist movement, especially in upper rank circles, that was indeed flouting social decorum, on the basis of 'if the men can do it (be sexually promiscuous at parties), then so can we"

There is also evidence, however, (and I think this more likely the scenario), of women's groupings dressing in more 'hippy' manner as an expression of their freedom, and especially as related to women's prophetic type groups. I think it likely that women were living out their new-found freedom in Christ by relaxing their adherence to societal norms - perhaps with the best of intentions - and not giving thought to this being read as the christians adopting the 'feminist' antics associated with the socially elite - and thus bringing shame upn the church.

Notably, Pul does not restrict in this passage WHAT women do - their roles, but HOW they do so. They can minister in their own right as females, respectful of their relationship with their husbands, and with their own authority (v.10), not as de facto males.

In any event, that's my take on it - very much in summary form. I don't believe the passage is basically all about 'headship', but about living out an inter-dependance in Christ (vv. 11-12) in such a way that respects one another and brings glory to God

Peter Carrell said...

Don't worry Tim. It will be my last post on this subject area for a while.

Rosemary Behan said...

If I dare to answer with my short hair!!!!

Thank you Peter, now we’re getting down to the nitty gritty I asked for a few posts ago. I can’t remember whether the phrase ‘required by Scripture or simply consistent with Scripture’ is in the Eames report or not. If not, perhaps it should be?

I think you are still being a little unfair to those who hold my position, for the following reasons.

1. We do NOT make the case primarily from the letters in the New Testament. We start in Genesis and note God’s original plan, make strong note of the fact that Jesus [God] did not choose female Apostles, and THEN go to the letters in the New Testament. You have ignored those premises, but I thank you for the clarity you have given here.

2. We work and live with the reality of both women as priests and women as Bishops. We have done nothing to overturn that. What we ask is, in view of the fact that YOUR point of view is not REQUIRED by Scripture, can we be, not only welcome members of this church, but actively encouraged. I think that would probably be demonstrated by ‘preferment’ which as John Richardson has pointed out, is not given.

You go on to point to two things that result .. you say .. from those who hold our point of view. May I do the same? In other words, point to some of the results in our own province of those who hold your point of view being ‘in charge’ so to speak. First however, I will endeavour to point to a big mistake in your own conclusions

1. To use the phrase ‘absolute prohibition’ is preposterous. Men are not prohibited from attending meetings led by women. As you point out, men are welcome and encouraged to read the opinions of women. In fact I want to laugh out loud it is so preposterous. Do you honestly believe that men and women in churches such as ours never debate theological matters? Do you know that we do Bible Studies together and women do NOT keep quiet about their views. Making remarks like these Peter leads people to conclude that we are entirely misogynistic, that women have no place in our communities .. that is not true, and I would be grateful if you would put that right.

Now to the results that WE see..

1. Those who hold our point of view are not advanced in our church. They can keep the office they hold, but can go no further. Indeed, they are no longer accepted as candidates for ordination in any other Diocese of New Zealand than Christchurch, presumably so that this point of view will die out. This is a deliberate plan by those who lead our church. A strong accusation I know, but I stand by it. If as you say, your position is not ‘required’ by Scripture, then it is NOT what I refer to as a ‘first order’ issue. So what reason is given for this? If there is a valid reason, it MUST be stated so that honesty [truth] is seen to be the basic requirement and we can then deal with the fall out.

2. Those who hold our point of view are very aware of the cultural expectations of our society with regard to the equality of men and women, and agree. We too believe in the total equality of the human race, both male and female. But God .. but Scripture .. but we also happen to believe that God has decreed a certain ‘order’ in His Creation, and we attempt [with huge failings like everyone else] to be obedient to what we understand and believe. We positively CELEBRATE women with the gifts you speak of .. and many more. We positively CELEBRATE the fact that the previous Diocesan Manager is part of our parish for instance. But have those who do not hold our view held us in high esteem? Have you celebrated the fact that God doesn’t make two blades of grass the same? That so many men and women are nurtured and cared for in this part of God’s Kingdom? Are we welcome Peter? My experience .. nearly 19 years worth in this parish .. says no .. and that is in my opinion, unchristian, intolerant and marginalises the many women who believe as I do.

Dave Clancey said...

Hi Peter
I’ve been following a few of these posts for a while now - thanks for your work thinking on these issues. And as one who does have someone in their congregation (albeit only occasionally) who does wear a head covering during worship (and has long hair, I might add), I meet your criteria to comment!

It’s helpful, I think, to couch the issue in the way you do - the two illustrations you give (different types of orders of ministry and the timing of baptism) are apt. For Scripture does require both (ministry and baptism) - what is debated is how we go about implementing them.

All in all I find it greatly encouraging to read your comment that “the principle of male headship as an organizing principle for congregational life is not in doubt.” And that to hold such a view is ‘consistent with Scripture’.

I guess I’d want to question a couple of points - while Paul doesn’t refer to ‘headship’ in 1 Tim 2 in church or home, he does clearly see a order or taxis in familial relationships (Col 3:18, Eph 5:22 - as does other parts of the NT - 1 Peter 3:1). And Paul specifically does identify the church as God’s household (1 Tim 3:15) and regularly employs family language (brother/sister language) and compares church relationships to family relationships (1 Tim 5:1-2).

I think you might be slightly unfair to say that those churches which do want to put this scripturally consistent idea of male headship into practice therefore have ‘[a]n absolute law that no woman may ever or in any circumstance teach or lead a mixed gender congregation.’

Also, I wonder if the idea that there isn’t ‘a sustained theological argument aimed towards the singular conclusion that human heads of congregation must be male’ is the best way to argue. There are a number of issues that don’t have a ‘sustained theological argument’ in Scripture - that doesn’t mean that we can’t draw theological conclusions from the data we do have (the strength of those conclusions being commensurate with the certainty of the data).

And I guess that’s exactly what you’ve done - had a look at the data and come to your conclusion - that is, that there is a principle in Scripture of male headship for congregational life. But because there are other data which might raise questions as to the ‘absoluteness’ of this principle, you don’t want to say the male headship is ‘required’. I think that’s why some might call this a ‘second order’ issue - there is room for disagreement - but those who wish to promote male headship can be assured that they are being consistent with Scripture.


Anonymous said...

Rosemary is correct. Those who hold to the majority view throughout the Church and Christian history have been marginalized by church politics and decision making and denied preferment. John Richardson is absolutely clear that this has happened in England,as it has in NZ, and is totally dominant in North America. What Peter might call a 'second order issue' - and not one that is evident at all in the NT on in over 1900 years of church history - has now been elevated to a first order issue deermining whether a man is fit to serve as a presbyter or bishop.
This is the point that Peter does not seem to see, although he has moved closer to examining the dynamics of family and congregational life in the NT.

Anonymous said...

Tim writes:
"Notably, Pul does not restrict in this passage WHAT women do - their roles, but HOW they do so. They can minister in their own right as females, respectful of their relationship with their husbands, and with their own authority (v.10), not as de facto males."

Absolutely right. NT women prayed, worshiped, taught their children, shared their faith. But they didn't lead congregations.

Anonymous said...

I hope you are jesting when you say that this will be the last post in this series.

I have been particularly looking forward to your post on your belief that Christa the Daughter of God could have saved us as easily as Christ the Son of God. Soteriology is intimately bound to ecclesiology and I am looking forward to your Biblical exposition of your belief that a woman can be head and representative of the household as much as a man. So I do hope you will renege on your statement and continue this series, especially about Christa.

I think you press your points too far. Anglicans may “acknowledge the valid claims of, say, Presbyterians to assert that their ministry orders are also consistent with Scripture” – but Anglicans in fact do not actually accept that Presbyterian orders are valid. Your convoluted sentence may hide that important point.

“[Anglicans may not be] so silly as to assert that we are commanded directly and unequivocably in Scripture to so baptize” - but Anglicans in fact do not actually accept that unbaptized are members of God’s church. Your sentence may again be hiding that important point.

Your posts and comments repeatedly underscore the inadequacy of the Bible in answering significant questions. You are using the Bible to depart from the majority and historical Christian position on women. Others are using the Bible to depart from the majority and historical Christian position on homosexuals. The list could go on.

In order for the possibly very helpful conversation with Rosemary not to get lost, could she please clarify what her position actually is: she appears to accept women priests and bishops, but also hold to the opposite position at the same time.

Tim Harris said...

Helpful contributions all round, offered in good spirit.

Rosemary states:

"We do NOT make the case primarily from the letters in the New Testament. We start in Genesis and note God’s original plan, make strong note of the fact that Jesus [God] did not choose female Apostles, and THEN go to the letters in the New Testament. You have ignored those premises, but I thank you for the clarity you have given here."

Can I probe this a little further, seeing it does seem to be the foundation for the 'headship is God's pattern in creation' view' (if I understand it right).

As I read Genesis, there is nothing specifically and directly stating the leadership of males - the belief it is a creational pattern is (at best) implicit and based on inferences drawn on the basis a few observations. Are we agreed on this (that it is based on inferences, not specific statements)?

Secondly - there is nothing in Genesis 1 that distinguishes the image and likeness of God between male and female, or likewise the mandate to exercise dominion on behalf of God. Are we agreed in that?

Thirdly, the term for 'helper' in Gen. 2:18 ('ezer', from memory) is a term most often applied to Yahweh in the OT, and therefore has no inherent connotation of subordination. It simply means that the person needing help is unable to fulfil their task without assistance ('it is not good...', just as Israel needed Yahweh's assistance when in peril). There is nothing in the term 'helper' that REQUIRES a subordinate reading (it would have to come from the wider context) - are we agreed on that?

In my view, the only way of reading a male leadership in creation from scripture is via 1 Tim. 2: 13 & 14 - which I understand differently, but for now, my question is - other than 1 Tim. 2:13 & 14 - the male leadership in creation view is based on an inferential reading of Scripture, not specific statements?

When it comes to the male apostles, there is no passage that specifically draws any conclusions about that in regard to male leadership - such a view, if maintained, is also based on inference as to its significance. Are we agreed on that?

My point is that such differences between us, on these points, is not over specific statements of scripture but over inferences drawn from our reading of scriptural narrative. Am I right in this, from your point of view? (that is a genuine question - I would like to understand where our different perspectives in scriptural interpretation lie)

When it comes to looking at the other side of things and observing Scriptural narrative regarding positions assumed by women, can we find some common ground:

Deborah (Judges 4), while not in a military role, was raised by God as a leader of Israel as one of the judges ('leader' is actually translation of the term than 'judge'). Barak, the military leader, acted under her authority (Judges 4:6). Can we agree on that, at least at the level of scriptural record? How we explain it may differ...

Deborah and Huldah are both recorded as prophets, and such a position involved a significant voice of authority within the community of Israel, as authoritative messengers of Yahweh. Again, I would argue this is a statement of fact, but I am interested to know if we agree on this? (however we explain it)

I have a few more questions in regard to the NT, but I'll make that in a separate comment. However, can I emphasise that I'm not trying to 'score points' and force concessions, but clarify in my own mind where others are coming from.

It would seem to me that our differences are at the level of an inferential reading of scripture, not over any specific passage - but there is a more positive case for female leadership from scripture we need to reckon with.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Everyone (to 9.30 am or so NZ time!!)

Necessarily brief responses to some very interesting points - thank you!

(1) I appreciate that the 'full biblical case' for 'male headship' or (if one prefers) 'ordering of family life, and church life' begins in Genesis. I do not think this changes the observation that this leads to a conclusion consistent with Scripture but not required by Scripture ... not least because reading the whole of Scripture throws up even more wonderful examples of women sharing in the leadership of God's work, speaking the word of God, in such away as to further relativise a prohibition such as 'I do not permit a woman etc'. [I wrote that para before Tim's comment arrived re the 'inferential' nature of order-in-Genesis/OT/NT arrived ... I think that helpful clarification].

(2) The question of preferment in Anglican churches (and in ACANZP in particular) raises a number of questions some of which are simply inappropriate to air on a public blog. In general I think Anglican churches struggle with preferment for those who do not subscribe to the majority view ... I think anglo-catholics in Sydney AND Reform ministers in England would agree with me on that!

(3) Yes, I could be clearer about what I mean by 'absolute prohibition', e.g. that I did not mean to imply that I think Reform parishes in the C of E do not have mixed gender theological discussion.

But groups advertising 'women's meetings' could be clearer that men are welcome too ... that's been a bit non-obvious to this mere male :]).

I do not deduce any sense from the Reform pamphlets I linked to that women are either generally or regularly welcome to preach in the pulpits of Reform churches to mixed gender congregations (am I wrong?); I know of no women presbyters, let alone rectors of parishes (or bishops) in the Diocese of Sydney, not one exception to their implied prohibition according to the principle of male headship operating there (am I wrong?)

However I understand that in some Sydney pulpits women may preach ... but then I would ask whether those parishes subscribe wholeheartedly to the principle of male headship ...).

(3) In Anglican contexts it is important to keep in our minds that it can be one thing to discuss the theology of issues, and, say, draw conclusions such as this is consistent with Scripture and that is required by Scripture; and another to discuss the practicalities of living together ... at parish ... diocese ... province level. Some concerns expressed here relate to the practicalities of living together with differing views which do not always admit of satisfactory answers.

(4) Dave: I may not have been clear but I think you are running ahead of me when you ascribe this to me, "your conclusion - that is, that there is a principle in Scripture of male headship for congregational life"! Picking up Tim's word, 'inference', I am simply recognising that the inference from Scripture of the principle of male headship for family and congregational life is consistent with Scripture. I do not make that inference myself. It is the headship of Christ for the church which is important; and it is possible for a single mother to be head of a houshold ...

(5) In one comment below I am told that there is a point I "do not see" concerning 1900 years of church history. Perhaps. But this also works the other way: after 1900 years (post Christ) and millenia (pre Christ), the roles, status, and possibilities for women in society and community have CHANGED. Do we not see this?!

[continued in next comment]

Peter Carrell said...

(6) When a commenter says, "Your posts and comments repeatedly underscore the inadequacy of the Bible in answering significant questions. You are using the Bible to depart from the majority and historical Christian position on women." I wonder when the penny drops that (a) the Bible on certain plain reading approaches is inadequate for significant questions troubling society today (what's your view on going to war, charging interest as the foundation of modern economic growth, and stem cell research?); (b) the majority and historical Christian position can be wrong: that's a simple point drawn from the Reformation and underscored by the abolition of slavery in the 19th century. (c) the Bible on certain matters is widely ignored today whereas once it was not: no one on these threads has yet told me that their church runs an enrolment scheme for widows!!

I will have missed some points ... but the garden awaits!

Tim Harris said...

Anonymous comments:

"Absolutely right. NT women prayed, worshiped, taught their children, shared their faith. But they didn't lead congregations."

A couple of thoughts in response:

There are some remarkable, counter-cultural, features of women's participation in NT church life that suggest that a newfound freedom was being experienced (eg. the encouragement for women to be educated, to learn, which was rare in Greco-Roman society outside elite circles). And the degree of female participation in speaking was greater than the social norms compared to both synagogue and public assemblies.

Galatians 3:28 still stands as a significant, explicit statement of breaking down differences in social status, not only in 'theory', but to be given real expression in the nature of social interaction in the life of church communities - such categories of social identity were to be of no significance in the shared status as children of God.

There is no evidence of any specific role as 'leader of a congregation' in the NT. Paul does not appeal to any such role in the Corinthian church, and eldership elsewhere appears to be shared. In stark contrast to the synagogue and other religious assemblies or cults, there is no clear role of 'leader', but a shared eldership (and there is no clear evidence women were excluded from this - it is just an argument from silence).

However, there is clear evidence of women participating in prominent roles (in addition to the remarkable 'fellow workers' with Paul in his gospel ministry):

Phoebe, a deacon and 'prostasis' in Romans 16:1-2. The term is of a patron- the head of a household. The implication is that she ministered in this capacity in the church at Cenchreae.

'Prisca', together with Aquila. The fact that Paul often mentions her name first would suggest either she was a social superior to Aquila (a status concern Paul otherwise does not have a high regard for), or (more likely, in my view) that Prisca was the more active and prominent in their ministry.

And then of course, Junia (almost certainly a female), and together with Andronicus, 'prominent among the apostles' (Rom. 16:7) - the most natural way to construe the Grk.

At the very least, there is significant evidence of women's participation as fellow workers/ministers of the gospel, including some in a measure of leadership (given, as I say above, there is no evidence of any one pattern or term of leadership, and likewise no single position as 'the' leader)

I am not here trying to argue over key passages such as 1 Tim. 2 etc., but I am genuinely interested to know - is the above agreed in terms of information we can glean from the text? I recognise what we make if it is another matter - but I would suggest it is not insignificant material to our considerations.

Rosemary Behan said...

Anonymous .. one of you anyway!!!

One forgets in the intimacy of the internet, that we don’t know all there is to know about someone. I’m not sure it’s necessary either, what we say is either ‘truth’ or ‘darkness’ and may be discerned as such.

Anyway sir or madam, I DO accept that there are in my province, female clergy in all three orders. I myself am a vicar’s wife who is and has been very involved in the Anglican church in this province. I believe God blessed me in that many years ago, when I became aware of this issue, I always felt called to be ‘helpmeet’ and never felt called to carry the burden of leadership. As Tim Harris would say, “Are we agreed that leadership IS a burden?”

From the day of my conversion I have known that God created the Universe with ‘order’ .. and not disorder, and my belief is that this is so, both within the family, and within His church. I do NOT think this is easy to determine, because since the Fall, our minds fight against the ‘knowledge’ God wishes to impart.

Yes, in the beginning, I just wanted to ‘win’ the argument, but I’ve lived with the reality of women clergy in all three orders for over 20 years. That DOES make a difference. Nowadays I have three main concerns which I will list with a brief prĂ©cis.

I acknowledge I may be wrong, but in the interests of furthering conversation I make the following remarks and await the possible derision.


I’m deeply concerned that we’re turning women into men. Not literally of course. I think women HAVE been badly treated by the church for centuries. Their gifts unrecognized and under utilized. No need to expand on that, although I could of course. I think the church was CORRECT to recognize this error and try to correct it. I don’t particularly agree with it’s solution. First may I share our experience in this parish, where we have employed two full time ‘women’s workers.’

If a parishioner goes to see a male minister with a problem, they share, talk and pray. The visit might take half an hour say. The male minister will continue to pray about the problem if necessary, but when the parishioner walks out of the door, that matter is put on the back burner so to speak [not ignored I stress] and other things are dealt with.

If that same parishioner chose to visit a female minister, they too will share, talk and pray. There will usually be many tears shed too, and the visit would normally take at least a couple of hours. The wonderful thing about the female minister is the empathy shared and shown to the parishioner by the gift God has given to women, that of nurture and care. The matter CAN then be put on the back burner because of the busyness of our lives, but it’s not ‘natural’ for the women to do that. Our experience is that the female minister LIVES that problem. Prays constantly over it and shares it’s burden in a way that men don’t quite. Their support of the parishioner is in a word, ‘phenomenal.’ It’s a trait within women that we celebrate. However .. and that should probably be in capitals .. in order for those women to NOT turn into their male counterparts and put it on the back burner and move on to the next thing, they need more time off. I know it sounds simplistic, but we have found that in order to retain the wonderful qualities that women bring to ministry, we need to recognize that there is a cost to them and they need time to recuperate. I would venture to suggest that we need more female ministers in any local church because this is so. Whether or not you ordain them is I think, irrelevant. [continued]

Rosemary Behan said...

So I have a deep concern that we are putting a burden on women, by asking them to take charge of parishes, that God didn’t mean them to carry. That in effect, we are trying to turn them into their male counterparts and not making the best use of the different and wonderful gifts that women have to offer.


I’m also deeply concerned about men. As the wife of one husband and the mother of four sons, I’m well aware of just how vulnerable men are. Simply in observation I can see that women stick with the church in her bad times, while men flee more easily. I think the main cause IS that vulnerability. Again I can observe that women, lets say in the teaching profession, can do such a remarkable job, they do it VERY well, that men become daunted and choose not to enter the profession, so that now we have many single females raising families and sending children to schools with no male teachers or role models. Strengthening those men to be what God has called them to be, is, I believe, the single most important thing women must try to achieve for the good of our whole society, AND the church.

The church.

I believe it is imperative that we learn more clearly as a church whether men and women are .. as today’s leaders would have it .. interchangeable, or whether they do in fact have different roles to carry. It is [as my previous posts have I hope shown] at the moment imperative that those leaders in our western church anyway, stop and re-think their urge to get rid of, or purify the church of people like me. Otherwise I fear deeply for the future. At the moment, I think many are blinded to the future in their desire to prove that women are the equal of men. I believe there’s not question, that we are equal, but I also believe we have different ways of ministering in and to the church. Yes, I suspect the odd woman will be called to a leadership role, and we should NOT deny that but celebrate it AND give them the time they need to recuperate from carrying such a burden.

I’ll try and answer one aspect of Tim Harris’s many questions [which I’m not qualified to answer] in the hope that further light may be shed on my views. May I add that I have written this in haste as I have many other things to do today. I hope I haven't made too many blues.

Rosemary Behan said...

For Tim Harris .. and briefly, no time for more at the moment.

Yes Tim, the term is ‘ezer’ .. and yes, it’s most often applied to Yahweh in the Old Testament. Isn’t that the most wonderful of all privileges that He bestows on women? Of course, it is also one with HUGE responsibility and extreme difficulty for a woman who has to ‘battle’ to be what she has been called to be ‘in Christ.’

Bringing up the word ‘subordination’ is unfortunate in my opinion. This isn’t about superiority or inferiority at all. Although as a woman, and with a woman’s bias, I would say that the task given to us by God is extremely difficult and onerous. That doesn’t mean to say that man’s isn’t either!!

I like your phrase .. “the person needing help is unable to fulfil their task without assistance.” That is exactly the way I believe. That is precisely what I think that small portion of Genesis means. I think that is the ‘order’ God has ordained. I think that’s why Jesus didn’t choose any female Apostles. Chuckle, so in my opinion, you guys can’t do it without us girls, and we girls can’t do it without you guys!!! Of course we’re contrary creatures, all of us. We yearn for that relationship, then fight for supremacy when we get it .. BOTH SEXES I might add.

Tim Harris said...

Hi Rosemary - once again, thanks for your comments.

Firstly (and off-topic) - be assured of our prayers as you and Wally move through this transitional time. Fiona and I were led by God to the same decision in leaving our parish after 13 wonderful years in Adelaide - and from reading your announcement, for pretty much exactly the same reasons, right down the list... we had no idea about Nelson and BTC at that stage (stepping down was very much a step of faith), but God had something else for us, in his own time. Whatever and wherever God leads you both in the future (I can't imagine anything other than an active retirement), I am sure there will be abundant blessings, in God's good grace.

In regard to your other comments, I agree with nearly all of the concerns you raise, especially in terms of leadership of the church. However, I wouldn't construe them so much in male and female terms, but more in character terms. I have observed as many vacillating male leaders who see themselves as little more than indecisive facilitators, as I have also witnessed some strong, godly leadership from (a few) females. The latter were able to do so without resorting to becoming unduly 'manlike' in their approach.

But your points outlining concerns with reference to women, men and church are well made and at many points I concur.

With regard to your "Chuckle, so in my opinion, you guys can’t do it without us girls, and we girls can’t do it without you guys!!!" - I absolutely agree, and what is more, so does St Paul! (1 Cor. 11: 11-12 - the very point of that passage).

So maybe we are closer to some measure of agreement than others might assume...

Grace and peace (and I mean that sincerely!)

Rosemary Behan said...

Thank you Tim, for your thoughts and comments, personally encouraging as they are.

If I may say so, here is where we differ. You say, “However, I wouldn't construe them so much in male and female terms, but more in character terms.”

Many of my comments were made with regard to NOW. But in the future, I think much more work should be done [of course it has been done, but not sympathetically towards women] NOT on the varying characters, whether male or female, but on what God intended them to be, in Christ, in their roles as males and females. Otherwise what you are suggesting is again this interchangeability between men and women which I believe is not what God wanted.

I’m not downplaying that difference between us, I think it’s immense, and if it is indeed insuperable, then I’d like some honesty about it because I think that means we’ll go our separate ways. Twenty years of trying has cost a lot.

I’m not saying that it’s not a fact you understand, the woman who is naturally a leader, and the man who vacillates and finds leadership difficult. But that fact DOES obscure the need I’m referring to. At least that’s my opinion.

I’m personally a very bossy, loud mouthed lady. Ask Peter Carrell, I’m surprised he’s still talking to me .. but that is NOT what the Lord intended me to be. You can’t of course make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but the battle commences the day you become a Christian, and if we’re not in that battle, then I have to doubt the conversion. Wally is still at work with me, and I’m still at work with him. This will always be so. There is bad news however, I don’t like it when Wally corrects me, or indeed Al Drye in his capacity as leader of our Sunday School teachers. It takes me hours, days, weeks, sometimes months to see the validity of a remark. Meanwhile I baulk and grumble. The same is true in reverse, the battle of the sexes will continue until He brings us home. The same is also true within the authority structure of the church, and sometimes we’re obedient VERY grudgingly!!! But the first order of business as I understand it, is to see CLEARLY, what we are supposed to be in Christ. What were we meant to be before the Fall? If we could succeed in being what Jesus wants us to be, [oh how I wish] what would that look like? That’s up to you professional theologians to discuss.

I was very interested to read Carrie’s remark about encouraging wives to wait until their husbands began to pray. A tiny step in building/helping/encouraging the male in his role in my opinion. YMMV of course!!

Tim Harris said...

Thank you for your candor Rosemary. To be honest, I don't understand where you are coming from, but your comments are helping me in that process, and I am keen to get a better understanding. You are quite right in identifying that particular line of my comment as encapsulating where we differ.

However, I would have to suggest that there is little biblical basis for maintaining role differentiation on gender grounds - in fact, nothing overtly, and little if anything even implicitly. There is nothing distinguishing roles on a gender basis in Genesis 1 or 2, nothing throughout the OT (and a few notable examples to the contrary), nothing in the Gospels, nothing in the Pauline epistles other than 1 Tim. 2 (which I believe is addressing a particular situation in Ephesus).

Furthermore, there is much biblical evidence that there are many roles in which male and female participation are indeed inter-changeable (eg. praying and prophesying, as but one instance). There will be distinctive ways in which males and females express their gifts and ministries (males are to minister as males, and females as females) - but precious little - if anything - that clearly distinguishes roles on a gender basis.

And put quite simply, the challenges in temperament and character you describe are more a matter of seeking of be Christlike - as males and females - than a matter of finding our proper role as males and females. The evidence of scripture - which we must take seriously - is that God does indeed gift some women with gifts and responsibilities in leadership, and for some men, leadership is not their calling. I believe a biblical approach is far more consistent with viewing ministry on a person by person basis.

Having being involved in such debates for over twenty years (like you) - I despair that fellow evangelicals are reading much too much into Scripture in making this the big issue, while more serious battles (to my mind) lie elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Rosemary, for your clarity. You are holding to the classical and majority position from which Peter and Tim have departed with arguments from the Bible turning exceptions into the rule. Peter would have Christa the Daughter of God being able to be our savior. When it was pointed out that the arguments he uses can be applied directly to affirming blessing same-sex couples he conceded he had not yet thought that through. It is clear that there has been a shift and this blog is moving from a vehemence against TEC to a seeking to broaden Anglicanism to include them fully. If there is no distinction between gender roles then TEC's is the logical direction that this approach tends to.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous (12.52 pm)
If you further comment in this vein, wilfully misrepresenting what I write then your comments will not be published.

Anonymous said...

My sincere apologies, Peter. There certainly is no attempt to wilfully misrepresent your position. Why would anyone wish to do that on your own blog? How could anyone succeed in that context? Rosemary's position was difficult to understand until she clarified it. Maybe it is time to clarify yours if it is being misunderstood. You could take the 12:52pm comment as a basis and clarify point by point where I am misrepresenting you.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous
I prefer not to be drawn into your request because my point is that I see no reason to expend time clarifying when I have been misrepresented - and certainly not to someone who is doing so anonymously.

As a matter of sheer grace I will take one of your points: " It is clear that there has been a shift and this blog is moving from a vehemence against TEC to a seeking to broaden Anglicanism to include them fully."

I agree that I have in recent months attempted to tone down vehemence against TEC - it is ungracious to be vehement, and I am trying to learn to listen more carefully to TEC proponents. But I disagree that I have intentionally or unintentionally sought "to broaden Anglicanism to include them fully." What I have been trying to do is to attend to various issues with care; and trying to better understand TEC.

Rosemary Behan said...

Chuckle .. well I’m glad I can be of help Tim, but really, for the nitty gritty theological aspects, you need to speak to someone else. Yes, I read the Bible, and I’m as much a theologian as any lay person in that I’m constantly searching for knowledge of God, but I’ve never done the type of study you’re asking for.

“I would have to suggest that there is little biblical basis for maintaining role differentiation on gender grounds - in fact, nothing overtly, and little if anything even implicitly.”

Well as I mentioned before, I start with God and Jesus [God]. They do NOT call women to those roles, and I’ve got to ask myself why. Perhaps because I’m a farmer’s daughter, I’m extremely aware that in all the families of creation, there is order. From the cockrel and his hens right down to the bossy female spider who eats her husband when he’s outlived his usefulness. Perhaps ‘order’ is the wrong word to use when speaking to a theologian .. shrug .. but from that ‘order’ I understand that we ALL have our part to play, but while the family is all equal, they’re not all the ‘boss.’ I’m surprised that this ‘family’ stuff doesn’t come into focus at all among folk like you who believe so differently.

That on top of the fact that neither God, nor Jesus who certainly raised women to a new level in His society, appointed them as leader/teachers .. MEANS something to me. Means a lot actually. So I don’t agree with your above.

I still ask though .. whether we are welcome members of the Anglican communion. I think at this point in time, that is a VERY important question .. and as far as I’m concerned, I'm not getting a clear answer to that question.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary

I appreciate very much your continuing quest for clarity as expressed with "I still ask though .. whether we are welcome members of the Anglican communion. I think at this point in time, that is a VERY important question .. and as far as I’m concerned, I'm not getting a clear answer to that question." But I think the question misdirected if you continue to seek clarity from the likes of Tim and me. True we both have roles close to our respective bishops ... but the fact is the answer to your question lies with the bishops of our church and with their synods, as well as with General Synod. I certainly feel unable to offer the clarity you seek - I imagine Tim might also - because we are not bishops and we are but one voice in our respective synods, and one of us is one voice in our General Synod and one is not!

Tim Harris said...

Hi Rosemary,

I recognise the importance of the concern you raise in terms having a genuine place within the Communion, and view things pretty much in the same terms as Peter. I would add, however, that I am personally committed to advocating for such a place wherever I have a voice.

But as Peter says, the Communion, Province and each diocese has a life of its own, and the approaches taken will no doubt be quite varied. It may be that the Anglican Communion is about to lose another generation of 'Wesley's' from her immediate fellowship through their disregard for principled dissent.

Or to put it another way, the ideologically driven power moves of those now in positions of control have all the hallmarks of the proverbial train wreck in motion - yet I trust God is working at a grass roots level where various expressions of Anglicanism at its evangelical best (in the truer sense of the word) can still thrive - in God's grace alone.

Speaking personally, I am looking for stronger fellowship in the gospel at a grassroots level (with a renewed awareness of primary and secondary issues), and am increasingly less concerned (or hopeful) about higher level instruments of unity.

Howard Pilgrim said...

I have been out of touch for a few weeks, and am just catching up on some excellent threads on this site. Surprise, surprise, I suddenly want to speak up in support of Rosemary ... or at least to agree with part of what she is saying.

I share her concern for the place of men in our church. For years I have been asking myself, and God, why it is so hard to attract men to a committed Anglican life. And like Rosemary I think a major factor is that our leadership generally fails to impress them. One way of saying this would be that our leadership has become "feminized".That expression demands immediate explanation!

This is probably where Rosemary and I differ in our convictions because, after a long time wondering, I no longer think that there are too many women in leadership positions to leave enough room for men to contribute. Rather, I would now say that the problem is in our preferred leadership style. We collectively prefer to have, and give preferrment to, leaders who have, or have been socialised to present themselves as having, decidely low levels of testosterone. Consultative, supportive, non-confontational, enabling, .... you get the picture.

Acceptable to those who prize unconditional love above all else, but ineffective too. Not presenting an image that many males want to rally around. Not incarnating a Christ who calls men and women to devote their lives to his mission within the real world outside of our feely-touchy church culture. Not the sort of leadership model that would welcome St Paul's leadership!

And not the sort of church culture that values and celbrates the Wally Behans in our midst. I want to say that Wally, with Rosemary's support, has done a wonderful job at St John's Latimer Square over all these years. His leadership has enabled many men to identify with Christ and his Church who could not have done so elsewhere, unless it was in a congregation where forthright leadership was in evidence.

Some of those few congregations, however are led by women! Powerful women not afraid to lead from their "male" side. Women who have not been taught that they must label their assertiveness as "stroppy" and "bossy". What do you think Rosemary? Are you a bit hard on yourself? Could it not be true that your forceful personality is God's creation rather than your fallen nature? Why else do you make such forthright contributions to this blogsite?

My own emerging conviction is this: what we need to attract a new generation of Anglicans, male and female, is a model of leadership that is more faithful to the humanity of Christ, including his testosterone. "Gentle Jesus meek and mild" might make him more approachable in the junior Sunday School, but beyond that it bears false witness to the strong One who confronts us within the Gospels. It was an offputting image to me as a young man considering Jesus' claim on my life, and it cuts no ice with more recent generations either. Why has it become such a dominant model (dominant woosiness: a paradox) in our church?

Tim Harris said...

I'm just looking for leadership - male or female - that is prepared to 'nail their colours to the mask'. What we Anglicans have lost is the ability to give a straight answer to an honest question, and to stand up for what it is that we DO believe.

Howard Pilgrim said...

Tim, was "mask" intentional or a typo for "mast"? Anglican masks, with or sithout colours attached ... an interesting image.

I agree with you that openness and candour are essential to good leadership, and not highly valued within our shared Anglican culture. (This is why I have objected to some of the most strident opinions from commentators on this blog being expressed from behind a shield of anonymity).

Tell me more, however. Are you really referring to our lack of openness, or our inability to speak with one voice? The way I understand our current situation, more openness will expose our diverse convictions and force us to negotiate with one another more courageously. It will require real leadership rather than our Anglican preference for smooth talk and covert power plays.

Tim Harris said...

Hah! It was indeed a late night typo ('mask' for 'mast'), and one with many possibilities at that...

Howard, in terms of your other questions, it is pretty much 'all of the above'. As a church culture, we seem more comfortable and able expressing doubt than conviction. I'm not wanting the reductionistic 'black and white' mode (which I often find particularly frustrating), but I do look for clearer discernment between those issues in which we are all too aware of complexity and no simple answers on the one hand, and the major affirmations of the faith that lies at the heart of our gospel witness.

Sometimes we need to be better with an upfront answer to the honest inquiry, just what DO you believe?

There is a great scene in the movie 'The Man who Sued God' (largely about the insurance companies cop out in blaming God for the so called 'acts of God'). A panel of church leaders/theologians is gathered to answer whether God was responsible for a boat being struck by lightning, one from each of the main denominations. When it came to the Anglican theologian/bishop, he provided the classic Anglican answer: "yes..... and no"

I do think we should aim to achieve greater clarity and honesty in exploring our differences, moving beyond personality issues and jibes - it is only by bringing clarity to such realities that our dialogues will begin to have any integrity.

In my experience, the wider community (and many within our churches) have little time for leadership that has an inability to give a straight answer to an honest question.

Dave Clancey said...

Couldn't agree more with your last comment about the frustration in our communities (ecclesiastic and secular) about the inability of leaders to make a stand and give a clear answer. Epistemic humility appears to have mutated into vacuous equivocation. So why, in the spirit of your concerns(!) do you think our leaders, be they deacons (arch or otherwise) priests and bishops, find it hard to answer the 'what DO you believe / where DO you stand' question?

Peter Carrell said...

... because we say the creeds less than we used to ... :)

Tim Harris said...

Equivocation is a safer option: it has the appearance of being profound and learned, and if no-one is quite sure what you believe, you are less likely to attract criticism.

To take a stand and provide clarity in one's beliefs leaves you much more exposed, and especially so if you find yourself isolated in that position.

But safer options in this regard rarely makes for decisive leadership.

Anonymous said...

"It was an offputting image to me as a young man considering Jesus' claim on my life, and it cuts no ice with more recent generations either. Why has it become such a dominant model (dominant woosiness: a paradox) in our church?"

A good question. Probably several answers: 1. The homosexual undercurrent in some streams of Anglicanism certainly disparaged 'muscular Christianity' which was often linked with evangelicalism in its foreign missions-mindedness. 2. The slow acceptance of feminism by the Protestant churches inevitably came to mean that the ordained ministry would take on more 'feminine' characteristics and become more focused on nurture and pastoring than mission: churches led by instinctive mothers rather than instinctive fathers. 3. The 'feminine' or romantic type of emotions associated with charismatic or 'renewed' worship in the 1900s and onward, satirized as 'My Jesus, my boyfriend'.

(I think Nietzsche (not my role model, I hasten to add!) would understand 'dominant woosiness' - he understood Christianity as the victory of the sick and the weak over the strong and heroic.)

Kurt said...

“I think Nietzsche (not my role model, I hasten to add!) would understand 'dominant woosiness' [sic] - he understood Christianity as the victory of the sick and the weak over the strong and heroic.”--Anonymous

Talk about stereotypical thinking about gay people!

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Howard Pilgrim said...

"Tim I know, Peter I know, Kurt I am getting to know, and Dave at least appears with a photograph ... but who are you, Anonymous?" (Acts 19:15)

More to the point, why should I be interested in your opinions about homosexuals, feminists and charismatics in the church (all of whom get my approval, in principle) when you are one of those woosies who is too scared to put your name where your mouth is? And that little affectation quoting Nietzsche while carefully distancing yourself from him - how twee!

A perfect illustration of what I was lamenting - a lack of manly candour in the Church.

Anonymous said...

"Talk about stereotypical thinking about gay people!" - quoth Kurt.

But Nietzsche wasn't thinking about 'gay people'. As a neo-philo-Hellenic, he may well have admired the Greek cult of ephebophilia. But I don't know - I haven't read 'The Gay Science'! (Er, that's a joke.) Nietzsche admired 'der Wille zur Kraft' and hated Christian compassion as 'Sklavenmoral', which he saw as sapping the strength of a culture.
As a Christian I naturally don't agree with his reading of the first few centuries of the Church (I follow David B. Hart here - classical culture was already pretty decadent in the 1st century) but I find his observation interesting when it's transposed into the late 20th century. Actually quite a lot of 18th and 19th century Germans (Goethe, Schiller, Holderlin etc) were philo-Hellenic neo-pagans.
Anyway, my comment about Nietzsche was just a coda.
Perhaps my 'lack of manly candor' is chromosonal?

Kurt said...

“But Nietzsche wasn't thinking about 'gay people'.”--Anonymous

But, read in the context of your comments, you obviously were, ‘Anonymous’.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn USA

Anonymous said...

I don't think it can be seriously denied that a church with a significant number of homosexual men in the ministry (like Tec) will take on a 'feminized' image and outlook. Actually, the issue long predates the contemporary Episcopal Church of the United States.
The book 'Goodbye Good Men' on homosexuality in the US Catholic priesthood presaged many of the problems that have riven that communion in the US (and Ireland), in which most of the so-called 'child abuse' is really sexual exploitation of teenage boys.
Leon Podles dates the feminization of western Catholicism to much, much earlier (devotional practices of the 13th century).

Kurt said...

“I don't think it can be seriously denied that a church with a significant number of homosexual men in the ministry (like Tec) will take on a 'feminized' image and outlook.”--Anonymous

This is nothing but homophobic BS. The militaries of most countries are filled with gay men and lesbians (despite whatever restrictions there are formally). In France, in fact, it has long been assumed that the military is predominately homosexual. This reality has hardly “feminized” the military image. The “feminization” is in your head, Anon; many gay men I know could probably rip you in two and tie the pieces together with one hand tied behind their backs.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

Hello Commenters

I am happy to keep publishing comments in general about Anglican reading scripture and related subjects, but I will not publish any further comments about whether gay men are effeminate or can do violence with one hand tied behind their back or the church is too feminate, feminist, or feminized. The church is what it is! Gay men are what they are.

Anonymous said...

And no more Francophobic comments either! Except this:

Q: How do you get a French waiter's attention?
A: Start ordering in German.

Arthur :)

Anonymous said...

I’m surprised there are still people trying to revive the covenant by patching. I’m not surprised that this is from people who appear to neither understand the theory nor the practice of Anglicanism/Episcopalianism. Anglicans are not normally “governed by bishops” (except perhaps in Nigeria, Sydney, and similar). They are normally episcopally led and synodically governed. Fr. Carrell, at a comment February 28, 2010 7:36 PM, speaks of the “bishops’ synods” in his province. This misunderstands both theory and practice in his province. Howard Pilgrim clarifies in that same thread episcopally-led, synodically-governed is not what distinguishes that province. Furthermore, the current suggested patch misunderstands the place of primates within Anglicanism. Again not surprising, as it is misunderstood within Fr. Carrell’s province.