Monday, June 14, 2010

Chickification of the church Down Under?

Never come across the word 'chickification' before. But lots of language changes originate in places where pure English is not spoken (as it is here in Nu Ziland). When I was 16 I would have thought, had the word been then known, that the chickification of the church was quite a good idea :). But it seems to represent quite a controversial matter concerning how many men are in churches these days, how many women are in pulpits, and whether there is a correlation between the former being low and the latter being high. Thus the (Melbourne) Age reports on this matter ...

"Porter was shocked. For decades Melbourne had been the diocese most supportive of women priests, and the issue seemed long resolved. But now, in the Anglican Church and in others, it seems to be a divisive issue once again, with a backlash unleashed and gaining ground.

The question is broader than whether women can be priests and exercise leadership over men, though that is usually how it is framed inside the church.

It concerns all the roles women play in the church and in the home, where the once-traditional idea that they should submit to their husbands is gaining fresh traction.

This is being re-examined in churches around Australia: Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Pentecostal and others.

Porter says the change in Melbourne and elsewhere is due to a rising number of hard-line young Melbourne ministers who are strongly influenced by resurgent conservatism in the United States.

She says they are "very masculine and horrified by what they call the 'chickification' of Christianity"."

I am very glad to report that a soon to come visitor to Christchurch, Peter Adam, Principal of Ridley College, is in favour of the ordination of women. From the same report:

"RIDLEY College principal Peter Adam, a complementarian, believes that Christians can hold either view with a clear conscience.

He concedes that the issue has become a source of tension among students, but so are other matters, such as infant baptism.

Nevertheless, he says, the women's issue is "very delicate. There are a number of political undercurrents going on in the diocese of Melbourne over this issue at the moment. There's a rumour going around that Ridley is lobbying the diocese to stop ordaining women, which has no truth at all."

Adam's policy is not to stifle debate.

"For the broader welfare of the church, I think it's better not to take sides in a way that precludes others or denies them their rights to participate in the diocese."

Ridley's written policy is to welcome and provide equal training for male and female students, and accept a variety of views on the roles of men and women in ministry and leadership — the same policy as the Melbourne diocese and, indeed, the Anglican Church of Australia."

Here is my take on the matter:

It is right and proper to be concerned about the gender and generation mix of the church. It is a worry to find mid-morning congregations (i.e. in Kiwiland, the main congregation of a parish) composed of elderly people. It is worrying because it raises the question when and how the next generation of that parish will arrive. It is also a concern to find that a congregation is mostly composed of one gender: at the least it raises the question whether the gospel is being presented in such a way as to engage with one half of humanity rather than both halves.

But the solution lies in the presentation of the gospel, not in the gender of the vicar. In my personal experience a healthy gender mix can be present under a female vicar; and an unhealthy gender mix can be present under a male vicar.

Preventing women from leading churches is not the key to healthy gender mix in congregations. The key lies in the gospel as an appeal of God to all humanity and the question we need to ask of any minister, tall or short, old or young, male or female, Kiwi or Aussie, is whether the gospel is being proclaimed through word and deed faithful to the revelation of the gospel in Scripture.


spicksandspecks said...

Hi there,
Just a bit of further information that might clear up the situation at Ridley College, where I studied in 2005. Unlike Moore College in Sydney, the female faculty members teach mixed classes and preach in chapel. I would argue having women lecturers in a theological college is a larger 'headship' issue than in a parish. They are in authority over and training the men and women who will teach others. So, if they're willing to do that, I don't know why people are running this campaign saying Ridley is spearheading the anti-women's ordination movement in Melbourne. There were certainly students wilth pro, anti and somewhere in between views when I studied there, as there probably are now. The point is that at Ridley, most students will start by opening the Bible to try and understand what God has to say.
Andrew Reid

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Andrew for clarification!