Sunday, November 25, 2012

Good argument for women bishops

Following up from below where I excoriate some bad arguments for women bishops, Bishop Tom Wright, in his usual brilliant manner, tackles the British PM who says the CofE must get with the programme of modern life while also arguing that there are good biblical arguments for women bishops.

"All Christian ministry begins with the announcement that Jesus has been raised from the dead. And Jesus entrusted that task, first of all, not to Peter, James, or John, but to Mary Magdalene. Part of the point of the new creation launched at Easter was the transformation of roles and vocations: from Jews-only to worldwide, from monoglot to multilingual (think of Pentecost), and from male-only leadership to male and female together. 
Within a few decades, Paul was sending greetings to friends including an “apostle” called Junia (Romans xvi, 7). He entrusted that letter to a “deacon” called Phoebe whose work was taking her to Rome. The letter-bearer would normally be the one to read it out to the recipients and explain its contents. The first expositor of Paul’s greatest letter was an ordained travelling businesswoman. 
The resurrection of Jesus is the only Christian guide to the question of where history is going. Unlike the ambiguous “progress” of the Enlightenment, it is full of promise — especially the promise of transformed gender roles. 
The promise of new creation, symbolised by the role of Mary Magdalene in the Easter stories, is the reality. Modern ideas of “progress” are simply a parody. Next time this one comes round, it would be good to forget “progress” — and ministerial “programmes” — and stick with the promise."

The whole piece is published simultaneously on Fulcrum and in The Times. I agree with +Tom. The key biblical argument arises from considering the sweeping implications of the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the firstfruits of the new creation - God's new society.

While looking to Fulcrum, worth a peek is a transcript of Elaine Storkey's speech at the GS. I particularly like two things here and draw your attention to them.

(1) If Lorna Ashworth and friends are running here and there saying that a definition, or a key part of the definition of 'conservative evangelical' is the 'complementarian' approach to women in ministry and in the home (i.e. 'equal but different ... so never in charge of men'), could she and they please STOP. [For clarity, could they please stop defining 'conservative evangelical' in such an exclusive manner. Conservative evangelicals include complementarians, egalitarians and (such as myself) non-complementarian non-egalitarians].

(2) Elaine reminds us of a time when the most conservative among us (as represented by Oakhill) could countenance women preaching and women leading. Is the complementarian approach a reaction to modern times which actually goes back on where conservative evangelicalism had been heading without trauma or trouble?

[UPDATED, rewritten para]: Some associate Chris Sugden with a certain kind of extremism, ironically in the guise of Anglican Mainstream. But it looks like on Virtue Online that he offers this reflection on the situation at the GS which is somewhat sober, balanced, and utterly reasonable. But then it has been drawn to my attention that Chris Sugden wrote no such thing - I am guessing that David Virtue has lifted this careful balancing act from Anglican Mainstream where Sugden posted it! Starting the paragraph afresh and accurately: the Tablet has published a good editorial here!!

Finally, and locally, yet also globally in its concern re Commnon [sic], Bosco Peters manages to be both witty (beginning with a hilarious illustration) and wise in asking just what this Anglican Commnon is all about.


Anonymous said...

I am very pleased you have drawn attention to Elaine Storkey's speech.Unlike most speakers she endeavoured to respond to other speakers in the debate rather than just read a pre-prepared script. Her point on complimentarian theology is an interesting one,and deserves further scrutiny.At what point did it become a hall mark of the conservative evangelical? The point she made about Oak Hill is also aposite. As a former London Director of Ordinands I know the "feel" of Oak Hill did change some 15 or so years ago, and this has been a concern of many.As in the past this Synod vote showed an alliance between conservative evangelicals and conservative catholics.Being astute "politically" they realised at the last synodical elections, the H of Laity was where this legislation could be defeated , not least as sadly only about 45% of those eligible actually vote ( which is shocking)and the electorate tends to be impressed by "good church people" who have been around a bit and dont pay a lot of attention to what they stand for.The electorate is, of course, the parish reps to the Deanery Synod. Alas the DS is the weakest element in the whole synodical structure...its meetings are usually barely quorate and as I know well as a parish priest for 24 yrs, it is pretty difficult to get PCC members to actually go on it.Its not the time to do it now, on the rebound when it would look like gerrymandering..but the structures do need to be looked at if the views of the laity in the pews is to be properly heard.
Perry Butler Canterbury UK

MichaelA said...

"(1) If Lorna Ashworth and friends are running here and there saying that a definition, or a key part of the definition of 'conservative evangelical' is the 'complementarian' approach to women in ministry and in the home (i.e. 'equal but different ... so never in charge of men'), could she and they please STOP."

Firstly, where does Elaine Storkey say this? I have read through her speech and this does not appear to be a reasonable paraphrase of her point.

Secondly, what is the justification for trying to ban someone from using a descriptive term anyway? Plenty of people in England define those evangelicals opposed to women's ordination as "conservative evangelicals". In fact, my understanding is that they were first described this way by their opponents. So why does Lorna Ashworth suddenly have to "STOP" using the term?

"(2) Elaine reminds us of a time when the most conservative among us (as represented by Oakhill) could countenance women preaching and women leading."

Significant numbers of English evangelicals have always been opposed to women's ordination. This is not a new development. If you don't like calling them conservative, call them something else. Listeners may or may not understand what you mean.

If for some reason it is no longer politically correct for commentators in Britain to use the collective term "conservative evangelicals" to describe those evangelicals who are oppposed to women's ordination, then by all means lets waste our time trying to find another term. Then when they offends someone else, let's find another one, and on it goes.

MichaelA said...

The most telling flaw in Bishop Wright's comments is that they were largely not made at General Synod, nor in the various comments made by church leaders afterwards.

I do not doubt that N. T. Wright genuinely believes there are biblical arguments in favour of women bishops. Yet what became very apparent during the General Synod debates is that few proponents of women bishops care whether such biblical arguments exist or not. They see women bishops as essentially a matter of equality and modernity.

The harsh truth is that Prime Minister Cameron is much closer to the way of thinking of most of the proponents of women bishops who spoke at General Synod, than is +Wright.

And the majority of those proponents have no interest in co-existing with conservative evangelicals and anglo-catholics. They just want them out of the Church of England. Certainly N.T. Wright does not feel that way. But most of the proponents do, and that is why they won't get agreement from evangelicals and anglo-catholics until they give clear and enforceable protection to their right to remain in CofE and practice according to their beliefs.

Anonymous said...

Peter...the piece you attribute to Chris Sugden ( presumably via VOL) is actually by the editor of The Tablet who is not Chris Sugden!!

Perry Butler UKpop

Peter Carrell said...

Hi MichaelA,

Might you be misreading what I have (perhaps unclearly) written?

My grizzle is about defining "conservative evangelical" as "complementarian" which Lorna Ashworth does do according to this part of E.S.s speech: "In her speech, Lorna Ashworth assured us (and it has been echoed by others) that a definition of a conservative evangelical is somebody who holds a complementarian position on gender. "

I do not want Lorna Ashworth or anyone to stop using the term 'conservative evangelical' to describe those who hold complementarian beliefs. I want her to stop defining 'conservative evangelical' in such exclusive manner.

Second point: E.S. is not being read by me as saying that most conservative evangelicals used to countenance women teaching and leading, but that once upon a time 'the most' = 'even some of the conservative of conservative evangelicals' could countenance women teaching and leading. As Perry Butler in another comment here says, something change at Oakhill.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Perry,
I will clarify the Tablet sourcing!

MichaelA said...

Peter, thank you, I follow you now. Apologies for my misunderstanding.

MichaelA said...

I should add that the positive thing about +Wright's article is that he genuinely attempts to be even-handed. Many evangelicals who favour women bishops do not.

What I mean by this is that +Wright acknowledges that the matter at issue before the General Synod was not women bishops. Rather, the issue was whether those who opposed women bishops will be still be permitted to have a place in CofE.

The reason this measure lost is because a number of representatives who favour women bishops voted against it. They did so because they could see that it did not offer real protections for the congregations who are opposed to women bishops. It left them with the alternatives only of theological capitulation or extinguishment.

Anonymous said...

Here's surprisingly candid comment from a liberal member of the Englsih General Synod called Tom Sutcliffe on why he voted 'no':

"And I absolutely do not want to see the Church of England ending up as a result of our in my view correct determination to include women in the ordained ministry at all levels with an even smaller footprint. I do not want the Church to vote to shrink more, and there is no doubt that the ordination of women has not had the entirely positive effect that was anticipated. It has not led to an increase in the membership or the effectiveness of our church, however good most women priests have been. The decline in numbers and in status and in the respect in which we are held by ordinary citizens who are not active members has become precipitate."

I remember exactly those promises: 'This will bring new life and gifts into the Church.' He understands that the C of E has not flourished as was promised since women were ordained there. It has declined in numbers and depeened in its divisions, far beyond what it was 30-40 years ago. Unpalatable as it may be to admit, it's the same story in Canada, US, NZ.


Anonymous said...

I consider myself a conservative evangelical in the Reformed camp. I hold strongly to a confessional Reformed view of doctrine. I hold strongly to the Westminster Confession of Faith and the larger and shorter catechisms. Surely that makes me a conservative evangelical?

Seriously, would anyone here describe me as liberal in any way?

But for exactly the reasons stated by Tom Wrigh I support the ordination of women.

I agree with both the articles that Peter highlights.

And as I have said before, and as Tom highlights, the problem is that the issue of WO has been highjacked by those pursuing a modernist/liberal agenda, an agenda I reject totally.

The answer to that is to take the issue back.

But I do recognize, as Michael says, that we have a real problem here, and that problem is the degree to which the Church, many of it's leaders and theologians, and it's theology, have been seriously distorted an corrupted by the language and philosophical assumptions modernism, by Western Liberal Humanism.

This makes the challenges ahead very difficult.

But God is Sovereign, He is the Lord of history, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against us.

Anonymous said...

The address to his Diocesan Synod by the Bishop of Sheffield ( an evangelical...well I know there seems to be a lot of argument who is the genuine article lol...its not my world ) is extrememly good..well argued, theological,eirenic but hard hitting..He was actually my "dark horse" for Canterbury, tho I am happy with what we have been given. Link via Thinking Anglicans or the Diocesan website.

Perry Butler Canterbury UK.

Joshua Bovis said...


You wrote:
First, I do not think God created women to be sent out for coffee. One reason why I am prepared to bat for women being able to share in all the ministries of God's church is the suspicion I harbour that lurking beneath arguments which sound principled may be a basic denial that women are equal to men.


While I readily admit that the "women being sent out for coffee" is not funny and unhelpful, I believe that your suspicions are due to the view of our culture that says:
equality = sameness .

For example:
"Do you believe men and women are equal?"


"Do you believe that men and women are to have the same roles when it comes to the life of the church?"


"So you think men and women are not equal?"

"Yes they are equal. Why would ask that?"

"Because if you truly thought they were equal, you would have said that men and women can have the same roles when it comes to the life and ministry of the church."

equality = sameness .
equality = equal and different .

I don't believe that those who hold the latter are saying or believing that men and women are not equal. Though if one holds to the former,I believe that they won't be convinced.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Joshua,
There are people who believe that women are equal but different (I accept that). But there are also people (possibly belonging to the first set) who believe that though women and men are equal, even when they are equally good at something (such as preaching, presiding, or leading church), another difference (essentially biological, not ability, capacity or giftedness) takes priority over the expression of the ministry they are equally good at.

At that point the issue to me is whether difference should trumpet specific aspects of equality. I do not think it should; and I do not think Scripture teaches it should.

The constant iteration we should be making is not "equality=sameness" v "equality=equal but different" but what are the ways in which men and women are the same and what are the ways in which they are different. Women and men are the same in being given responsibility to teach; but (on a complementarian view) some difference means women cannot teach a mixed congregation. What is that difference? Is it a difference that justifies the inequality that men may teach a mixed congregation but women may not?

Joshua Bovis said...


Are you changing the meaning of what it means to be equal?

It is obvious that not everyone is equal when it comes to abilities. But I thought the equality we are talking about is our standing and status before God in Christ. Gal 3:28 reminds us that men and women are equal in status before God.

The difference that those who disagree with WO from what I understand is to do with function, not abilities, and it not a question of equality. For example I do not have the ability to be pregnant, as a male I don't have that role. I am not therefor unequal to a woman. The issue of me being equal or unequal to a woman due my different role is not the issue.

What I am trying to say (rather poorly I think) is that the ways in which men and women are the same is that they are:
1. Equally sinful
2. Equally saved by grace
3. In Christ have equal status before God.

They are different in the roles that they have.

Your last question implies an equality where none exists. Though if you think men and woman are equal and therefore are the same (in terms of roles and function) then you will think that men and are not equal, which brings me back to the hyperthetical conversation in my previous post).

Peter Carrell said...

Let me try again, Joshua.

Men and women have equal status before God, being equally created in the image of God, equally sinful and equally saved by grace.

Men and women have different roles in certain respects, especially pertaining to biology: men cannot aspire to have babies, women should not aspire to lock the All Black scrum.

Men and women have the same roles in certain respects: equally they can engage in commerce (cf Proverbs 31); equally they can rule and judge (cf Deborah, Elizabeth 1 and, now, Elizabeth 2, the latter two both supreme governors of a church).

That is, men and women are both the same and different in respect of roles - they are not different in every respect in terms of roles.

My question to you remains this: women have the ability, capacity, giftedness and calling to lead and teach in the church. On what specific basis do you deny that role to women, when you permit it for men?

It is not enough if what you are saying above is that in respect of roles men and women are different. That does not deal with the roles in which they are the same and it does not deal with the roles in which they could be the same except that men have imposed rules restricting their ministry.