Friday, May 30, 2014

If I were arguing for women preachers, would I start in Sydney?

John Dickson on Twitter, perhaps a little tongue in cheek, suggests that a Sydney Anglican pastor, Michael Paget, St Barnabas Broadway has broken ranks on the issue of women preaching. The post he refers to is here. (Also see a previous post here).

Well, maybe, maybe not. As best I understand the article, St Barnabas has had women preaching there for years (as is the case with other Sydney parishes). What may constitute 'breaking ranks' is publishing an argument for women preaching to men and to women. John Dickson himself has done that (publishing) in a recent book Hearing Her Voice but I get the impression he didn't break ranks by doing so. Sydneysiders might like to put me right on the 'ranks, breaking' question!

But what is intriguing is the kind of Sydney Anglican way in which Paget makes his argument. I'll summarise it as, "ultimate human authority in the church is male; but women under this authority may preach to men."

Now let's review the world we live in this week:

We still have 200 Nigerian girls held by Boko Haram.

We have two girls in India who hung themselves after being gang raped.

We have women fearing that their daughters will be genitally mutilated.

We have the Pakistani husband of a women killed in an "honour killing" admitting that he strangled his first wife in order to marry the wife who has now been killed.

Here in NZ, a 27 year old man has been charged with the murder of Blessie Gotingco, an employee of Tower Insurance, innocently making her way home from work via public transport.

The world we live in has a dangerous tendency to treat women as less worthy of respect, of decent and fair treatment than men. Indeed, the tendency is such that the world is a dangerous place for women. With very rare exceptions, the dangers for women are in the hands of men.

We men have abused our natural sense of superiority to women for too long. It needs to stop.

I suggest the least we can do in the church is to ask urgently whether arguments for (or against) women preaching in church should remain part of our life which rely on or are associated with arguments for authority in the church being the sole prerogative of men.

Surely the church should be the place where the true equality of men and women as created in the image of God and saved by the blood of Jesus is upheld. That equality is not and cannot be experienced as long as we say that one set of human beings, solely by reason of accident of birth may exercise an authority over another set which the latter set can never, ever share in.

Our witness as Christians must be to the equality and therefore the mutual submission of men and women, one to the other. Otherwise we are complicit in the honour killings, the kidnappings because girls dare to be educated, the gang rapes and so forth which flow from a world which accepts that men and women are not equal because men have authority over women and not ever the other way round.

It is not enough to say, as complementarians around the Christian world continue to say, that women are equal to men but they may not have authority over men.

Without a share in power, women are always unequal to men.

Yet major churches of the world continue to deny women a share in the power of the church as a human institution.

And the world continues a dangerous place for women.

Can any Christian, including me, say that we are not complicit in the war on* very difficult situation faced by women?

ADDITION: Sad stats herein.

*In light of comments below, I have changed the original wording of the sentence.


Father Ron Smith said...

Bravo, Peter, for your stance on the equality before god of women and men. Our Lord's treatment of women wax revolutionary in a patriarchal society. The Church must be like its Lord and recognise his liberation of women in society AND the Church.

AND, Mary Magdalene was actually the first apostle, commissioned by the Risen Jesus to preach the Gospel to his male disciples.

"In Christ, there is neither male nor female" - the apostle, Paul

God has gone up with a merry noise, Alleluia! He has gone up with the sound of the trumpet, Alleluia, Alleluia.

I hope you will be wearing a white stole and not a red one on Sunday, Peter - despite the incorrect direction given in our lectionary. Bosco tells the full story on NZ Liturgy - that Easter lasts for fifty and not forty days.

Kurt said...

“It is not enough to say, as complementarians around the Christian world continue to say, that women are equal to men but they may not have authority over men.

“Without a share in power, women are always unequal to men.

“Yet major churches of the world continue to deny women a share in the power of the church as a human institution.

“And the world continues a dangerous place for women.

“Can any Christian, including me, say that we are not complicit in the war on women?”—Fr. Carrell

Well said, Peter! Very well said!

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Michael Reddell said...

"Can any Christian, including me, say that we are not complicit in the war on women?"

Perhaps, but you don't really make your case Peter. For a start, is there a "war on women"? Especially in the West? How often are such sweeping generalisations ever really warranted?

Your first 4 stories from the week all come from avowedly non, or even anti, Christian cultures. Indeed, many of the poor Nigerian girls were Christians, targeted by a group of extreme radical Muslims.

And what does the awful murder in Auckland illustrate, other than that sin has not gone away. How does it support some sweeping condemnation? Far more men are murder victims than women - of course, mostly killed by other men.

You note that the overwhelming bulk of the Christian church does not allow female priests or bishops. Perhaps that is wrong, but it has been the tradition and teaching of the church for the best part of 2000 years, and for the most part neither men nor women seem to have treated that restriction as a "war on women".

So I'm still struggling to understand a condemnation so sweeping, of all Christians, as complicit in a "war" that is itself barely recognisable in those parts of the world shaped by the Christian centuries.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Michael
I may have gone too far with 'war' ... but I ask myself, why am I more worried about my daughters walking our streets at night than my son?

When will the world be safe for women?

Until then it must seem to women that it is a war-like zone out there!

Andrei said...

"War on women" - is the narrative of the deceiver who is destroying Western civilization.

Men of course are far more likely to die from violence than women and actually die earlier then women statistically.

But the "war on women" card is played to advance upper middle class, over privileged, pampered women into whatever positions of authority they covet.

Of course all that ordaining women actually achieves is to make the Church seem entirely irrelevant young men which is why the denominations that do it are dying out.

Father Ron Smith said...

"You note that the overwhelming bulk of the Christian church does not allow female priests or bishops. Perhaps that is wrong, but it has been the tradition and teaching of the church for the best part of 2000 years, and for the most part neither men nor women seem to have treated that restriction as a "war on women".
- Andrei - (Horseman)

Because, Andrei, 'it has been the tradition and the teaching of the Church for the best part of 2000 years' - why should institutional injustice be continued?

How can you possibly know that women have willingly accepted what has been their fate?

In any case, the Early Church did rather turn that patriarchalism around - after the example of Jesus. Sadly the institutional Church still retained and utilised patriarchal philosophy - because of the pre-Christian ethos that still prevailed - especially in ministry and mission.

Today, however, thanks be to God, the Church is waking up to its institutional prejudice, and is now entering into a phase of reconciliation and inclusion - of ALL God's children, irrespective of gender, status, ethnicity, race or sexual-orientation.

However, there are still those amongst us who seem determined to put the clock back to the Middle Ages on matters of social justice.

But, hey! Christ is now Risen, Ascended and Glorified, and ready to pour out more grace upon the Church to expand the guide ropes, free the prisoners and open up the Kingdom of Heaven to ALL believers

Caleb said...

Hear, hear, Peter! Very well said and a very important challenge.

Re: changing your original wording... surely this shows the problem of "centrism" when you try to take a middle ground between people (like yourself) sympathising with women's plights and privileged male extremists pretending patriarchy doesn't exist? "War on women" was definitely a warranted phrase (and war on gender/sex minorities is even more warranted... at risk of derailing this discussion into the usual one discussions get derailed into).

Michael's point is spurious, because, yes, women are better off in Western, historically Christian, countries than the areas where your extreme global examples are from. But that's thanks to the Christians (and non-Christians) arguing the way Peter argues in this blog - not the Christians (and non-Christians) arguing for the authority of men against women.

Chris Spark said...

The idea of authority being something that is held 'against' people, or held for any other reason than for the service of others, is a completely counter-Christian way of thinking of authority.
Until we stop thinking of authority in the way the rest of the world does (as it seems to be spoken of here), and start thinking of it the way Jesus did (eg Luke 22:24-27) I fear we will never have a fair debate about issues like this.

Andrew W said...

"We still have 200 Nigerian girls held by Boko Haram." - Agreed. On the up-side, they were 'merely' enslaved, rather than gunned down or otherwise murdered as was done to male students over the preceding months. But "hundreds of Nigerian boys murdered" doesn't have the same ring to it when you're running a "war on women" narrative.

The crudest aspect about this whole narrative is the blatant suggestion that I am somehow complicit in crimes committed half a world away because I happen to have some convenient aspect in common (in this instance, sex) with the perpetrators. It saddens me that it's not bleedingly obvious that the way I treat, say, my wife is not conditioned by Boko Haran (observation: if I were in northern Nigeria, I'd be seen as a target, not a co-conspirator).

If we have cultural critiques to make, let's make them by actually addressing the culture being critiqued.

And while we're at it, let's observe that feminism has sold us a massive inconsistency here: one cannot coherently argue that women don't need men and then turn around and complain that men are failing to stand up and protect women. Traditionally, the answer to "but there are men out there who specifically target women" has been "then hang out with the men that don't". Yes, I know that doesn't help if you're dealing with Boko Haran, but then I observe that Boko Haran has been busily eliminating the protectors first, but we only got really outraged when there were no protectors left.

John Sandeman said...

New Zealand readers might be interested in Tim Harris' response to John Dickson's "Hearing Her Voice" at
Tim has published two episodes of a four-part response.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi John
Thanks for the link, but isn't +Tim responding to a book about John Dickson's book?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Chris
When authority is held 'for' people, the question arises why it cannot be shared 'by' people, of both genders. If authority in the service of Christ, who died for us all, is held by one gender only, with what confidence may a woman view the judgements of an all male council as truly empathising with women in their womenhood?

Finally, if the church presents its leadership as wholly male, no matter how wonderful that male body may be in the service of Christ, does its presentation not foster a wider view across the globe that women are second class citizens who must submit to male authority?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrew W
I am trying to address a world/global tendency to treat women poorly.

We can be thankful that in some cultures women are treated well, and that within many cultures many women are treated well, and that in specific households such as your own, your wife is treated well.

I ask myself, you may or may not care to ask yourself also, whether any kind of complacency has crept into my engagement with the world, for it remains a world in which some men think they are superior to women and that thinking is tolerated in various ways.

Many boys and men are treated badly too, as you rightly observe. I do not see a concern for women and their treatment is an either/or re treatment of men.

Whatever those boys were killed for, it was not for having the temerity to believe that they might be educated alongside girls.

Caleb said...

The idea of authority being something that is held 'against' people, or held for any other reason than for the service of others, is a completely counter-Christian way of thinking of authority.
Until we stop thinking of authority in the way the rest of the world does (as it seems to be spoken of here), and start thinking of it the way Jesus did (eg Luke 22:24-27) I fear we will never have a fair debate about issues like this.

Well-said to a point. I would normally say "authority over" - I suppose I said "against" because I was thinking in terms of the blog's topic of patriarchy in general as a "war against women."

Anyway, I agree about Christ-like authority not being against people. But I'd suggest it's not simply a matter of how we "think about" authority - as if authority is always the same thing and the only thing that makes it good or bad is how we think about it (like a strange Rhonda Byrne-esque argument). It's about how authority is actually shaped and exercised - which means how social systems like marriages and churches and commnities and societies are organised.

Jesus did not say “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you should still exercise the same authority over people, but with a different 'heart attitude' so that you're not lording it over them... and you should describe this authority with euphemisms like "servant leadership" or "prime minister" so that we can think of this authority as service."

He said “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

As Peter said, "Without a share in power, women are always unequal to men." Regardless of how we think about it.

So how should we think about authority? Well, we should think about specific expressions of authority based on how those specific expressions actually function - and patriarchal authority (even "benevolent" or "protective" patriarchal authority) over women does function to support violence, coercion and marginalisation against women. It's a well-documented fact, despite certain commenters trying to weasel their way out of this by saying their own patriarchal views have nothing to do with Boko Haram and are indeed the solution to it.

Re: violence against boys by Boko Haram and others... This guy makes good points - e.g. that violence is inherent to how we construct masculinity, and it claims both male and female victims.

Father Ron Smith said...

Well said, Caleb!

Jean said...

There seems to be evidence in scripture for the leadership and teaching of women as well as the verses in Timothy which appear in contradiction to this. However, it is of note that Paul elsewhere commends female teachers and leaders of house churches. Just as today there is evidence of women being given authority by God to preach, brave is the person who would deny the likes of Jackie Pullinger's authority in leadership of her ministry in Hong Kong and now elsewhere, or even our own Junko Preston whose call to be a Minister of the Gospel came through a direct calling from God. So precedent exists for God given authority for women to both teach and lead.

The crux appears to be as quoted by others, "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, Male nor Female, Slave nor Free but all are one in Christ Jesus." In all these cases there was a culturally perceived value of worth and status between the two opposing groups and this is it seems what Jesus dismantled. Christ has made all true believers worthy. As was the common prayer uttered in years passed, 'thank goodness I was not born a woman',

In saying this I recognise the tendency of my own sex to disrespect men. Having witnessed a wife totally undermine her husband by negating all His actions in front of their children. Perhaps this is what Paul refers to in the tricky passages, the temptation for women, as Eve did, to use their influence to undermine men in a subtle sense. We see this when an authentic secular feminist movement is hi-jacked by women who go further than getting justice to in a sense assuming the right to do anything they please.

On the other hand as the bible also points out there is the tendency of men to not love their women in the way Christ loved the church. So where women lack respect men have lacked love (putting the care and wants of women as of equal importance to the care or wants of themselves). Women are by nature (in that inherently our security and investment of time and money is often largely given towards relationships) are more vulnerable - as well as physically simply by our genetic make-up. All this and the historical power of men over the lives of women have contributed to inequality of women in society. At university wrote a life history of a women who was told by her Church Minister (yes Anglican) that the reason her husband left her and four children (he had his own issues and was an alcoholic) was her fault because she was "the female of the species." Amazing it is she remained faithful to her God.

I do not like terms like war against women, or hate crimes, or apostles of hate as I believe it only adds adversity. Addressing inequality and violence against women is a justice issue for both sexes as many issues are. I do not believe men are corporately complicit for I do not believe in collective guilt unless one is guilty by complacency or silence.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Jean,
My concern for men to stop the rot re women is consistent with acknowledging other problems in life, including women treating women badly and women treating men badly.

On the whole, despite shifts in power, we do not find women kidnapping boys because they have dared to go to school.

Andrew W said...

And yet in John 13 (washing the feet), we do not find Jesus abdicating authority. Rather,

"You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." (John 13:13-15).

Jesus' leadership doesn't grant the disciples "a share in power". He's not teaching them how not to handle power, but how to handle it.

Moving on to Paul, consider Titus 2. In summary, Titus is commanded to "… teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority" (Titus 2:15). This is not a message against authority, or for rejection of authority, but for handling authority in holiness.

As for "patriarchal authority .. over women does function to support violence" - is Caleb really sure he wants to take St Paul and St Peter to task for facilitating violence against women (e.g. Eph 4:28,33; Titus 2:3-4; 1 Peter 3:7)? Just asking.

As a corollary, is Caleb aware that the same argument suggests that parents and police are inherently and necessarily contributing to child abuse and oppression, respectively? Methinks Caleb might want to go catch his runaway shopping cart of rhetoric before it causes an accident.

I am well aware that there are rampant issues of violence and maltreatment around the world, and even in our own backyard. But if Scripture has anything to say on the matter, men abdicating responsibility and authority will only make matters worse, not better. We need to continually rediscover Jesus' leadership and bring our failures before him in repentance, not throw in the towel and let someone else take up our slack.

Jean said...

Definitely Peter I agree, I was trying more to address the question of women in leadership with respect to comments on the weaknesses of both sexes (ie: total authority lying with either sex is a bad recipe).

There is no doubt there is still a long way to go re addressing violence against girls/women and the measures to keep them subservient. Certainly I myself have been frustrated that I don't have the same sense of safety in respect to travelling or going out alone at night as male peers.

Anonymous said...

I’m a bit late joining this conversation, apologies.

Three things …
Firstly, Peter, are you saying in your post that the world-wide church should, as a matter of urgency, question the legitimacy of the Anglican complementarian voice? … the acceptability of ‘two integrities’ co-existing?

Is it true that in NZ, opponents of WO have not enjoyed ‘integrity’ status for some time in that they are not permitted to teach or preach their understanding of Scripture within Anglican ministry units?

If you are indeed saying that there should be only one legitimate position on this issue throughout the Communion, what effect do you think this will have on the confidence of those who oppose the 2014 decisions of General Synod …might they wonder how long their proposed status as one of two equal integrities might last?

Secondly, I cannot see the strength of the link you and some others are making between what the church does/says and violent acts committed against women …

I’m simply not convinced that the ‘world’ is influenced by what the Anglican Church does or says. I’m looking at this from an ‘inside outside’ (to borrow Herman Wouk’s phrase) perspective. Although I was an Anglican for years, I grew up in a non-Christian home; the general consensus was that church people were wishy-washy do-gooders at best and hypocrites at worst. My otherwise gentle dad’s attitude towards clergy was that while some of them probably meant well, in general they were not to be taken seriously. Today, my extensive extended family makes the same judgements, albeit in 21st century phraseology. Do/did they care what the church says/does? Very little … when they actually notice.

NZ Anglican women have had equal access to all levels of ministry for decades … where is the correlation with rates of violence against women?

Thirdly, perhaps your post is coloured by Western self-absorption? The desperate plight of women in Islamic communities is neither helped nor hindered by Anglicans re-arranging the furniture or deciding to part their hair on the right or the left. Boko Haram, and the rest, simply do not care what you do or say, they hate you and all that you stand for. They will never make peace with you; they will never adopt your ideology. Boko Haram didn’t kidnap the girls because they had the ‘temerity to study alongside boys’ but because they totally reject western education … that’s what the populist name means: ‘boko- book’, ‘haram – forbidden’. The boys were murdered because they couldn't be turned into a profit. The girls are alive because they are still worth something, either as bargaining chips or as brides.

Susannah Sarau

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Susannah

There has never been a 'Two Integrities' approach to the ordination of women in our church so there is no line to be drawn between the experience of those in our church who oppose or disagree with the ordination of women and the possibility of a formal Two Integrities "structure" re blessings.

Experiences of people through our dioceses will vary as to whether they feel comfortable, under threat etc re teaching against the ordination of women.

I am joining a long bow between the experience of life in a Western church and in a Western culture and the machinations against women in far off countries. But we all belong to the world and I think it time for Christian churches to check in as to whether upholding male prerogatives for power and authority have some kind of ripple effect around the globe in respect of non-Christian men presuming the right to control the lives of girls and women.

Speaking only for myself, I am not going to say that Boko Haram is only a Nigerian problem, and then only in the areas of Nigeria governed by Muslims.

Jean said...

Hi Susannah

I am aware personally of two churches who do not allow women to preach, one Anglican. Neither have been isolated from the christian community at large, even though this is not the predominant viewpoint of most christian communities I encounter.

To say Anglican women in NZ have had access to all areas of ministry for decades, is to dismiss too quicky the advocacy required to acheive this and the experience of women in the NZ church (still living) who were the brunt of sexist attitudes within our own churches. Of course in this instance, much to our regret, the churches attitudes in many ways mirrored societies - women could not receive the unemployment benefit (this was only handed over to men). Hence in this sense the church was complicit.

The correlation I believe between the church in NZ recognising and condemning violence against women in general and overseas is we are as christians a body. The actions taken by our brothers and sisters who live in countries where the violence is extreme, can be both encouraged and supported financially and spiritually by us.

In New Zealand we as Christian's are challenged to support those women affected by violence in our own communities.

Yes many people who have yet to be christians take little notice of what the church says. At the same time from my experience they have little knowledge of what the church teaches and does. But remember God's church is His people and their are still many of His people whom make a big difference in the lives of many including women influenced by exploitation and violence. Take for example the recent visit by Kenyan missionaries, one of which who works with prostitutes who reside close to their church in Nairobi to restore their sense of worth.

I believe the Islam v's Western debate is a different issue altogether. I imagine Peter chose the Nigerian example as an illustration to highlight the violence suffered by women. He could have just as easily chosen any number of examples, such as the recent raping and hanging of two teenage girls in Iindia.

Caleb said...

Andrew, you have a couple of rhetorical shopping carts yourself - one hurtling towards it being impossible for the Bible's human authors to be subject to human limitations or conditioned by the patriarchy of their culture (and arguably not acknowleding the human side of Scripture at all), and the other towards seeing women as inherently and necessarily equivalent to children and ordinary civilians and men as equivalent to parents and policemen.

Against my better judgment, I'll answer your questions anyway:

1) In short: yes. In slightly-less-short: yes, I do believe St Paul and St Peter were conditioned by their patriarchal context in some ways, while also challenging it - sometimes they seemed to reinforce patriarchy (though it can be argued to what extent), sometimes they reformed or humanised it, sometimes they directly and radically challenged it, and often they simply assumed it, which was very easy to do as it was the common sense of the societies they moved in. The basic trajectory is towards challenging patriarchy, and Paul especially can be applauded for that (he's arguably the first feminist). But we need not and should not ignore how Paul and the other biblical authors were human beings, conditioned and influenced by their human contexts - including the dominance of a patriarchal gender hierarchy.

2) Many policepeople and parents do contribute to child abuse and oppression, and (thankfully) many do not. To minimise this abuse and maximise positive parenting/policing, only those with the appropriate character, skills, support and accountability should be police or parents. It is odd and dangerous to suggest that because of somebody's (apparent) genitals and/or (apparent) chromosones, they necessarily have the character etc. for leadership - and because of someone else's, they necessarily don't.

In any case, in my previous comment I wasn't so much concerned with philosophical statements and supposed logical connotations of patriarchal attitudes, I was making factual statements about the observed connotations of patriarchal attitudes for real people. Many bodies have been wounded by patriarchal attitudes, including in our own city of Christchurch in 2014.

Re: your last paragraph, you may wish to follow my above links on "benevolent" sexism as the supposed solution to "hostile" sexism.