Thursday, July 17, 2014

Good disagreement via discipline of non-demonization?

In the wake of the decision of the CofE GS to permit bishops to be drawn from the ranks of men and women (which, incidentally, over there means, 'the ranks of archdeacons, deans, seminary principals'), the seven spirits of God roaming over all the earth - I am up to my ears teaching Revelation at the moment :) - see some unsavoury things being said on the internet. (There are also some perceptive, careful and often challenging things being said in comments here ... thank you).

The 'unsavoury things' are descriptions of 'the other side' which at best make the other look bad and at worst make the other look demonic. In short, I am reading things which unfairly characterise what that other side to the Tweeter/blogger/punditocrat is saying. It is not ecclesiastical rocket science to recognise that ++Justin Welby's strategy of working with 'good disagreement' (on which, see Bosco Peters) will not work if we cannot accurately and fairly represent other people's views.

One of the things which particularly concerns me is a kind of snide attitude towards the CofE retaining and supporting that wing which does not support the ordination of women, let alone women being ordained as bishops. "How can the church maintain 'patriarchal authoritarianism' within it?" some are grizzling into their latte cups.

Put like that, how can it?! There is nothing more awful for men as well as women to have authoritarian patriarchs running amok!

But what if we discipline ourselves to speak justly of one another, to render each other's views accurately and to engage empathetically with the general view of the church being espoused? Might we then find that we do not have authoritarian patriarchs running around let alone running amok?

A case in point is a sermon preached just before the GS by Cranmer's Curate. It is as good and clear a statement of a sincerely held belief that women ought not to be ordained priests or bishops as you will find around Anglican blogs today.

As I have reflected on the sermon over the past couple of non-blogging-because-travelling days I find what is fair and true about the sermon and what is promoted within it is a view about the way God orders the church and the world. In this ordering of the world, the sun rises every day, if I step off a cliff I fall to the ground below, men teach mix congregations and women do not, and the All Blacks win nearly every game they play. An associated point is that the Bible is particularly clear on the one point which is not necessarily obvious from observations about the ordering of the world re nature and athletic supremacy.

Our appreciation of this point of view lies in recognising that what is being advanced is not authoritarian patriarchalism but an understanding of God's plan for the world. The commitment to advancing this understanding is fuelled by a desire to honour God. That is why both women and men support this teaching. And, if Anglicanism is not duplicitous, if it is honest and has integrity when it says we are inclusive of diversity, then a way should be found to allow this understanding of God's ordering of the world since it is an understanding with a history in our tradition as we have read Scripture. (To be clear, in some speech by Anglicans, some similar sentiments are expressed which sound for all the world like a rubbishy, misogynistic, authoritarian patriarchalism ... nothing said here is appreciating or supporting such deprecation of women as part of our diversity).

But the converse is true in respect of Anglican diversity. Holders of views expressed along the lines of Cranmer's Curate should be able to appreciate alternative views which teach a different understanding of the ordering of the world and of the church, also fuelled by a desire to honour God. In this understanding the world is not quite so rigidly ordered in each dimension. The sun rises everyday and jumping off cliffs is not advised but the weather is not so ordered and the All Blacks lose more knock out games at World Cups than general statistics would predict. In particular, the ordering of the church along gender lines is not a clear teaching from New Testament scriptures which offer a fluid picture of leadership development in the context of a new appreciation of humanity 'in Christ' in a 'new creation' called into being by the undoing of the reign of sin through the cross.

Of course there is an unfortunate smattering of talk in support of women bishops which seems to owe more to United Nations' charters or postmodern social democratic chatter about glass ceilings than to Scripture. But we should be no more put off affirming the decision made by the CofE as part of Anglican diversity than we would expect people to be put off the views of Cranmer's Curate by reading rubbishy patriarchalism elsewhere in the blogosphere.

(As an aside, further, the association of the decision with the 'agenda' to foster further change down the line re homosexuality is not a reason to resist women bishops. It has always seemed unfortunate to me that the affirmation of women in leadership might be imperilled by concerns about what men do together.)

Can we avoid demonizing each other as we explore what 'good disagreement' might mean?

As a postscript, another concern in these debates can be our relationship as Anglicans with Rome. Writing about the CofE decision, Damian Thompson makes an astute point about the response of Pope Francis in his own acerbic, take-no-prisoners way:

"How will Pope Francis react? Some Anglicans suspect that he’s secretly pleased: they see him as a fellow liberal who would be open to ordaining women if only John Paul II hadn’t declared it to be a theological impossibility. They’re wrong. Francis talks about expanding the ‘ministry’ of women, but when he’s pressed on the subject he makes jokes about bossy priests’ housekeepers and Adam’s rib. There’s definitely a streak of old-fashioned Latin American misogyny in the Holy Father. 
On the other hand, the Pope won’t lose any sleep over this, since he doesn’t believe that Catholics and Protestants should waste time debating irreconcilable doctrinal differences. His message to the CofE’s new women bishops will be: join me in spreading the Gospel." (my bold)


Anonymous said...

Thank you for a very wise post... both about being honest in debate, and about the role of God in our lives


liturgy said...

Amen! Peter

Thanks & blessings


Father Ron Smith said...

I guess God has to make do with the many divergences of doctrinal certitude in the Body of Christ. So why should we be any different?

Only God is All-Knowing.

Father Ron Smith said...

I think Pope Francis is very wise. He is a creature of the doctrinal mid-set he is part of. He will do precisely what he experiences as God's call upon him. As do the leaders of other Churches.

God has provided infinite variation in God's Church - as Saint Paul has demonstrated in his analogy of the human body. Unity is much, much more than human theological uniformity.

In Christ, there is neither male nor female - (maybe; catholic nor protestant? gay nor straight?)

Maybe God has created us all very different, so that we may have to struggle to "Keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace". A holy enterprise!

Unknown said...

Hi Peter,
It concerns me that the vote at York had more to do with the
'will of Westminster' than the 'Will of God'.
There were whispers, that if the the vote did not conform with the
'Equal Oppotunities Legislation';
Parliament was going to intervene.
Surely,such would have been in contravention of Article 37.
However,it has long been a bone of contention that a secular
Parliament has taken upon itself,
a right which belonged to 'Divinely Appointed Monarchs'.
Going hand in hand with this,of course, was the abolition of the
'Ecclesiastcal Courts.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Glen
I would be most surprised if more than a handful of votes were influenced by some fear of Westminster.

It has been abundantly clear, not least through the overwhelming votes of the synods of the C of E, that the will of the people of the C of E is very strongly for women becoming bishops. I don't think some Westminster parliamentary override has determined this vote at all.

Unknown said...

Hi Peter,
If this vote was not more about
'secular Will,rather than 'God's Will';What is the' Scriptural Authority' of changing two thousands years of Church Tradition?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Glen
It is secular thinking which trumpets 2000 years of church tradition as though longevity per se counts for anything.

As an adherent to the Reformation I want to keep challenging claims to tradition with understanding God's will through Scripture - an understanding which itself is aided by tradition but not hedged by tradition.

There is nothing 'secular' about asking whether women are equally able to lead and teach in the church to men. That is a question which arises when we acknowledge who we are as men and women, made in the image of God and redeemed by Christ.

When Prisca taught people and contributed to the leadership of the church was she being 'secular' or exercising new life in Christ?

Has "2000 years of tradition" imprisoned that new life in a false understanding of male hegemony?

Father Ron Smith said...

Keep it up, Peter! I do appreciate your repsonses to Glen's ongoing defence of crippling the status quo.

He seems not to realise that we have to work at our salvation, "In fear and trembling". It is not just 'steak on the plate while you wait'. It is a constant struggle against the principalities and powers that would have us relax from our striving for justice and peace. Women's ordination is just a part of that struggle.

Andrew W said...

"the association of the decision with the 'agenda' to foster further change down the line re homosexuality is not a reason to resist women bishops"

Not necessarily, no.

But if I find that my eyes are watering and I am sneezing within a similar timeframe, I'd be foolish not to consider whether there is some fundamental underlying issue.

Father Ron Smith said...

Apologies, Peter, for my astounding reversal of two words in my last post. Should have read: "Glen's defence of 'the crippling' status quo" (reference to his exaltation of tradition over semper reformanda)

Unknown said...

Hi Peter,
Secular thinking began in the
'Garden of Eden'.Secular thinking
is nothing more than man's thinking; rather than him accepting the Word of God.
The Reformation began when God called Luther out of the Monastry.
Luther challanged practices which were contary to the word of God.
Hence Articles XIX and XXII make
it quite clear that the Reformed Church does not accept these
However, when Claudius commanded all Jews to leave Rome;Aquila and
his wife Priscila went to Corinth.
Aquila established himself as tent
maker.He also established a Church group in his home.Paul,also a tent maker, stayed with them;where he also practised his old craft.He devoted
the Sabath to teaching in the
synagogue.Aquila and Piscila were
to join Paul in Athens 1 Thes.3:1.
From these few verses,along with
Rom.16:3 and 1 Cor.16:19.;it seems to be somewhat of an existentialistic leap to claim
Scriptual Authority for Women to
become Bishops in the One,Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
So perhaps Priscila was doing her
role in the family structure and
supporting her husband in his God given commission of Church planting.
But all of this to the side,any
womam Bishop will be elected by a
secular Parliament and not by the

Peter Carrell said...

Yes, Andrew, cutting up onions mixed with pepper is not to be advised! :)

Unknown said...

I ask the same question of you.
If you wish to change the Doctrine and Theology of the Church,please quote your Scriptural Authority.It is not our Church or Doctrine;they both belong to Christ.
Our struggle is with casting down imaginations and
every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God,and bringing into captivity
every thought to the obediance of Christ.
I did not realise that we had to work at our salvation or indeed that we could work at it.This appears very much like the Progressive Christian teaching of orthopraxy-a corruption of the words of James.
My understanding of the Christian life lies in the taking up of Christ's call to follow Him.
He thus becomes my 'Mediator';
standing between, not only the Father and I,but between every earthly attachment and I.
Ron,I have spent 20 years taking personal reponsibilty for all the
drugs and proceedures which occured in our units and being on call 24/7 for any issues which needed my intervention.During that time,my wife and I were very
active in improving the treatment of co-morbidity;seeking to get the
the Justice Department to recognise that status,when dealing with those people.
My Christian belief also lead me to Stand firm for what I believe.
I thought that I belonged to the Church of Christ;not a quasi social movement,riding on white chargers and tilting at windmills with broom handles.

Father Ron Smith said...

Glen, I'm reminded in your speech here of the fact that, in the South Island of New Zealand there exists a closed community at Gloriavale. There was a lovely documentary aired tonight on TV2.

It showed the daily life of a virtually closed group of families (usually large in number, with no hint of contraception - as thought to be contrary to the will of God - and little free choice in whom one was destined to marry. All very beautiful - but not my own understanding of 'openness to the world that I feel called into.

Similarly, those who want to live in a closed community - with absolute obedience to a superior - have a direct call from God to do so; but, it is not the only way to be an active, life affirming follower of Jesus Christ. Most people have top live in the real world - with all its problems.

Anonymous said...

I think if you are looking for guidance as to who may become a bishop in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, you will not find it in the Bible. This is because the office of bishop as we understand it did not exist in New Testament times. Churches were led by teams of elders/presbyters/pastors/overseers who were far more like a combination of lay-reader/church council member than they were like our modern priests. The issue of who presides at Holy Communion was of no interest whatsoever to the NT writers.

But if Glen is looking for scriptural authority for the idea that God the Holy Spirit calls men and women to proclaim his word, a good place to start would be the words of Joel quoted by Peter on the Day of Pentecost.


Jean said...

Hey Andrew W if you are in NZ I hope you haven't been holding off sneezing - that's a terrible feeling from past experience. Given the first women Bishop was ordained in NZ nigh on 30 years ago now.

Hey Glen

I know giving women the vote and allowing them to work in the public sphere and hence as leaders was a social movement, but as Peter states very succinctly there is also a biblical precedent for it. It is traditional if one looks to scripture.

I understand women weren't in the majority of those named leaders in the bible, but I think you would find the number of women called to leadership positions in the church still remains less than men.

Women Leaders:
Lydia - Business leader, Fellowship Leader
Phoebe - Deaconess
Deborah - Judge
Huldah/Miriam - Prophetesses
Anna - Prophetess/Intercessor
Priscilla - Teacher/Preacher
Junia - Apostle

And some exemplary women leaders and teacher's in this generation (just pulling a few from my overworked brain):

Joni-Erickson Tada - Preacher/Teacher
Kim Phuc - Preacher
Jackie Pullinger - Missionary/Evangelist/Writer/Preacher
Elizabeth Elliot - Missionary/Preacher/Teacher

God called these women into leadership, who are they to follow, God or man?

Blessings, Jean

Father Ron Smith said...

"But if I find that my eyes are watering and I am sneezing within a similar timeframe, I'd be foolish not to consider whether there is some fundamental underlying issue."
- Andrew W. -

Could that 'fundamental underlying issue' be at all connected with the requirement of God in the Bible for 'Justice', Andrew? Or do you think that's going too far?

MichaelA said...

"But the converse is true in respect of Anglican diversity. Holders of views expressed along the lines of Cranmer's Curate should be able to appreciate alternative views which teach a different understanding of the ordering of the world and of the church, also fuelled by a desire to honour God."

Why would he Peter? Your description perfectly describes Buddhism.

Now I suppose I could say that I "appreciate" (your word) Buddhist views, and that would be correct. But I don't take them seriously as Christian teaching.

Our Lord and his Apostles taught us that only men should lead congregations, hence that is what we do, and that is what Christians have done for thousands of years. We aren't going to be moved just because of a few trendy arguments which, in the end, are mainly about following the secular zeitgeist at a particular place, time and culture, however sincerely some Christians may try to convince themselves otherwise.

Jean said...

Hi Michael

Where did our God teach us only men should lead his people? Or did God not call Deborah?

And did Paul in acknowledging Junia as an Apostle with whom he shared Christ's ministry, lie? Did his visiting the fellowship lead by Lydia not constitute approval of her vocation.

Does the bible really say, "there is neither man not woman....... but all are one in Christ Jesus"

I would imagine it matters little to the men Jackie Pullinger has ministered to in her congregation of the old wall city whether you are moved or not. Her redeemer liveth, and has used her as His vessel to transform the lives of hundreds, He is able to justify her with or without your commendation.