A respondent to my post below (see Rosemary's comment to the post) about an editorial of Gerald Bray in The Churchman raises several important points which I would like to respond to, not least because with the points comes a charge that I (and people reading Paul like me) are undermining the integrity with which Paul wrote.
Here are the important points:
"... if I’m not to trust the plain meaning of Paul on that matter, what other matter can I not trust him on? Salvation? Eternal Life? He wrote quite a bit about the necessity of people being able to trust in his integrity .. and yet you’re telling me that he’s not to be trusted in this particular case. The implication is that I can’t trust him on any other issue either ... [and] ...no, just continue to make sure you uphold the apparent justice issue, and continue to lack trust in Jesus actions and undermining the authority of Paul ..." That is, (1) what is the 'plain meaning' of Paul in 1 Timothy 2:11-15?
"... the devil has convinced us that we must hold upfront positions in order to be equal, we must seek leadership in order to be fulfilled. In fact that service can ONLY be seen in those roles." That is, (2) the church today is deceived into thinking that equality of women with men requires the ordination of women.
"... Rather downputting of so many women who don’t see their roles that way isn’t it Peter? But don’t concern yourself about them ..." That is, (3) the goal of ordaining women, and the continuing upholding of that goal is at the expense of women who do not seek ordination as a validation of the ministry they do have.
Here I will not attempt a long answer for which I can refer to some posts on Anglican Down Under I made some time ago, here, here, here, here and there. So, some brief responses:
(1) on the plain meaning of 1 Timothy 2:11-15, the question is whether any exegete understands the 'plain meaning' because there is vigorous scholarly debate over (a) the meaning of the word, authentein, in 2:12 (to have authority or to usurp authority), and (b) the meaning in 2:15 of 'being kept safe, or being saved through childbirth, or by bearing children, or by bearing The Child.' In my view the difficulties in 2:15 raise the serious question whether the prohibition in 2:12 is not only concerned with female usurpers of authority but also with the content of their teaching as doctrinally unsound because it involved denial of the inherent goodness of our sexuality (see also 1 Timothy 4:3).
My argument is that, in the light of the positive affirmations of women in ministry leadership elsewhere in Paul's writings, these uncertainties mean we cannot be confident that we understand the plain meaning of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 to be a universal prohibition for all time of all women who might be ordained to the priesthood or episcopacy (which ministries normally include teaching and leadership). I accept, of course, that many Christians believe they read Paul in 2:11-15 plainly and have excellent grounds for rejecting the ordination of women. This belief necessarily includes a confidence in understanding authentein and the tricky questions concerning salvation in 2:15 which I (and other esxegetes) do not share.
Incidentally I am not at all satisfied that engaging with Paul's writings by asking questions of it should incur charges of 'not trusting' him. Plenty of questioning of Paul goes on in the evangelical wing of the church, let alone within the whole church. Is it trusting or not trusting Paul, for example, to downplay or even deny the validity of speaking in tongues or exercising spiritual gifts such as words of knowledge (1 Corinthians 12, 14) as many evangelicals do?
(2)It is quite possible, indeed probable that in some places in the church people are deceived into thinking that equality of women with men requires the ordination of women. (Intriguingly this could mean that many Protestants have been deceived by the devil but all of the Roman and Eastern churches have withstood the devil's wiles!!) But arguments for the ordination of women do not require a linkage with 'equality'. Speaking personally (i.e. not trying to second guess the arguments of others) I support the ordination of women as a recognition of calling, gifts, and abilities of women the church discerns as able to fulfil the role of deacon, priest or bishop. In my view the church should not ordain women as a matter driven primarily by justice considerations but foremost as a matter of responding to the discernment of the will of God.
(3) I am well aware that in various parts of the church there is an unfortunate clericalism whereby the earthly glory and praise for ministry roles goes primarily to the ordained with lay ministers being ignored, taken for granted, or generally overlooked when ministry is commended - a clericalism which has simply extended its scope with the ordination of women. This post, for example, bears witness to that fact.
But I fail to see any necessary linkage between ordaining women and putting down the ministry of women who are not ordained. Speaking personally I make it my aim not to glorify ordained ministry, especially not in comparison to lay ministry. Speaking from the Diocese of Nelson where lay and ordained ministry, of men and of women, mingles side by side, and where lay and ordained ministers are welcomed and encouraged to participate in our annual Leadership Conference, I humbly assert that it is possible to affirm the ordination of women and to affirm the ministry of women who are not ordained, without anyone being put down.
Book Promo: Jesus and the Old Testament
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