Sunday, September 6, 2009

Response 2 to some issues raised earlier about WO

Request 1: If equality has nothing to do with the demands of women to be accepted for ordination, then please explain this further with respect to Genesis.

I am not sure the extent to which “equality” has something to do with the “demands” of women to be accepted for ordination because I have little or no experience of women “demanding” ordination. I can imagine that equality may figure in a range of conversations about the ordination of women such as (a) women and equal to men (pace Genesis 1) so, all things being equal with men applicants for ordination in respect of calling, gifts, abilities, women should be accepted for ordination, and (b) women should not be denied ordination on the grounds that they are women because women are equal to men in status as redeemed creatures of God (pace Genesis 1 and Galatians 3:28).

But, personally, I do not see how equality can determine an answer to questions about the ordination of women since (c) where there is opposition to the ordination of women it often if not always seems to involve this presupposition, “The (ontological) equality of men and women is not in question; what is in question is the role-suitability of women for the function of ordained ministry.” According to this presupposition a drive for “equality” has no bearing on the matter since the ordained role of priest or bishop is a role confined to men by virtue of the gender restriction on the original apostles and/or the representational aspect of the role – Jesus was a male (the ‘catholic’ argument), or a role not permitted to women – 1 Timothy 2:12 (the ‘evangelical’ argument).”

Question 1: women have an unquestioned role as ‘helpmeet’, a wide ranging role, one consistent with being ordained a deacon, but what is the scriptural justification for jumping from that to overseer and/or instructor?

The question of ordination of women to roles of priest and bishop when put in this form requires some careful calibration with the character of Anglican theologising.

Recall something I have said in a post below:
… a reminder, first, of Anglican approaches to interpreting Scripture. These I summarise as follows: (1) nothing repugnant to Scripture (2) anything consistent with Scripture (3) everything revisable according to Scripture.

(1) is a consistent principle of interpretation through all history of theology

(2) is the hard won result of arguments with Puritans, tested subsequent to the Elizabethan Settlement, never resiled from despite temptations to do so at different times in English history since E1, thus, for example, we subscribe to the orders of deacons, priests, and bishops, as consistent with Scripture though this is not required by Scripture

(3) is the principle of the Reformation, put into practice by the English Reformers, and subsequently has empowered Anglicans to consider proposed changes to faith and practice, including consideration of the ordination of women.

Anglicans, in other words, are prepared to accept church practices which are not “repugnant” to Scripture but which may not be “justified” by Scripture because (e.g.) Scripture simply offers insufficient material for a “scriptural justification”.
A trivial example is the lack of scriptural justification for placing flowers in church as part of church decoration; a substantive example is the lack of scriptural justification for holding annual synods. We do both because they contribute to the life of the body of Christ here on earth.

That there might not be explicit scriptural justification for women being in the roles of overseer and/or instructor need not restrain us from making appointments of women to these roles, providing we understand this as not repugnant to Scripture. The latter determination involves a range of assessments from the evidence of the New Testament for women being widely involved in the ministry and mission of the church to texts such as 1 Timothy 2:12-15. With respect to the former the general argument is that an extension of what we find explicitly in the New Testament (deacon, patron, co-labourers in the gospel, shared instruction by Prisca and Aquila) to roles of overseer and/or instructor is appropriate; with respect to the latter, I argue, that 1 Timothy 2:12 is not a universal prohibition on any woman at any time being appointed to the role of overseer and/or instructor.

Request 2: a scriptural defence of the importance/necessity/worth/integrity of the role of lay women

In my understanding of the New Testament’s narratives of ministry and mission, a wide range of ministry roles are commended explicitly or implicitly. These commended roles are held by men and by women, and they go well beyond the New Testament equivalents of our Anglican ordained roles of bishop, priest and deacon. The New Testament church seemingly could not function without this breadth of ministry. Nor can our modern church function without people taking up the many roles beyond the ‘clerical’ ones. Along such lines lies a scriptural defence of the important/necessity/worth/integrity of the role of lay women (and, of course, of lay men).

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