Monday, October 26, 2009

Quite a good argument re gender neutral priesthood

Its on Clayboy (i.e. Doug Chaplin's blog), and entitled "Rescuing priesthood from Witherington’s “perfectly clear” NT". Read it all here.


  1. Hi Peter,

    There is a perfectly respectable argument from a Catholic understanding of priesthood to the ordination of women as priests. It argues from the perspective – articulated specifically in Hebrews – that the essential qualification for Christ’s priesthood is his humanity (as articulated also in St Gregory’s famous axiom “What he did not assume, he did not heal”). If there is no necessary maleness to Christ’s priesthood, there can be no necessary maleness in those who image that priestly ministry.

    I first came across this argument only about a week ago when my Intro NT subject coordinator (Peter Llewellyn) sent me a copy of his 1991 submission to the Appellate Tribunal of the Anglican Church of Australia, "pursuant to Section 63 of the Constitution of the Church of several questions relating to the ordination of women to the office of priest," in which he noted that, if women, therefore, are to be saved, the full humanity of women must be included in the incarnation of Christ ... [and therefore] a man has no better ground than a woman for representing Christ, in any circumstance; including that of exercising the functions of a priest in the Church. I sent Peter's submission to Rachel who posted on it and related topics here, but so far no one visiting there has engaged with this very interesting theological point.

    So is "the full humanity of women ... included in the incarnation of Christ," or not? For women, something more important than ordination to the priesthood would seem to be at stake.

  2. Hi Janice
    The full humanity of women is included in the incarnation of Christ.
    (Of course, many opponents of the ordination of women would agree with that).
    I would imagine that people are not engaging with the Llewellyn material on Rachel's site because most of the engagement there has been about evangelical arguments for/against ordination of women ...

  3. Peter,

    Would you explain what you mean by "evangelical arguments for/against ordination of women", please?

  4. Hi Janice
    By 'evangelical arguments etc' I mean arguments which focus on what Scripture says about ministry leadership by women. In my view such arguments are a concern of evangelicals in a way in which 'argument[s] from a Catholic understanding of priesthood to the ordination of women as priests' are not. The latter tending to focus on whether women may image/represent the (male) Christ at the eucharist, and on the fact that the continuation of the apostolic ministry by the bishops and priests of today should be by men, because the original apostles were men.
    Hope that's clear!!

  5. Where in Scripture is the command that women should teach men?

  6. Hi Rosemary
    I cannot think of any such command.
    As an Anglican I approach Scripture on this basis (enunciated by Stephen Neill): "Show us anything clearly set forth in Holy Scripture that we do not teach and we will teach it. Show us anything in our teaching or practice is clearly contrary to Holy Scripture, and we will abandon it."

    While I realise you do not agree with me, I do not find that women teaching men is clearly contrary to Scripture.

    In line with Stephen Neill's comment, I do not find that Scripture commands that Christians only do what Scripture commands. Christians may do what Scripture does not forbid.

  7. Chuckle .. I didn't know Stephen Neill's words had been elevated to Scripture?

    But he wants you to show me 'anything clearly set forth in Holy Scripture.' So please, there being no biblical warrant for women to teach men .. what DOES the Bible teach us with regards to men and women? For instance, should we raise our children as gender free people? Girls, you can do anything a man can do, put off motherhood if you can, that can wait. Boys, you should know that fatherhood NOT provider is your task in life. By that I mean BECAUSE you don't have to provide for your children, your task is to look after them, nurture them.

    I have said to you before Peter, that I think the industrial revolution is much to blame for this breaking up of the family. However, I also believe we are making matters worse .. in fact we're creating a battle of the genders, just up Satan's alley!! Prior to the industrial revolution, the peasant family, men AND women, shared the tasks of being a family. The women helped the man in their small patch of dirt where they kept their cow and grew their vegetables. The men helped the women in the home and the raising of the children, and as the children grew, they helped both their parents in their tasks. Then suddenly .. men went to work in factories, and the women and children stayed at home on their own!

    However, that IS a genuine question. What ARE you teaching your children with regard to their role as it is taught in Scripture Peter?

  8. Hi Rosemary
    I do not think the Bible teaches us much at all about gender roles.
    Certainly it teaches and encourages people to do what God has given them to do with all their might: if one becomes a mother, for example, be the best mother possible; if one represents one's country at a sport, do so with honour and integrity as for the Lord; if one is married, be faithful to one's spouse; if one is a parent not to exasperate one's children!

    What do I teach my children? They had better speak for themselves re the lessons they learn from me, which may be singularly poor, for I think children mainly learn by example from their parents.

  9. "I do not think the Bible teaches us much at all about gender roles."

    Well, we disagree, but we knew that didn't we? Peter, are you going to put your money where your last couple of posts lead? It is certainly not evident on this page. Are those of us who do not support a woman being in charge of a mixed congregation, welcome in this church .. or not. To say yes, agrees with the Lambeth study, that we have a biblically valid point of view. To say no is so many negative things that I hesitate to start enumerating them. I think it's time you made up your mind on this issue. No equivocation Peter, what is your answer, yes or no.

    Why you brought up all those things in your post above, I'm not sure. We were discussing the gender issue were we not? Specifically how biblically we teach our boys and girls. There are two extremes are there not? Teach the boys that they are superior is one end of the extreme, and teach boys and girls both that there is no difference between them at the other. Again, you didn't answer my question.

    Just as a point of interest, my first post was really for Janice, but here is one for you. Why, if Paul grounds his arguments with regard to this issue, in either Christ or Creation, do I read nothing but arguments from culture? Paul didn't base his argument on the culture of his day, but on Christ and Creation .. why don't we?

  10. Hi Rosemary
    (Briefly, am far from home at the moment)
    (1) I am still thinking about the welcome of this church to those who do not support a woman being in charge of a mixed congregation. I think it respectful of such an important question not to arrive too quickly at an answer.
    (2) Perhaps I did not answer your question about gender roles, but perhaps life itself does not admit of easy answers to such a question. As the father of three daughters and one son I am an observer of gender development! Naturally I have never encouraged any sense that one gender is superior to the other; nor have I thought there is no difference between genders (as far as I can recall my daughters have never mowed our lawns!); but neither have I sort to teach that some things in this world are only open to one gender, with the obvious exception of motherhood for women and fatherhood for men.
    (3) I think it worth reflecting on whether Paul arguing from Christ and Creation intended to set out a manifesto for gender relationships applicable to all situations humanity has confronted across many generations and cultures. There is a reality in the last century in that the relationships between men and women, and the understanding of roles for men and women in society have changed. You may disagree with this assessment of humanity, but I think it worth pondering. A world in which women have the vote and access to university education is a very different world to one in which women had neither vote nor opportunity for advanced education. I guess I am saying something is at work in our lives now which goes beyond 'culture'. It is in fact quite arguable that developments in Western society (and other societies) take us closer to Creation (male and female created in the image of God) and Christ (in whom there is neither male nor female etc).

  11. 1. I'll take that as a no Peter. Are you aware that it's not just our Diocese that is still ordaining folk with our point of view?

    2. I'm not sure how much help being an 'observer' of your children's gender development will be .. but best of luck. Don't forget I had a child where the gender was unclear, several surgeries followed at a very young age. I know how important it is to KNOW what gender you are and what that means.

    3. Chuckle .. I'll put it down to the fact that you're not at your desk at the moment, but Peter, you're bringing culture into it again!!! I KNOW you didn't mean that God's Word is not for ALL generations! As for your last bit .. PRECISELY. And I lay the blame in the Western world anyway, entirely at the foot of the church for not teaching the equality of men and women from day one. [But I've said that to you before]. Then it might not have taken so long for us to have the university education, the vote etc.

  12. Hi Rosemary
    (1) I do not quite understand the basis on which you make assertions about me which are not based on what I say? I said, "I am still thinking etc". You have twisted that to "I'll take that as a no Peter" - I find this neither fair nor helpful.
    (2) I was not aware of your experience re gender ...
    (3) Culture is not all bad, it may even have its roots in God's creation!

  13. 1. Well Peter, instead of equivocating, you could have quoted the 78 Lambeth Resolution, it made a decision .. 31 years ago!! Sigh, the fact is, I asked for a yes or no answer and got a maybe. Silly me.

    3. I don't think culture is bad at all, I'm just wary of it leading the church by the nose as it has done generation after generation.

  14. Hi Rosemary
    I have a little more time to respond to your query re welcome of our church to those not agreeing with women teaching/leading mixed gender congregations ...
    - if I had arrived, do arrive at a definitive position I might well not express that publicly; working for one diocese and about to work for another I think it important that my personal views on such a matter are contained within myself and what counts as an answer to such a question is what the bishop or bishop+synod gives;
    - I see several distinctions that are important, and the question arising from each distinction might be answered differently in each case from bishop to bishop, diocese to diocese!

    Case (1): a prospective appointee to vicarship is personally not in favour of women teaching/leading mixed congregations, but will respect the character of the parish and continue to roster existing women preachers on the preaching roster.

    Case (2): a prospective appointee to vicarship is personally not in favour of women teaching/leading mixed congregations, and will not continue to roster existing women preachers on the preaching roster.

    Case (3): a prospective appointee to vicarship is personally not in favour of women teaching/leading mixed congregations, and is determined to publish these views and to preach on them as and when occasion arises, with an agenda over the long-term to seek a change in the legislation of our church which permits women to be ordained priests and bishops, and permits women to be licensed as lay preachers.

    Case (4): a prospective appointee to vicarship is personally not in favour of women teaching/leading mixed congregations, generally will not make these views an issue, except on closer consideration the parish in view is (a) a curate training parish, (b) the bishop wishes to be able to place female curates there, (c) the prospective vicar acknowledges that this would be unworkable.

    I suspect we disagree on whether the framers of the 78 Lambeth Resolution thought about these kinds of situations and whether the resolution might apply equally to each of them!

  15. Well I think the Lambeth folk DID think about these issues. What's more, I don't think it should be up to individual bishops or Diocese. How many parishes are there in an average Diocese? How have differing theologies been catered to before?

    I could think of ten things I'd consider before gender were I considering an appointment. [Thank goodness that question will never arise!!] Do they love Jesus. What's their theology, what's their knowledge of doctrine and the 39 articles of our faith. What's their preaching like. Their pastoral capabilities and on and on .. basically, gender would hardly come into it. That may be of course because I'm considering the matter biblically and not pragmatically.

    Sigh .. we're back on 'justice' issues aren't we? I give up. Floor is yours Peter.

  16. Hi Rosemary
    If it is not to be up to individual dioceses then somehow a majority needs to be found in our General Synod to support the case you wish to make.

    Ten things before gender when considering an appointment? Gender would hardly come into it? I think gender would count for quite a lot because I sense that were a woman meeting the ten things before gender requirement up for an appointment by you, she might be turned down on the eleventh thing, her DNA! But I would be happy for you to tell me otherwise ...

  17. Would you be happy? I'll swallow my first reply and repeat .. as I have ad nauseum..

    We BELIEVE in the ministry of women. We have a full time women's worker. We train women in our MTS programme, our staff wives are ministers of Christ's Gospel .. so yes, gender really does come somewhere down the bottom.

    Are you telling me Peter, that we should consider gender first?

  18. The more I think about it, the more I suspect that gender wouldn't in fact come into it at all.

  19. Rosemary
    I am delighted to hear that gender would not be a factor in who addresses the congregations of men and women at St John's Latimer Square.

    One day when in the Christchurch Diocese I presume I will have opportunity to come to hear the Bishop preaching at the mid-morning service because, as you say, gender wouldn't come into it at all ...

  20. I hope you're not indulging in sarcasm there Peter!! I don't know what the Blue Book says about a Bishop preaching. Some Bishops insist, some do not in my experience. I was thinking rather of a replacement for Wally. Not such an out of the way thought, he must retire sometime soon .. so what would we be looking for I asked myself. Here are some thoughts, not necessarily in the right order.

    You see I answered this the first time without a great deal of thought, but now I think the list of requirements would go something like this.

    1. Is the applicant a Christian who loves Jesus above all else.
    2. Does the applicant preach Jesus above all else.
    3. Does the applicant preach expositorily.
    4. Is the applicant a reformed, evangelical, conservative type of person.
    5. Has the applicant shown a clear knowledge of Scripture in previous appointments.
    6. Has the applicant shown a clear knowledge of the doctrines of our faith as held in our formularies and the Book of Common Prayer.
    7. Has the applicant the necessary skills to run a large church with several staff.
    8. Has the applicant got a sense of fun and humour. [Very important in my opinion.]
    9. Does the applicant demonstrate a prayerful ministry.
    10. Is the applicant Anglican. [Because that might be a problem with regard to number 6]

    Now those things ARE important. I agree that numbers 3 and 4 might be more specific to us, but those requirement would surely be the same as the examining chaplains put to prospective candidates would they not? I don't think gender would be a factor.

  21. Something just clicked in my brain. Please tell me if I'm wrong.

    I think you assume we are what you WERE before changing your mind on this issue. Is that correct?

  22. Hi Rosemary
    That's a great list!
    And, yes, I understand more clearly now the context of saying you don't think gender would be a factor.

  23. Re something clicking in your brain ... if you are talking about commitment to the ordination of women, then I don't think I have ever changed my mind. But you may be thinking of other changes to my mind ...