26.7.08

A while ago I was asked by Chris posting on Ugley Vicar, whether women should actually take up new positions bestowed upon them to the episcopacy 'for the sake of the gospel' (I'm being deliberately ambiguous in the use of that phrase). It went like this:

Blogger chris said...
Rachel,
You are obviously someone who loves Jesus, and I would be interested in your view on a question related to this matter. I am open to persuasion on the issue of women's roles in ministry, though I have met many godly Christians, both men and women, who are committed to the complementarian view, and who hold this view on the basis of Scripture. Perhaps contrary to your experience, I think that, properly applied, this view does not imply that God loves men more than women, or anything like that. In short, I don't see the complementarian view as being manifestly evil or unjust (not that this was what you were implying), though it may potentially be incorrect.

My real issue in this debate is that, on my reading of Paul's letters especially, I think that it is possible for a course of action to be morally wrong, not because of anything inherent to the action, but because by carrying it out one causes others to stumble or be led astray. Therefore, supposing it is allowable for women to be bishops, it might still be wrong for them to serve in this way if by doing so they cause others to fall. What do you think on this? If there is a group of Christians who (perhaps incorrectly) are convicted, on the basis of Scripture, that women should not be bishops, should women refrain from being bishops for their sake?

From my days at university, I can remember a few liberal-leaning Anglicans being mortally offended by the Christian Union asking people to sign up to a doctrinal basis before they were allowed to serve in certain roles - in their view it was well out of order to be so narrow-minded. It would be ironic if the same Anglicans were to end up creating an effective Church of England 'doctrinal basis', excluding those who hold to a complementarian position on women's ministry.

God bless.

Chris Illingworth
Oxford


09 July 2008 15:54
Blogger Rachel said...

Hi Chris
Re My real issue in this debate is that, on my reading of Paul's letters especially, I think that it is possible for a course of action to be morally wrong, not because of anything inherent to the action, but because by carrying it out one causes others to stumble or be led astray.

I absolutely agree that a course of action can be a stumbling block to others - Paul certainly brings our attention to this. You know, on that basis I feel that women in leadership roles actually helps to bring the gospel to our society: it is a society in which women are treated as equals, are being given the same access to education and jobs. I do not read women's prohibition in ministry as discriminatory or sexist because this is articlating it socio-politically and not theologically and I set my discussions inside a biblical framework which sometimes means it's hard for people of the world to understand me. What your ref. to stumbling blocks actually does though, is make me consider my culture, Paul became one with the people he was directing towards God, in order to meet them where they were at and not thrust something upon them or 'lord' it over them. We do actually need to meet the women of our society where they are at so that they don't encounter stumbling blocks in their journey towards God, for if their culture values them, educates them and affirms them, then Christianity should too. If a new Christian woman is faced with the idea that her husband should be her Lord and she should not use her giftings to bring others to faith, even if she has all the qualities desired in a bishop or vicar then surely this teaching would be a stumbling block to her in her development as a Christian. So yes, I absolutely agree with you but I perhaps differ in my application of this wisdom from St Paul.
Every Blessing
Rachel at Re vis.e Re form



Anyway, I've come across these poignant words from Carey, provided by The General Synod site and found them very affirming of my point of view:

I am prepared to live in peace and tolerance with those who think women should not be priests and to be patient with those who differ with me on the causes, nature and meaning of homosexuality but many of them, it seems, being "orthodox Anglicans" are not prepared to live with me. They want to destroy the Elizabethan settlement and turn us into a sect. In a typically generous contribution to the debate, Archbishop Rowan said that conservative Catholics and Evangelicals were a welcome presence because they sharpen up his theology...The women of the world - and even England - who struggle to hold fractured families and societies together in the face of male fecklessness, violence and despair in the slums of London and Lima are not likely to be converted by men who tell them about the immutability of male headship and the unsuitability of women to preside at the Lord's table.

Conservatives of both sorts face a difficult choice between mission and sectarian ecclesiology but the difference lies in this: whereas the Catholic conservatives are, by and large, so bound up in their sacramental pedigree that they have very little time for the mission to the unchurched, Evangelicals have a deep commitment to them which is being horribly impeded by their failure to see that whatever the Bible says about male headship, this is surely less important than what Jesus said about bringing the Good News to the poor.

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A little background reading on the two theological integrities in the Church of England regarding women in ministry.