15.1.09

Reform and Kephale

The Church Times, last week, (I know I'm a week behind with my newspaper reading!) discusses how Reform has predicted that the proposed draft legislation for Women bishops to be debated at General Synod next month will lead to secular court cases being brought. Reform object, that what ever the measures, 'female ‘headship’ will remain intact, despite our understanding of the Bible’s teaching to the contrary. Ultimately, therefore, since inade­quate provision has been made to safeguard our ministries, we are bound to oppose what is on offer.”
No discussion of 'headship' happens without also a discussion of Kephale. On the most basic of levels, I still fail to comprehend how the term can be bound up in definitions implying 'authority' when our whole gospel is about servanthood and about humanity coming under the authority of God. Is there really a hierarchy of human persons? Paul exhorts us to submit to governments because by doing so we can glorify God, our real master, and not bring the gospel into disrepute but governments rule. The Church shepherds! Can not a woman shepherd and serve as much as a man?

I found it very interesting that when Irenaeus talks of the 'head' which has been translated by some Christians as 'authority over', he doesn't describe it in a way to convey such a meaning but only as a part of the body, that is the body of Christ. Christ is the head and we (humans) are all each a unique part of the body. There is no option for favouring some parts of the body over others. If that is so should not each function be filled based on giftings rather than gender?

Against Heresies. Book III
Iranaeus
19.3
Iranaeus says the Word, the Son of God, our Lord, the son of Man did:
...descend to those things which are of the earth beneath, seeking the sheep which had perished, which was indeed His own peculiar handiwork, and ascend to the height above, offering and commending to His Father that human nature (hominem) which had been found, making in His own person the first-fruits of the resurrection of man; that, as the Head rose from the dead, so also the remaining part of the body— [namely, the body] of everyman who is found in life— when the time is fulfilled of that condemnation which existed by reason of disobedience, may arise, blended together and strengthened through means of joints and bands (Ephesians 4:16) by the increase of God, each of the members having its own proper and fit position in the body. For there are many mansions in the Father's house, (John14:2) inasmuch as there are also many members in the body.

It seems to sit awkwardly with my understanding of the gospel that a 'proper and fit position in the body' is also to be determined by gender.

A letter in The Church Times, which asks similar questions:

From the Revd Oliver Harrison
Sir, — Many thanks for your illuminating Back Page Interview with the Revd Rod Thomas of Reform (2 January). It was particularly interesting to note two things.
First, he regards “the Bible as being the living word of God”, which struck me a higher view of scripture than scripture itself warrants and bordering on bibliolatry. Second, he believes in “male headship of the local church because it’s a visual aid of Christ’s relationship with his people”. Really? Surely there are stronger and better arguments to be made for male headship than that. What about scripture and/or ontology? If those reasons don’t convince me (and they don’t), I’m hardly likely to be swayed by an appeal to “visual aids”.
OLIVER HARRISON
Holy Trinity Vicarage
Glascote Lane
Tamworth B77 2PH

Again the image of Christ's relationship with the Church just isn't a convincing enough argument supporting male headship. Something is missing.

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