14.8.09

Can't give it up...




I must admit, I do have very mixed feelings about my interests. There is a big part of me that does not want to be interested in the women in ministry issues. I sometimes feel as though it takes me into a less than good space. I get caught up in the negative. I feel that I have to self-check. I want so much to listen and be open to the opinions of those who think that I shouldn't even be pursuing this life, this preaching the gospel life, this overseer, incumbent life. So I do listen but then I feel the injustice of it and I am not talking about a modern reaction: for the culture I live in has no problem with women preaching the gospel. My friends are shocked that some people even believe that women should not do this with their lives if they are called. But I take my friends' opinions as far as I should, for if they are not sitting within the biblical framework then really they are just offering opinions of a kind; opinions generated by their own time and place within it. They support me but I understand why.

My belief that women can preach and teach is theologically founded. I have studied the scriptures like an addict. I have studied the scriptures with my intellect and by asking the Spirit to guide me into the fullness of truth. I suspected that once the Church of England affirmed my calling, as they did in July, when I got through selection panel, that I would be rid of this passion I feel about wanting to release women (and men for that fact) from the gender constraints which limit them. But I still feel it. Rosie Ward who works for CPAS can relate to what I am saying here. Jody Radical Evangelical pursues it too, so I know that there are a number of us. It's just sometimes I wish I could give it up. Yet, sometimes I am really sure that God wants me to be interested in this. After all, it's about liberation. It's about the Church honouring women for their callings in the same way that they do men.

The Church of England has ordained women since the early nineties. I suppose in many ways it is recent and perhaps if I had been born in a century's time, I wouldn't feel the rawness of the emotions that I imagine all those women felt who were denied their callings, or at least were unable to fulfil them wholly.

Something really helped me the other day. A friend of mine heard our bishop preach on retreat. I had always suspected that the decision made in the nineties to ordain women occurred because the scriptures were scrutinised by the best intellects and it was decided that tradition had got it wrong. This did happen but the bishop also told the gathered before him on retreat that in General Synod, the day the decision was made, there was a very powerful movement of the Holy Spirit, tangible, in fact overwhelming. As the arguments and debates occurred a great many men, the majority, not all, but the majority were convicted and it was as if the scales fell from their eyes and they were coming into a fullness of truth that indeed women can lead (servant-hearted leadership - Christians should always qualify the word), yes, women can lead churches and preach and teach men from God's Holy Word.

This story has released me in a new way and yet the passion still exists to contribute my two-penneth worth to the idea. I feel that every now and then I need to speak out against teaching that prevents women from becoming all whom God intends them to become, when it is for the sake of his glory that they are called. So I guess I'll continue. I will also continue to pray it through, as I do already and I ask you to make me accountable. I want to speak out in such a way that honours God and my brothers and sisters in Christ whatever their opinions on this issue. I have witnessed lots of Internet fights and it is sorrowful and I do have my reservations about certain complementarians but I seek to engage in this debate with humility and love, so do me a favour will you, pull me up when I stray, tell me off when I need to be told. Pray it over first and keep me walking in the light. Thank you.

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