19.10.09

Reading an interesting paper from Australia

Traffic from Australia is quite common here at Re vis.e Re form. I first became aware of Sydney diocese and its influence when I started to crack a circle of recommended reads. This was back in the days when I was struggling against the idea that the subordination of women was somehow biblical. It took me about £3000 (independent theological training) and a lot of heart-ache to finally realise that the Bible does not advocate female subordination. I am very sure that I was supposed to go on this journey and I do seem to have been given a big pair of shoulders (even though I'm only 5 ft 2) and a reasonably good sense of humour to keep me going. I am aware that some women have given up and been quite adversely affected by becoming caught up in the debate, and as the recent revisions to the 'Revision Committee thinking' on the question of women Bishops would reveal, the struggle is by no means over.

If you are being taught Christian doctrine on primary and seconday issues in a church which pulls from resources within Cornhill, Matthias Press, Sydney Moore college stuff, Latimer, Good book Keeping Company etc etc then your access to more egalitarian emphases, gospel emphases moreover, on the equality of men and women in the home and the Church are likely to be less developed.

Read around! Read widely! Be aware of the bias of the publishing houses. The other day St John's had IVP sale. It was going to be full of Piper, Grudem, Packer and Stott, godly men, called by Christ indeed but with particular theories about women's roles in the Church...so I gave that book sale a miss.

Do you remember this post at Re vis.e Re form July 08?




A letter has been written and signed by clergy that includes the following:

It is with sadness that we conclude that, should the Church of England indeed go ahead with the ordination of women to the episcopate, without at the same time making provision which offers us real ecclesial integrity and security, many of us will be thinking very hard about the way ahead. We will inevitably be asking whether we can, in conscience, continue to minister as bishops, priests and deacons in the Church of England which has been our home. We do not write this in a spirit of making threats or throwing down gauntlets. Rather, we believe that the time has come to make our concerns plain, so that the possible consequences of a failure to make provision which allows us to flourish and to grow are clear. Your Graces will know that the cost of such a choice would be both spiritual and material.

It has been signed by many clergy. If you wonder whether your vicar has signed it, click here and open the letter

Groups like Watch won't worry about the leavers. GRAS don't want dissenters to have provision either.

...And yet, so far, recent news conveys that there is going to be provision. I wonder what the motivation is behind the recent revisions? Does the church simply want to prevent the hemorrhaging
of such clergy? I wonder whom we have got making decisions at the moment. Do you remember this post from the 15th November 2008?


REFORM strategy - get as many like-minded, preferably REFORM networked clergy into synod 2010 as they can: (I quote)'How many of us here have either considered standing for General Synod in 2010 or have asked a member of the congregation whether they would do so? General Synod has enormous power to muck things up. We must encourage people who are capable of standing firm to stand for election. And don’t worry that you may be taking votes from someone else; the voting system we have operates by transferable vote, so you can never take votes away from anyone that way.'
Despite this bold move, tread gently because 'we want to insist that we are not setting up a separate ecclesial organisation. Rather, we are a fellowship operating within a wider federation. And as a fellowship we seek to reach out to whoever wants to be a partner in the gospel. We must win friends to the cause.'
The problem at the moment as Rod sees it: 'Groups of likeminded people formulate voting tactics so that synodical processes can be used to subvert what is clearly the will of synod. And once underway, the House of Bishop’s declares itself powerless to reverse the synodical process.'
 ...em interesting. 

So, anyway, as I said, I am reading through a very interesting paper which was presented in 1990 entitled 'On the matter of the 1990 references by the Primate 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' by Peter M. M. Llewellyn. Peter realises that a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since he wrote the above said document. But I think as our current climate within the C of E testifies, we are still very much living in the mire of these tensions between Christians who do and do not believe in the consecration, and even the ordination of women.

My two girls came with me to college today, it's their half term. They are seven and five and I was very tempted to take them into Christina Baxter's teaching on the issues of the ordination and consecration of women. You're never too young to learn!
Over the next few days I shall be digesting some of Peter's points, wondering whether we are any further forward with our situation here in England. Two of his areas of investgation got my interest straight away and they are included below so that you might also wrestle with their implications:

At the very centre of the Christian faith is the incarnation and resurrection of the second Person of the Trinity as a human being, with no reservations as to his full and perfect humanity (Articles II and IV). As the Church Fathers perceived, ‘that which is not assumed is not saved’; only such complete incarnation and resurrection can be effectual; if women, therefore, are to be saved, the full humanity of women must be included in the incarnation of Christ. 

 It follows that 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 (insofar as the priesthood may be said to ‘represent Christ’). If the priest is the ikon of Christ, then priests must be both male and female—else heresy is committed against the full humanity of our Lord.

And the following does rather make me want to swot up on Chrysostom, particularly considering my interest in what I thought was a modern heresy: ESS (the eternal subordination of the Son, which is often used to justify the subordination of women's function).

Peter describes how:

There are those who argue for a subordination within the Godhead so that they may affirm the subordination of women. Their understanding of headship enables them to assign subordinate positions both to women and to the Son of God. Saint John Chrysostom said it far better than I when he observed that there were heretics who seized upon the notion of headship and derived from it a concept of the Son as somehow less than the Father. The heretics would argue that although the Son is of the same substance as the Father, He is under subjection. No, said Chrysostom, had Paul intended to demonstrate subordination, he would have chosen slave and master rather than wife and husband. The Apostle intended to show equality. Chrysostom asked, How then should we understand head? and answered, understand it in the sense of “perfect unity and primal cause and source” (John Chrysostom, Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, Homily 26)


Time allowing, more will follow. This blog has now wrestled with these issues since its birth and perhaps it always will, see this thread for example.



5 comments:

David Ould said...


...And yet, so far, recent news conveys that there is going to be provision.


Well, not quite. General Synod passed a motion that made no fixed provision for dissenters and the legislation revision committee suggested they revisit that question.

The response of much of the pro-consecration lobby has been fascinating - they tell us that any provision would be unacceptable.

But provision is needed. When the legislation for women priests was passed in the early 90s we were told that our protection would not be removed in the future. And here we are in 2009 with our protection of conscience due to be removed.

David Ould said...

we are still very much living in the mire of these tensions between Christians who do and do not believe in the consecration, and even the ordination of women.
Just one word of clarification. It is not ordination in and of itself that is opposed by evangelicals, but ordination to the priesthood and the intrinsic leadership of a parish which comes with it.

I, myself, was ordained to the diaconate with 8 fantastic godly and able women

Anonymous said...

Hi Rachel,

I'm sad you chose to give the IVP book sale a miss. If the men/women issue reaches that level that you start putting those sorts of warnings against Stott, Piper and Grudem and I stop engaging with David I-B, Gordon Feed, Howard Marshall and co then we have reached a pretty awful impasse haven't we!

I hope as a complimentarian who does draw heavily on the resource stables mentioned that I try both in my own engagement with the reading and what I instruct to others to give fair access to the different positions in the discussion. I know that Sydney people like David Peterson tried to create space for discussion.

I am more than happy to discuss, debate, listen myself.

Colin said...

Sydney's position is essentially related to the hermeneutic approach they take. They're wedded to it and quite consistent. Interestingly, there is a sort of detente about bishops who are women (I don't like the term woman bishop or woman priest - they're bishops or priests, I don't see the need for the modifier - we don't talk about male priests or bishops in the same way) in Australia. At the moment it seems that women can be assistant bishops (what I think are called suffragans in the UK), but it is not clear if they can be diocesans. The difference is that assistant bishops are nominated by the diocesan with the consent of their council. The consecration of a diocesan requires a different process, and it is not clear if that has been clarified by the Appellate Tribunal's ruling.

Anonymous said...

I did some swatting up on Chrysostom myself -it seems he's not as heplful as Peter suggested.

1. He does beleive in wives submitting to husbands
2. He does beleive in the Son submitting to the Father.

He thinks that we need to be careful about reading headship between son and father as exactly the same as between Christ and man and agains as between husband and wife.

He really doesn't want any suggesting that Christ is subordinate to the Father. And so he says the analogy is to marriage not slavery because it is willing submission of an equal.

Dave

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