So I am thinking....
Why doesn't the Church just get on with it?
Well, considering the Fathers our heritage rests upon, no wonder it is taking them some time to be brave about the issue of women bishops. There is a lot of damage to undo.
Check this lot out from Rosemary Radford Ruether, 'Women-Church Theology and Practice of Feminist Liturgical Communities', Harper and Row, San Francisco, 1985, pp. 137ff
“You are the Devil’s Gateway. It is you who plucked the fruit of the forbidden tree. You are the first who deserted the divine law. You are the one who persuaded him whom even the Devil was not strong enough to attack. All too easily you destroyed the image of God, man. Because of your desert, that is death, even the Son of God had to die. . . Therefore cover your head and your figure with sack-cloth and ashes.”
Augustine, On the Trinity: “Why must a woman cover her head? Because, as I explained before, the woman does not possess the image of God in herself, but only when taken together with the male who is her head, so that the whole substance is one image. But when she is assigned the role as helpmate, a function that pertains to her alone, the she is not the image of God. But as far as the man is concerned, he is by himself alone the image of God, just as fully and completely as when he and the woman are joined together into one.”
Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica: “As the philosopher says, ‘Woman is a misbegotten male.’ Yet it is necessary that woman was made in the first production of things as a helpmate. Not indeed as a helpmate in any other works than procreation, for in all other works man can be more efficiently helped by another man than by a woman, but as a helper in the work of generation… The woman is in a state of subjugation in the original order of things. For this reason she cannot represent headship in society or in the Church. Only the male can represent Christ. For this reason it was necessary that Christ be incarnated as a male. It follows, therefore, that she cannot receive the sign of Holy Orders.”
Malleus Maleficarum (fifteenth-century manual of the Dominican Inquisitors against witches): “When a woman thinks alone she thinks evil, for the woman was made from the crooked rib which is bent in the contrary direction from the man. Woman conspired constantly against spiritual good. Her very name, fe-mina means ‘absence of faith’. She is insatiable lust by nature. Because of this lust she consorts even with Devils. It is for this reason that women are especially prone to the crime of witchcraft, from which men have been preserved by the maleness of Christ.”
Martin Luther. ‘On Marriage’: “Eve originally was more equally a partner with Adam, but because of sin the present woman is a far inferior creature. Because she is responsible for the Fall, woman is in a state of subjugation. The man rules the home and the world, wages war and tills the soil. The woman is like a nail driven into the wall, she sits at home.”
I think we just have to pray that more damage is not done. There is an offer on the table to leave for Rome, for those who are unable to accept the ministry of ordained and consecrated women. Anglo-catholics might very well jump ship but I wonder where it leaves Conservative, reformed evangelicals? Can they really return to something that is pre-reformation? Martin Luther would be turning in his grave if we didn't trust that actually he is probably having rather a nice time in Heaven, despite some of his challenging theology ;-)
I have been reading through Peter M M Lewellyn's paper again, just whilst I take a break from my exegesis of Ephesians 1 for college (yes, this girl knows how to party on a Friday night! ;-)) and it's got me thinking again.
Alongside Dr James I. Packer, whom Peter quotes, it would indeed seem that 'the burden of proof regarding the exclusion of women from the office of teaching and ruling within the congregation now lies on those who maintain the exclusion rather than on those who challenge it.’—‘Understanding the Differences’, p.298.
This is the last thing that I expected to read from Packer, but there you go, there is so much to hope for.
I have become rather shy in recent years about using two lines of reasoning in the defence of women's ordination and consecration but Peter Llewellyn has redeemed the approaches for me.
I avoid using arguments from culture, contemporary culture, because I never want to present the idea that the church should be governed by social mores or current discrimination legislation when it should be governed by scripture.
I avoid using Gal 3:28 because when I did use this in an essay I was told it was really speaking into the question of baptism rather than ministry.
Peter sets forth the very lines of reasoning that I have avoided as follows:
Now that discrimination against women is generally illegal, rather than being the standard of society, the church is in the position of either having to justify its discriminatory practices or end them. (It is a matter of profound regret and shame that it did not give leadership in this area, rather than being correctly perceived as the last bastion of discrimination.) The church can therefore no longer evade the issue, and indeed courageous people in different parts of the world are compelling the church to face it. Under these circumstances, for this Church to continue discrimination on the grounds of women’s subordination would serve to entrench that doctrine among its central theological principles.
I think that this is a very interesting angle and yes, I think that whilst we all insist that it is a secondary issue and that we can all get on with each other despite our disagreements, I suspect that whilst our attempts to 'wait for one another' and welcome one another are godly and orientated by the gospel, in reality the issue has become primary and not secondary.
In both senses Galatians 3:28 is certainly a ‘key text’. Its meaning, like that of the other texts, is disputed, and will be discussed...but it is interesting to observe how the dispute is treated. Sydney ... give great attention to the detailed exegesis of 1 Cor. 11:2-16, 1 Cor 14:33-36 and 1 Tim. 2:11-15, but dismiss such a key text as Gal. 3:28... Sydney says that ‘both Jews and Gentiles retained their own distinctiveness, as do men and women in marriage (Eph. 5) and in the church (1 Cor. 11)’; in the face of Paul’s most strenuous opposition to maintaining the distinction between Jews and Gentiles. Would Sydney have us reinstate that distinction in the church? Or the distinction between slave and free? Surely not. As the world’s greatest evangelical New Testament scholar, F.F. Bruce has put it: ‘If in ordinary life existence in Christ is manifested openly in church fellowship, then, if a Gentile may exercise spiritual leadership in church as freely as a Jew, or a slave as freely as a citizen, why not a woman as freely as a man?’ii. That our unity in the body of Christ must find its full expression in our church life, is absolutely fundamental—and must not be whittled away by the artificial diminution of the centrality of this text.
This is a new way of reasoning from that passage for me and I have some thinking to do about its consequences but I am glad to have the old brain cells stretched again in this interesting direction. I am also pleased for obvious and multiple reasons that whilst we have learned a great detail from the Church Fathers, we have also benefited from exercising discernment about some of their claims. If anything it means that there is hope for us all for it would only be the most arrogant amongst us who would claim that we have all of our theological arguments in perfect order!
More to come....
And just in case you are a seeker and all of this sounds downright horrible and off-putting, go and read about your status as an Ezer Kenegdo here, not a helpmeet, if you set out with the first rung in order on the theological hermeneutical ladder, there really is less chance that you will fall off
|Genesis 1-3 |
by Allison Young
|1 Corinthians 11:2-16 |
by Allison Young
|1 Corinthians 14:34-35 |
by Allison Young
|Ephesians 5:18-33 |
by Allison Young
|1 Timothy 2:11-15 |
by Allison Young
You'll have to join CBE to access the stuff, which you should do anyway, if you are stuggling with some of the issues highlighted above. You can access a lot of this stuff for free.
If you do not want to join CBE, you can read this helpful book:
Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says About a Woman's Place in Church and Family by Gilbert G. Bilezikian
If neither of these will do - go and read Ben Witherington III - intelligent and accessible instantly!