28.12.10

Proof-texting does not work

An 'approach to the biblical evidence is to discuss the explicit texts that refer respectively to the equality and the subordination of women in society and culture. I am not convinced of the usefulness of such a discussion, since for every text pointing in one direction there is usually a countertext. If Eph 5:24 states that wives must be subject in everything to their husbands, Eph 5:21 introduces that section by commanding “Be subject to one another.” If 1 Cor 11:7 says that the man (anãr) is the image and glory of God, while woman is the glory of man, Gn 1:27 states that both man and woman are in the image of God. If 1 Cor 14:34 rules that women should keep silence in the churches,(3)1 Cor 11:5 recognizes the custom that women pray and prophesy—and prophecy is the charism ranking second after apostleship (1 Cor 12:28), to the extent that Eph 2:20 has the Church, the household of God, built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets. I might continue listing contrary voices, but then we would still have the question of how to evaluate the voices that stress subordination. Once more we would have to ask: Is that purely a cultural pattern or divine revelation?


Interesting. So succinctly put by Raymond E. Brown. 'Roles of Women in the Fourth Gospel', Union Theological Seminary, N.Y.C.from: Theological Studies 36 (1975) pp. 688-699.

19 comments:

David Ould said...

this quote, surely, demonstrates the paucity of the egalitarian position. They are so often simply unable to accept that both may be true - ie that mankind are, together, glory of God and yet woman is the glory of man.

In fact, surely the quest for "contrary voices" is, in itself, a bare assertion that Scripture is not clear, nor truly Godbreathed.

Don't you find it telling that they finish by questioning whether certain texts are not divine revelation but merely a "cultural pattern"? Surely that's a massive warning bell to anyone who claims to accept Scripture as the word of God.

Rachel said...

I think all this quote does is make clear that a strong case can be made on either side through proof-texting, the better thing to do is to look at the over-arching meta-narrative and that throws up variance for people, then people articulate relations within the trinity and that does the same again, so really we must all just learn to live together with our theological integrities and wait until we see him face-to-face. We have to make decisions in community and communities differ, we have to make personal decisions too before we respond to God's call, if it is coming in a certain expression. If we have answered the call but are at variance with our brothers and sisters, we learn to live in the painful ambiguity if this. We learn to pray - a lot!

Rachel said...

'of this' - not 'if this'

David Ould said...

Rachel, I genuinely resonate with the desire for us all to "live together" but, let's face it, it's not going to happen.

Look at the strident opposition to any form of legislated protection for dissenters in the current CofE women bishops debate - many proponents of women bishops simply won't accept us "living together" - they want the complementarians to have to fully submit to the egalitarian position (and yes, I choose those words deliberately).

Practically, no denomination can have these 2 parties "living together" since it cannot construct a position that fully satisfies both - but in particular it cannot fully appease the demands of the more vocal egalitarians and, at the same time, hope to protect those who have committed no crime except simply standing in the light of 2000 years of church history on this issue.

Rachel said...

I have been living in Samaria for the past few days, reading up on John 4 for an assignment, I was particularly struck by Jesus' lack of engagement with the differences to which the Samaritan woman appeals. He offers instead something that transcends. I wonder what he makes of our church and its divisions, I am often comforted by the idea in the articles, that should the Anglican church end, the Kingdom, of course, lives on. I guess we are just passing through. I can not help but think that even though I love this fallible institution into which I will be ordained in six months' time, I realise more and more, as the years go by, the extent to which we mess things up.

In hope but without specific answers,
Rachel

David Ould said...

again, I like the sentiment but the truth of the matter is that we're not all simply going to be able to "get along".
There are 2 mutually incompatible positions at play. What would you propose being done for those who simply cannot, in good conscience, accept the gospel ministry of a woman bishop as bishop over them?

How would you ensure that protects both their conscience and the conscience of those that believe that any compromise on this issue is simply a refusal to accept women bishops and should therefore be rejected?

Rachel said...

I think to be honest, although I might choose different words, my opinion is probably similar to that of Stephen Kuhrt who says,

'Speaking frankly, it is time for the opponents of women bishops to accept that, rightly or wrongly, they have ‘lost’ on this issue and that the provision made for them cannot be allowed to compromise the move forward that the church as a whole has chosen to take.'

I would not use his language of 'lost' because I think it fails to capture the delicacy of the situation and it will be the Church of England that loses if vast hordes of Orthodox ministers leave to join free church networks or the ordinariate.

However, I wonder how two integrities can be accommodated when the episcopacy is in itself a symbol of unity. It ceases to be a symbol of unity when in itself it is cause for division.

In some ways, I do not see how it is possible to protect the conservative evangelical integrity and fully introduce women bishops. It strikes me as somewhat ironic that 'a recommended code of practice ... with pastoral oversight, confirmations, annual interviews and a number of other functions [should be] able to be exercised by a male bishop, if this is what churches and clergy want and request. But these same groupings will also have to accept that if a woman bishop is appointed to their diocese (or province) they will be, whether they like it or not, under the authority of that bishop even if, in practice, the bishop decides to delegate some of the exercise of that authority out of pastoral concern for them,' (Kuhrt).

At the end of the day, the delegated authority has been decided by a woman and so defeats the conservative evangelical need.

It is hard for me to completely empathise with the Conservative Evangelical position, although I really do try very hard to imagine how it must feel. Being the sort of person that I am, passionate and strongly principled, if the church in which I felt called was not behaving in a way that I perceived to be faithful to the gospel as I saw it, I might have to consider whether I was being called to a different institution bringing in God's kingdom, knowing that the Church of England does not have a monopoly on God. However, I also like to think that if that very institution were making a decision contrary to mine, but they were doing it in community and with lots of support and with academic and heart-felt and Holy Spirit inspired scrutiny of the scriptures, I like to think also that I might sit up and take a lot of notice and spend considerable time in prayer and study, wondering if in fact, I might be missing out on a move of God.

The other alternative, of course, is to simply make a move to Sydney! ;-D

Rachel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Ould said...

but then Rachel I'm really confused. You say in earlier comments that
we must all just learn to live together with our theological integrities
and
[Jesus] offers instead something that transcends

but at the end of the day your answer on the ground is neither of these. It's "women bishops, and the conservatives will just have to suck it up".

And yes, once again you suggest that we conservatives are denying what God is doing. I get that. I get that you honestly think that after 2000 years suddenly God would change His mind, that He was previously unable to show the church (nor were they receptive) to the real truth about the place of women in ministry.

But come on, don't you think that's a little bit patronising? As for theological reflection, what actual reflection was there? The charge was led by a call to "catch up with society". You yourself tried to spiritualise that very same argument. I recall challenging you on it and yet no response. But now you say there has been sincere theological reflection. Where is this reflection? It's not recorded in the Synod debates. There's no actual serious engagement on blogs like yours, engagement that properly engages with what is being argued. Every time I make a substantial theological argument here it is never addressed. So where is this enagement? It just doesn't exist.

As for moving to Sydney, I hope you're not implying I moved here because of my complementarian views. Nothing could be further than the truth.

Rachel said...

I know, it was the sunshine, really ;-D

The Sydney thing was a bit of a joke, however, I know that I would find life tricky there.

I really do not believe that the Church of England made its decision to catch up with society. NT Wright has been calling us to have the exegetical debate and it is going on in scholarly circles, all the time. It's a huge area of investigation. Just today I have been reading M E Kostenberger's PhD dissertation critiquing egalitarian approaches to the scriptures. I am still left unpersuaded by her thesis.

My lack of engagement here of late is more a time pressure than anything else.

I find the whole premise of God changing his mind etc weak theologically. It is more complex than that and your argument has worrying implications re the slavery issue. This one does not wash. Perhaps the theological engagement is a bit lacking on your side too.

In part, this is the result of all the scholarly stuff that is out there for the reading, we are not asked to hatch opinions in a bubble, but I know that I for one rely on the brains of others. Kostenberger's thesis is really nothing more than a vast collection of book reviews from various perspectives. I continue to read around the topic. Partly however, I have to place my trust in the church which will ordain me, the stepping out in faith extends to that too, that they have made a godly decision in accordance with what they have read in the scriptures, we have 'reformed' before as a church, we are in the process of 'reforming again.'

All the best.

Anonymous said...

David Ould, I think it is inaccurate to claim that there is no real theological engagement with what I'll call the conservative position by those I'll call egalitarians. Rather is it the case that the issues have been debated ad nauseum but that neither side is convinced by their opponents' arguments.

It's equally inaccurate to speak of two integrities because, let's face it, if the conservatives were in the dominant position, they would not be seeking the compromises with their opponents that they demand for themselves. And that's something which is very easy to overlook - the extraordinary grace many women have shown to those who have often behaved with an astonishing lack of grace towards them.

You are, however, right, that in the long-term, it is untenable for the church to continue with two completely opposing voices on the issue of women bishops. The only way it could be done is probably by allowing individual churches to opt out of their present geographical dioceses and into a new, virtual diocese where all things can be all male. The opt-out, however, should be total with the new, virtual diocese assuming responsibility for paying clergy stipends, maintaining clergy houses etc. Fern

Rachel said...

I think Fern raises some interesting issues here. The more I think about it, the more I realise grace is being extended. There are options for conservative evangelicals - many, it all depends on how dominating of other priorities opinions are - have secondary issues perhaps jumped up a notch? I wonder sometimes if the real issues are getting forgotten. The Church needs evangelical input and very fine investigation of the scriptures.

In some senses I am not sure how affected by the issue Sydney parishes are under Jensen who will not ordain women anyway. I think I'm still right with that, my political engagement with the Anglican communion's move on these issues has lessened since the essay deadlines started pressing for me.

I wonder if conservative evangelicals will just have to be very selective about where they feel they are being called and make requests to dioceses for certain positions that will not compromise them. Fern's suggestion is more definite and permanent. I still feel as though I have few answers but then there are a lot of us feeling that way. Life goes on.

David Ould said...

Fern does raise some interesting stuff, but also some unsupported assertions:

let's face it, if the conservatives were in the dominant position, they would not be seeking the compromises with their opponents that they demand for themselves.

I think that's out of line. You have real basis on which to make that statement. I'd argue that the opposite is true. So, for example, take the situation here in Sydney. Despite the constant sniping so engage in it's actually not a draconian diocese. So, whilst the leadership hold to a complementarian line there is nothing stopping individual parishes having women preach. Indeed, the Archbishop is more than happy to grant a preaching license to any woman if the parish so requests.

Ordination, of course, is a different matter. Plenty of women are ordained here to the diaconate and I think the record will show that there are far more women engaged in positive teaching ministry here than throughout Australia as a whole. It's just that many of them are not persuaded that they need a specific title in order to be recognised. The irony, then, is that we see a great richness in women's ministry here and yet the unfounded charge is that it is suppressed.

Fern, I wonder what example you can actually provide of the complementarians not providing similar generosity? Or is it simply an unsupported (and, dare I say it, uncharitable) assertion?

And yes, we will end up with Conservatives having to be selective - they will effectively have been forced out. And yet back in 92/3 when the original legislation went through there were firm promises that their protection would not be removed.

now the progressives on General Synod have reneged on that agreement and conservatives find themselves pushed right to the periphery on a matter on which they have done nothing except simply held to the position that the church has held for 2000 years.

So once again, I'm left asking where the grace is?

Janice said...

If you go to the Sydney Anglicans website ( http://www.sydneyanglicans.net/ ) and then scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the "Women in Ministry" link, you will arrive at a page with a single article. It is dated 1st October 2009. The very fact that there are no more articles, and the one that is there is more than 12 months old, says something quite clearly about the attitude of the diocese to women. That the article mentions, "the dearth of ministry jobs that there are for women," only makes the position more clear.

... there is nothing stopping individual parishes having women preach. Indeed, the Archbishop is more than happy to grant a preaching license to any woman if the parish so requests.

What's the data, David? How many women have licenses to preach (to mixed-sex congregations) in Sydney diocese? How many of them have theological qualifications? How many men have licences to preach and how many of them have theological qualifications?

... the position that the church has held for 2000 years.

"In Christendom, Christians came to occupy central positions in society. Constantine's sharing his table with the bishops showed this upward movement happening. Christians were no longer deviant. Indeed, Christianity had become the religion of the imperial establishment. Converting to Christianity now meant being 'won over to the norms that society at large upholds.' So the aristocratic males began to join the church, whose values and traditions they proceeded to alter to conform to the values that their class had long espoused." (Alan Kreider, "Beyond Bosch: The Early Church and the Christendom Shift.", Bulletin of Missionary Research, Vol. 29, No. 2, p62)

So, close to 2000 years but closer to 1600 years. Theodosius the Great made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire in 380AD.

David Ould said...

The problem with your question, Janice, is that it assumes that a lesser number of women preaching is symptomatic of an oppression of those women rather than a deliberate choice by many women not to preach.

Can you comprehend that a large number (and even majority) of theologically educated women might actually choose not to preach to mixed congregations?

If you like, however, I can ship you a copy of the yearbook and you can do the maths on the numbers - but they won't tell you the reality, that there are large numbers of theologically trained women who, in good conscience, disagree with you and don't feel in any way "oppressed" or devalued. We, for example, employ more women ministry staff than men.

As for your quote from Kreider, I genuinely have no idea how it adds to the conversation - it says not one thing about what the early church understood about gender roles in church leadership.

Janice said...

We, for example, employ more women ministry staff than men.

Is that St Augustine's, Neutral Bay? If so, does your church web site need updating? I ask because it shows a male:female employee ratio of 3:2 or, leaving out the student ministers, of 2:1, the 1 female being a part-timer.

Can you comprehend that a large number (and even majority) of theologically educated women might actually choose not to preach to mixed congregations?

Yes, I can, especially if they studied at Moore College and especially if they're living within Sydney diocese. Young Christian women who have been taught that it would be wrong and sinful for them to preach to mixed congregations are likely to take those views very seriously. (I used to think it might be wrong until I came up against a Moore trained clergyman who thought women shouldn't speak anywhere at all where men might be present. That got me looking further and now I am convinced that the prohibition against women preaching is not Christian at all.) And most other women there with an interest in preaching would have heard of what happened to Belinda Goodenough who, unfortunately, was not as wise as a serpent in expressing her frustration in not being allowed an opportunity to preach.

As for your quote from Kreider, I genuinely have no idea how it adds to the conversation - it says not one thing about what the early church understood about gender roles in church leadership.

Well, the early church grew up within the milieu of the Roman Empire. The Romans were very attached to traditional ways of doing things and women, traditionally, had no right to vote or stand for public office. Their role was to be wives and mothers. They were under the power of their husband or father. So when the church became, more or less, an organ of the state, one should hardly be surprised if aristocratic males, who could then join up and hope for advancement within the church, saw no place for women in its 'leadership'.

Yet in 379 Gregory of Nyssa (in modern day Turkey) wrote in a document not, "remotely comparable in tone or content" to any other document from antiquity, that, "[f]or anyone at all ... to presume mastery over another person is the grossest imaginable arrogance, a challenge to and a robbery of God, to whom alone all persons belong." (David Bentley Hart. "Atheist Delusions. The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies. Yale University Press. New Haven and London. 2009. pp 177 & 178)

Of course, Gregory was writing in relation to slavery but, to my mind, any form of relationship where one person has all the say and the other has none, is a form of slavery. Those who insist on the subordination of women at home and in the church may well find that, far from being Biblical, they are being un-Biblical. What they regard as church traditions against women 'leaders' are, most likely, the androcentric pagan traditions of the Romans and other ancient cultures that the church absorbed when it became the state religion.

David Ould said...

Is that St Augustine's, Neutral Bay? If so, does your church web site need updating? I ask because it shows a male:female employee ratio of 3:2 or, leaving out the student ministers, of 2:1, the 1 female being a part-timer.

You're entirely correct. Sadly our website is out of date. We've recruited 2 additional women since then.

Yes, I can, especially if they studied at Moore College and especially if they're living within Sydney diocese. Young Christian women who have been taught that it would be wrong and sinful for them to preach to mixed congregations are likely to take those views very seriously. (I used to think it might be wrong until I came up against a Moore trained clergyman who thought women shouldn't speak anywhere at all where men might be present. That got me looking further and now I am convinced that the prohibition against women preaching is not Christian at all.) And most other women there with an interest in preaching would have heard of what happened to Belinda Goodenough who, unfortunately, was not as wise as a serpent in expressing her frustration in not being allowed an opportunity to preach.

And yet you still seem to discount the possibility that women, in good conscience, would take this position. Your language is all in the passive "they are taught". Of course, what you intend to imply is that they are, in some way, the equivalent of brainwashed and cloistered from the world. It is, frankly, demeaning and insulting to those women.

Of course, Gregory was writing in relation to slavery but, to my mind, any form of relationship where one person has all the say and the other has none, is a form of slavery.
Yes, I entirely agree. But then mainstream complementarianism does not hold to such a view either - despite the stereotypes that you persist in dealing with.

Janice said...

Of course, what you intend to imply ...

David, how do you know what I intend to imply?

David Ould said...

because, Janice, you intimate it so consistently. It's become a bit of an overwhelming narrative.

I see that there's no specific response to my points. Fair enough. That's your choice.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

.

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