Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Women in Ministry: The State of Question

The laity of the Church of England voted down allowing women to be bishops yesterday. I was living in England when women were finally allowed to be priests, but this is a surprising set back.  Of course it doesn't come from ministers, who arguably know a little more about the Bible, theology, and church history than the people in the pew.

In England, the issue is not so much the Bible as it is church history.  This is the same issue I believe for the Roman Catholic Church.  When you place so much emphasis on how the church has done things in the past, it's hard to argue for new things on this level.  Still, having crossed the priest barrier, it is interesting that the laity of the church weren't willing to go for bishop.

Of course they will eventually, barring the collapse of the Western world.  I say this because irrationality can only survive against common sense (including spiritual common sense) for so long.  You can't force yourself to be stupid indefinitely (or at least you can't force your children to be stupid without taking them out of the world).

Even in American evangelical circles, it is only the "I'm so in the trees that I can't see the forest" phenomenon that keeps opposition to women in ministry going.  To anyone stepping back and looking at the subject from a safe distance it's overwhelmingly clear that the few instances where the Bible places restrictions on women in leadership are functions of the ancient context, not timeless.

I say this because it doesn't make sense any more than forcing Christians to believe the earth is flat.  Leaving aside that women do lead in Scripture, leaving aside that the underlying principle is not to distinguish between the spiritual dimension of male and female, it is preposterous from any sane perspective.  Women can lead as well as men. Women are as smart as men. Women are as spiritual as men.

An argument for leadership based on genitalia is just an embarrassing point of view, and you can't keep people from noticing forever.  Meanwhile, God is oh so patient.


Mr. Mcgranor said...

The Deaconess positions seems mighty inviting. Actually that is why i question the Methodist church; along with other pop-Chistian concerns, and i am not charismatic 'per se'. Although i have been to one with a Women pastor. She seemed not at a loss though.

Jordan Litchfield said...

I find it ironic that you state your interpretation of Scripture so dogmatically, as if it's the only possible interpretation any reasonable or logical person could come to. But this is the same attitude many evangelicals dislike amongst fundamentalists - an insistence that their interpretation is the only possible one for thinking, Christian people. Why is it that the same attitude you decry amongst fundamentalists is showing up in your own speech? I come from a fundamentalist background and do not appreciate the arrogance and dogmatism that many of them show, but I am now equally disappointed by progressives, who while they complain about the attitudes of fundamentalists seem to be picking up the same attitude.

Mike Bird has great comments on the C of E decision on his blog. His comments are much more irenic and catholic, and he notes that if we insist conservatives listen to us we must also listen to them with the same respect we want from them.

Ken Schenck said...

I try to be irenic with individuals. There's also a time to be prophetic on issues, and this is one on which I'm actually allowed to be.

Phil W said...

It's interesting the extent to which people will go in order to rationalize the precedent of women in ministry that the scriptures set. I once had someone tell me that Deborah was actually God's judgement on the men of Israel for being cowards. According to him, God used a woman to lead them as a form of punishment!

Mr. Mcgranor said...

Still Deborah wasn't clergy. It's clear that there is a stipulation for deaconess and partnered ministering between husband and wife.

John Mark said...

Ken, you have argued, and rightly so I think, against the thinking that opening a door to women in leadership will lead to having homosexuals in leadership.
Then I read Rachel Held Evans....and get really nervous.

Ken Schenck said...

There are some significant differences, John, as you know. For one, there are varying voices in Scripture on women in leadership. Scripture never varies on the topic of homosexual sex.

John Mark said...

Thanks. I just wanted to hear you say this, since I 'discovered' Rachel through you.