Sunday, July 11, 2010

On the Ordination (or otherwise) of Women

I'm getting lots of friends asking me why I object to the ordination of women and why I am so passionate on the issue. I do admit that I get hot under the collar about this, the reason for that is quite simple. Despite the fact that there are simply millions of people who follow this teaching of the Church, I appear to be the only one in the area who subscribes to it. Little wonder that in defending the faith, I am defending myself as well - is it any wonder that I get agitated? I have blogged on this before though a little obliquely; see here and here for just a couple of examples.

Let me see.

I'll start with the obvious.

Men and women are different.

You've got to accept that whether or not you regard one as being the head of the other or not. They are different. They share the same humanity, but that same humanity is expressed in different ways. Crucially though, both are needed in order for children to be born and raised and loved and nurtured into good, loving and happy human beings. I cannot deny that there are those who are brought up happily in a single parent family, but nonetheless, someone important is missing from that family for whatever reason.

If men and women are different, then they have different roles to play in Creation. It is clear that men and women think differently, prize different qualities in each other, excel at tasks in different ways. They lead projects differently, they teach differently, they live their lives in different ways as determined by their physical, mental and spiritual make-up. Surely this is a difference that God takes pride in (Man and Woman made He them), and in which we too should rejoice. Why not rejoice in one's manliness or womanliness? They are good things meant to be together by a Creator God who loves both without preference.

Now let's move into Christian Theology of the Church (what little I understand).

Scripture is abundantly clear that salvation is meant for everybody, without any exception. For example: I Corinthians xii.13 states

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made
to drink into one Spirit.

by which we can see that the fullness of the Christian Faith is open for all who love the Lord Jesus Christ, hold to His teachings and submit to his Kingship. Our salvation does not depend on WHO we are but rather HOW we relate to Christ Jesus.

In that sense the Church is inclusive.

However, again, one can look at Holy Scripture and see that God plays pick and choose. Yes, it's true, the same God who says He has no favourites engages in discrimination. He chooses one man, Abraham, to be the Father of Jews and Moslems and the spiritual Father of Christians. What about the others? Was there no-one else who believed in God? He chooses one tribe - the Levites - to be the priests and only the males. Why? Weren't the women good enough? And so it goes on, there is a choice made by God. He chooses Moses, a stammerer and stutterer, to be his mouthpiece, Jonah to be a reluctant prophet, Job, His devoted follower, to be the one who suffers one of the worst misfortunes known to humanity. All these choices have a point and reveal more and more the unfathomable nature of God.

Speeding on to the ministry of the Lord, here we have a Rabbi who tolerates women more than any other man of His day. He teaches them at his feet numbers them among his disciples and allows them the marvellous privilege of being the first witnesses to His Resurrection. Why is it then that He chooses only men to be His Apostles, headed by St Peter? Why is it that St Paul writing Biblically decrees that it is only men chosen to serve as Episkopes and Diakonoi whilst separating out the ministry of women in I Timothy iii?

Yes indeed, women can say the words of Eucharistic prayers, and wave their hands in precisely the same manner as men, but this is not an issue of "I can do it, therefore God wants me do it". As St Paul says, everything might be permissible but it is not always that which builds up the Church. Ordination is God's choice, and God has revealed how He makes His Choice, in the only two places where He makes Revelation - In the Church through Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition.

Despite supporters of women priests looking very hard, there are no women priests and no women bishops. They will try to cite the Mitred Abbess St Hilda, but although a mighty and powerful lady chosen by God to lead communities, she wasn't a priest, she didn't administer sacraments. They will also try to cite Paul's lesson to the Romans xvi.7:

ἀσπάσασθε Ἀνδρόνικον καὶ Ἰουνιᾶν τοὺς συγγενεῖς μου καὶ συναιχμαλώτους μου, οἵτινές εἰσιν ἐπίσημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις, οἳ καὶ πρὸ ἐμοῦ γέγοναν ἐν Χριστῷ.

Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

as being evidence for a female apostle, until one realises that the phrase "among the apostles" is taken in the same way as "Pope Benedict is of note among the Protestants," the Protestants know Pope Benedict (and many hold him in high regard) but he is not a Protestant - at least in the conventional meaning of the word. It is not even clear whether this Junia, Junian, or Junias is even female.

I have also noticed supporters of women's "ordination" use again and again texts which refer to issues of salvation, not issues of Church policy, organisation and sacramental theology. I make reference to that here as I already mentioned above.

And now this is where I really get confused by the supporters of women ordination. They say that there was a full, church-wide acceptance for women "priests" but that it was suppressed by a male dominated society. Well, which is it? There is no hard evidence for the former, why not? Because it was destroyed by the latter. But if it was church-wide acceptance, and remember that the Church has managed to pass through being a minority before, how was the female priesthood suppressed?

What about the Gamaliel principal in Acts V:33-39?

Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves : who was slain ; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered , and brought to nought. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished ; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed . And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone : for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought : But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.

If the female priesthood had existed, it was certainly non-existent very quickly in the Church.

It is therefore a reasonable belief, according to the two organs of God's revelation, Scripture and Tradition, that there is no female ordination, and indeed any attempt to ordain a woman is an active denial of her femininity because of the masculinity of the priesthood.

Then I hear various arguments
"The Holy Spirit can do what He likes and He is ordaining women." I agree. God the Holy Ghost does whatever He wills, but He is God and Faithful God at that. Why would He thus send mixed messages to His disciples? God does not contradict Himself.

"Well, the view in the Bible is old-fashioned and out-of-date, a product of a male dominated society! God will put all wrongs to right and hates discrimination." Yes, God hates any discrimination that makes anyone a second-class citizen, a lesser being, a slave, a wretch or a sub-human. But we see that God Himself does discriminate, but not to set one person above another. Look at how Christ the King washes His disciples' feet, the King is equivalent in the eyes of God to a servant and the servant to a King, though both have different roles. If we are going to reinterpret the Bible according to our own philosophies (and this idea of female ordination is a result of a modern philosophy) the we risk running foul of St Peter who said that we are forbidden to make our own interpretation of Scripture especially when it deviates from the worship of the Church. The moment that we start using our own way of thinking to judge God's choices, we set ourselves up to be His judge, and thus our own. I would prefer to be faithful to what I have received through the teaching of the Church, than to rely on my own philosophies which have lead me astray in the past.

The current climate of chauvinism versus feminism gives a false dichotomy which does far more harm than good. I am labelled a sexist just because I say that men and women are different and that women are never priests. To say that there is no difference between male and female denies the reality which is present, not only in the obvious sexual differences, but in the heart of every cell of the body. The species depends on the interdependece of the two sexes and their different roles, and this is true down to the physical level. To say that there is no difference between the sexes is to produce a Frankenstein monster, a man-made man, and the philosophy that seeks to create this awful hybrid is steeped in this philosophical hubris.

There is still the question of why God choose male priests. So far, I think I've presented a mainly Evangelical argument with a few Catholic twists. Here I delve into more Catholic Theology. The maleness of the priesthood is because of Christ. God the Father is so called because that is what Jesus told us to call Him. Even so, we cannot attribute a sex to God the Father. Now if we look at the Mystery of the Incarnation, we see that Our Lady Mary had to be female because God had ordained women to be the bearers of children. God the Father, who has no physical sex, conceives Our Lord through the Holy Ghost (again, no identifiable sex). If then, the Lord were not male, there would have been no male involved in the Salvation of Mankind and Salvation is for everybody, male and female.

Now then, it was the act of the priesthood to intercede between man and God for the sins of man and procure the forgiveness of sins and thus the salvation of mankind from the Eternal effects of those sins. God prefigured Christ in the Jewish sacrifices by choosing the Levite men, thus setting them apart for this job. When Christ came, He offered Himself (i.e. as a priest) as a Sacrifice (i.e. as a victim on the Cross) in order that we might be saved from our sins for all Eternity. In order to pass on that common salvation, He instituted the Holy Eucharist where He presented Himself in the sacramental form of Bread and Wine, to establish a substantial Communion with all people in all time. He thus, in One Sacrifice became for all people a One Perfect Offering which requires re-presenting (not re-sacrificing because that is unnecessary) for all of us even 2000 years later. This Eucharist is instituted to bind people together and bind them together in God in full and perfect Communion in Eternity.

For this to happen, someone has to stand in (a vicar!) for Christ as priest so that Christ the victim can be re-presented for us now. This is our priest, who, in keeping with the maleness of the Levites and the maleness of Christ is male.

Now that I have written this, I hope people can see where I'm coming from even if they cannot agree. I'm not trying to force people to agree, merely to give a statement of why I stand in a minority within the Church of England. I'm not being sexist, I don't look down on women, but I will not accept their ordination. I refuse to regard a woman "priest" as not-Christian unless she shows unChristian behaviour, but I regard her as gravely mistaken about her status in the Church and cannot worship with her if it means accepting this status. However the Church of England is forcing me and my ilk to accept Women as bishops and thus that the people they ordain as being validly ordained. We simply cannot do this: either they make provision for us in the C of E, or they help us to walk away in an amicable fashion.

Any clearer?

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