Thursday, September 14, 2006

Women Bishops (Part 2)

This is continuing my reflections on the debate last night on women bishops. Part 1 can be found here.

Arguments Against Women Bishops

Somewhat surprisingly, Mr Gales didn't bother to refute the (very shaky) equal = identical mistake explicitly, though it is a common argument. He did however spend a good bit of time in 1 Corinthians 11, arguing that the "headship" mentioned there clearly included authority (with reference to Grudem's work on the use of the word "head"), and non-identicality of nature, roles and glory, though he clearly accepted women to be equal to men in salvation. He then moved to 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, where he argued for the context to be public worship (fine) and the specific issue to be whether women were to exercise authority by interpreting tongues (which seemed to be reading his view into the passage - a fairer interpretation would have been that it is generally about order in services, and women not being meant to natter).

Moving on then to 1 Timothy 2:11-14, he again argued that the context was public worship with a contrast between v11 - women can learn and v12 - women can't teach or have authority over men and v13-14 giving backing from creation to show that it wasn't just referring to a specific instance but was more general and that women's distinctive role within the church was the raising of children.

He closed by pointing out that language today is often seen as loaded and all too often we worry about status and so on, when that is not the concern of the Bible.

My Reflections

I don't think he established his case well enough. For the 1 Corinthians 11 reference to show that women shouldn't be bishops, he needed to establish that it was more general than just marriage (which is difficult when the Greek words for "husband and wife" are the same as for "man and woman"). Ditto with the 1 Timothy 2 passage - could it be just referring to how married couples were to relate to each other in church? In personal discussion afterwards, he handled this issue better, saying explicitly that men in general had headship over women in general, but was unable to back that up Biblically. It's difficult when the creation arguments refer to Adam and Eve, who were married... If the male/female headship issue is only applicable in marriage, of course, then it raises the question of single women and whether they are allowed to exercise authority in the church.

There was also some discussion about Deborah, and whether or not her leadership of Israel was only due to Barak's weakness and the question of the nature of authority and whether the issue was with women "lording it over" men or with women serving.

I think the third part of the debate was probably the best, of which more later...

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