Friday, April 27, 2012

On Women in Ministry...

I've got lots of friends on all sides of the current debates in the Church of England about women in ministry. As usual, I'm not towing any party line in particular, but here are a few questions I don't think I've seen good answers to.

Questions for Supporters of Women Bishops

  • Men and women are blatantly different, and the differences aren't just in terms of genitalia. No-one in this debate is arguing that women are inferior. The evangelical end of the debate is about whether biological, psychological, theological and ontological differences between men and women mean that they should have different ministries in the light of Scripture. And yet so often it seems like you rule out that possibility before even beginning to engage in debate. Why?
  • As it currently stands, a significant minority of the C of E take the view that the majority of the church has for the majority of its history, that the Bible teaches that certain roles within the church should be restricted to men only. Many of them believe that not because they uncritically accept tradition, but because they have thought and prayed about the issue and in good conscience come to the conclusion that the restriction still stands. Given that, even if they are wrong, what is the most Christian way to treat them?
  • If the objectors to the Consecration of Women are wrong, surely they classify as "weaker brethren" a la Romans 14. Why then aren't we acting towards them as such?

Questions for Opponents of Women Bishops

  • There are many requirements in Scripture for overseers / bishops. Why is the requirement that bishops be male any more important than that the bishops be able to teach, or that they be of good repute in the community (for example)? Personally, I can think of women I'd much rather have as my bishop than several men I know of who are bishops!
  • It might be wrong for the C of E to allow women to become bishops - I'm sure they way they are going about it is wrong - but if the C of E does allow it, don't those women then become an authority set over us a la Romans 13, and so isn't the right response to submit to them?
  • Why is 1 Corinthians 11 sometimes used in the debate? If it teaches that men are ontologically the heads of women (which is the only way it is relevant to this debate), it means that I am head over the Queen. Isn't it much more likely about marriage?
  • Are you all right with Deborah acting as she did in Judges? Why / why not?

And finally, a question for both sides

  • Why do both sides in the debate seem so sure on what 1 Tim 2:11-12 means when one of the key words is a hapax legomenon and when no-one has an entirely coherent account of what Eve is doing being saved through childbearing just two verses later? That suggests to me that we don't properly understand the context, so there is therefore scope for our interpretation, whatever it is, to be wrong.
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