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.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Unhypocritical Love

Unhypocritical Love - Hating the evil, clinging to the good.

To loving one another as family - devoted
For each other's honour - leading the way
In eagerness - not lazy
From the Spirit - bubbling over
To the Lord - serving as a slave
In hope - rejoicing
Through suffering - holding on
In prayer - pushing forwards
For the needs of the saints - sharing
To love strangers - seeking.

That's my attempt at a translation of Romans 12:9-13. Most English translations make it a string of imperatives, but there aren't any in the Greek. Of course the Greek doesn't use a different preposition every time...

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Discarded Cloaks

This morning, I preached on Mark 10:46-11:11. There are two stories there, which most commentaries put on either side of a major division in the book, but I'm sure should go together - they probably happen on the same day, at either end of the same road, and Bartimaeus uses the kingly title "Son of David". Titles of Jesus matter in Mark, and all the other mentions of David are in Passion Week.

One of the common features between the stories which I picked up on is the discarded cloaks. When Jesus calls him, Bartimaeus throws his cloak away. And as Jesus enter Jerusalem, people throw their cloaks on the road in front of his donkey.

Now cloaks matter. In Jesus' day, a cloak was a valuable possession. It was probably your only piece of warm clothing - poor people certainly wouldn't have a spare. You wore it almost all the time, and used it as a blanket at night. People weren't allowed to take your cloak in security for a loan, because it was expensive and too important for your survival. "Sell your cloak and buy one" was used in the same way that "sell your granny and buy one" is today.

But following Jesus sometimes means giving up your cloak. In Bartimaeus's case, that was because going to speak to Jesus was so urgent, and with the disciples it was a matter of worshipping him, even if that meant their security being trampled and covered in donkey poo. Following Jesus isn't always safe. Sometimes he leads us into places we'd rather not go and where no-one has a right to ask us to go. Except him. But he's always trustworthy - always with us. He is our king (as both passages point out), and he cares about us.