We will pick up our critical analysis at the point of their section entitled:
VI. The Interpretation of Scripture
While some people think the Bible is easy to understand, the realities involved in interpretation of ancients texts can sometimes make understanding Scripture difficult...(After insulting our intelligence with remarks about the relative difficulty of interpreting Scripture compared to other works of literature, they proceed)...What these examples illustrate is that as the distance widens between the language and culture of a text and our own language and culture, the hermeneutic task becomes more difficult. Furthermore, some ancient literary forms are completely different than the literary structures we use today, making the hermeneutic task even more difficult. While understanding Tom Sawyer, Romeo and Juliet and The Odyssey may require hard work, doing so is not impossible, at least not when we make use of the hard work of scholars who have dedicated their lives to uncovering those important cultural and literary details for us.
Comment: All these observations are not only commonplaces but are commonplaces that are essentially irrelevant to the issue at hand. Again, all of them appear to be the setting up of “persons of straw”, ready for the argument that “understanding Scripture, even when it makes a clear declaration in the imperative mood, is too difficult for the uneducated masses, who must rely on the insights of ‘the best scholarship’ – preferably from Ivy League venues – to assist them to the right conclusions.” So what is to prevent someone from arguing that “Thou shalt not commit adultery” is actually too nuanced by ancient Hebrew religious imagery to be taken as a simplistic demand for marital fidelity?
Interpreting the Bible brings all of these issues to the table as well – but expands them out over a longer period of time...Scripture was written in an extremely wide variety of cultural contexts spanning not only across time but also across the vast geography of Egypt, Israel, modern-day Turkey, Greece, and over to Rome. Furthermore, the Bible was written in three main languages (Ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek), none of which are spoken today. Furthermore, as any serious student of the Bible can attest, Scripture utilizes a vast number of literary structures (even within any given cultural context). And, the gap between our own culture and any passage of Scripture we might attempt to read is between 1,900 and 3,500 years.
Comment: All of this discussion of centuries of broad cultural sweeps ignores, or attempts to obscure, the fact that in the present discussion we are dealing primarily with Paul’s Epistles, which were written over a few decades in the latter part of the First Century, within one cultural context – the Hellenized society of the Roman Empire --, in one language – Koine Greek --, in one literary genre. Thus there appears here to be a substantial effort at promoting mole hills to be mountains.
...the task can be quite difficult, requiring an incredible amount of time spent wading through scholarly works on the cultural context and literary structure of the particular passage being interpreted...Rather than listening to other faithful Christians who have done their homework and yet arrived at a different interpretation, they presume they have made no mistakes in their own interpretation and seek to knock down the arguments of those who disagree with them. Usually, this antagonistic approach is rooted in a failure to understand the complexity involved in the interpretation of Scripture...God’s promise to lead Christians to all truth via the Holy Spirit is best understood as a promise to lead the church to all truth when it is properly functioning. (John 16.13)
Comment: That being so, why do the writers of this paper insist on ignoring the universal consensus of the rest of the Church?
The “process of reception” within Anglicanism is built on the recognition that (1) interpreting Scripture can be quite difficult...Those who fail to appreciate the complexity of interpretation, and those who believe the Holy Spirit has led them individually to a true interpretation of Scripture (even when other faithful Christians disagree with them), are thus out of step with Anglicanism.
Comment: The “process of reception”, which is an artifact solely of one faction of post-1970 Anglicanism, is a fallacy based upon the wishful thought that if something in the Church is not as one would wish it to be, then one is free to try to persuade others to change their minds regarding it and then, if a majority come to accept that error, the error itself becomes normative. This is reminiscent of the way heresies such as, for example, Arianism once held sway over large portions of the Church. Their temporary prevalence at certain times in certain places did not make them any less heretical; truth is not determined by majority vote.
...we are confident that the Holy Spirit guides the church into all truth...(Editorial note: This is surrealism beyond anything imagined by Salvadore Dali.)
Comment: If this be so, and where there are 2,000 years of settled, universal understanding of Paul’s express words about the composition of the ministry, and where three-fourths of Catholic Christians maintain that immemorial and universal understanding, what possible warrant can there be for suggesting that it be changed at the behest of a million or so self-important members of one minority Province of one branch of the Church?
So, there is assurance that God wants people to understand His Word, but there is still work to do in interpreting an ancient text for 21st century living. And, this work has to be done in conjunction with other faithful Christians, even those who happen to disagree with us. Our mission-oriented approach to women’s ordination seeks to uphold our Biblical mandate to mission in the midst of our culture while also remaining faithful to the process of reception on the issue.
VII. Interpreting Paul’s “Prohibitions” on Women in Ministry
Comment: Paul is unvarying in his stipulations that the ordained ministry must be exclusively male. Paul certainly recognizes that there are functions of service to the body that are open to women; indeed, it could hardly be otherwise, but that deals with the day-to-day life of the majority of the community and has nothing to do with the specialized, and very much minority, ministry at the altar. (Editorial note: In Paul's Epistles it is only men who are called to ordained ministry, and they generally ought to be proven by their success and faithfulness as Heads of their families. That is, not only at the altar, but also the pastoral work of ordained ministry requires a man who has what it takes to be a good father.)
Throughout his letters, Paul affirms women in various leadership roles of the church. One example is Paul’s relationship with Aquila and Priscilla. Paul refers to Aquila and his wife Priscilla as fellow workers in his letter to the church at Rome (Romans 16.3)... They also had the role of mentoring and teaching the gifted minister, Apollos. Nothing from Paul seems to indicate anything but complete support for both Aquila and Priscilla (they are always mentioned together) and their common ministry, leadership, and teaching in the church (cf. I Corinthians 16.19, 2 Timothy 4.19).
Comment: And nothing from Paul even begins to suggest that Priscilla had any rôle in the public celebration of the Christian mysteries. What is going on here is a disingenuous conflation of several distinct meanings of the words “minister” and “ministry”. (Editorial note: It is relevant to point out that the words ἐπισκοπή, πρεσβύτερος, διακονέω (episkopē, presbyteros, diakoneō) are never applied to Priscilla.
The verses that draw much attention, particularly for 21st Christians are “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” (1 Timothy 2.11-12) How is one to reconcile this statement with life in a very egalitarian culture like 21st century America? How does one even reconcile it with Paul’s affirmation of Priscilla’s leadership – and teaching influence over Apollos, another leader in the church?
Comment: One reconciles it very easily. Priscilla’s functions were the same as those of any other diligent, faithful lay member of the congregation. Priscilla was not to attempt to lead the worship services of that congregation, to preside at the altar, or in any other way to usurp the functions of the ordained ministry, nor do we have even the slightest suggestion that she ever tried to commit any of those improprieties. If she had, we may be confident Paul would not have written of her in such laudatory terms.
The best explanation is to see both of these within the context of mission.
Remember, nothing was more important to Paul than the mission of the proclamation of Christ (Philippians 1.18).
On one hand, Paul affirmed how the work of Priscilla furthered the work of the kingdom through Apollos. But, the public teaching by women might have hampered the work of the gospel in a thoroughly patriarchal society. The admonition of 1 Timothy 2.11-12 is addressing two contexts: public worship and patriarchal society. It would have been a scandal for the Jews as well as members of the Ephesians society to enter a public place and be taught by a woman. Rather than causing a scandal that would detract from the mission of God to proclaim new life and new relationship in Jesus Christ, Paul admonished women not to teach publicly.
(Editorial note: As if the offense of the cross was not much more of a shock and scandal! I Cor. 1:21-31. Also, they assume too much about Ephesian society, which worshiped a well-known goddess served by priestesses.)
Comment: The new Christians scandalized both the Jews and the Greeks in numerous ways; why would one more have been of particular importance? The Jews at least had their own precedents of the female Judges and heroines which would have lessened the shock of female leadership within the Church, but they had to confront the trauma of meeting, socializing with, and especially eating with Gentiles and religious outcasts, without any precedent or other amelioration of or consideration for their nation’s prejudices in such matters.
The question that then follows is this: Is this addressed just to the church and context of Ephesus or is this a universal – for all time and in all places – admonition? It would seem, based upon other places where Paul affirms the role of women in leadership that he meant the specific prohibition for this particular time and place.
In Paul’s day, the proper way for any novice disciple to learn from his teacher was submissively and quietly. Historically, women were precluded from corporate worship and even from learning in the synagogues.
Comment: That is quite true. And it certainly did not stop Our Lord from including women such as Mary of Bethany among those who He instructed, did it?
Instead, they were to be taught by their husbands or fathers. With Jesus, and with Paul, women were not only permitted to learn and to participate in worship but were instructed to do so. Though virtually all women were still novice disciples, a growing number of women in Ephesus were overstepping their newfound status as disciples and presuming to have an equal or superior understanding of the faith as those men who had long studied the Scriptures and better understood the Christian faith. As a result, these women were being easily deceived into improper understandings of the faith, leading to disruptions in the worship service as well as the spread of heresy in Ephesus through the teaching of ignorant teachers. Also, the wider culture would consider it scandalous if women were leading and teaching men. The culture was so patriarchal that this fledgling Jesus movement (still a tiny minority in the Roman empire) would be crippled in its efforts to proclaim the gospel if women were allowed to teach.
So, because of the danger of novice women disciples teaching in public worship and because of the surrounding patriarchal society which would flatly reject the gospel if women held teaching positions, Paul does not permit women to teach in the early church. The long-range solution Paul likely has in mind (given his demonstrated openness to women in positions of leadership in other New Testament passages) is that women must learn the way of faith so that, perhaps one day, they might not be precluded from teaching.
Comment: This is entirely wishful thinking, made up out of the whole cloth, without a shred of evidence to support it. The fact is that Christianity, as an outgrowth of Judaism, was already regarded by the Romans and Greeks as parochial, absurd, and irrational. Where it included Gentiles, it was regarded as heathenish by Jews. Thus it was, from its inception, at odds with the cultures in which it was imbedded. Not the least of the issues over which the early Church ran afoul of those societies was in its insistence on the value of women as people and on the necessity of their respectful treatment, something quite unknown to the Greeks who set the cultural tone for the Empire. Yet neither Paul nor any other Apostle, Apostolic man, or Father of the Church ever so much as hinted that Paul’s prescriptions for the ordained ministry might ever be altered.
To be sure, there are other difficult passages within 1 Timothy 2. In verses 13-14, Paul refers back to Genesis 2 which depicts Eve being deceived (not Adam) and notes that Adam was formed first. Some see these verses as revealing that Paul thought women are to be submitted to men because of innate differences. Others see Paul’s reference to Genesis 2 as indicating that Eve was easily deceived because she came along later and had not received instruction directly from God, suggesting that if Eve could have received proper instruction she would not have been deceived. Faithful Christians disagree on how to interpret verses 13-14. However, even if Paul is intending in these verses to teach some innate differences between men and women, the best interpretation (in light of 1 Timothy 2 and the rest of Paul’s teachings) is not that women are to precluded permanently from teaching but rather that women are to be under the covering of male headship.
Is also instructive to note that those who see 1 Timothy 2 as precluding women from teaching roles also tend to claim that they are interpreting Scripture “literally” and to imply that those who disagree with them are rejecting the authority of Scripture. However, very few if any of those people would say that Paul’s specific prohibitions in 1 Timothy 2.9 against braided hair or wearing gold, pearls, or expensive clothing still applies today. They would say Paul was teaching a general principle, that women should not be like notorious women or be a distraction to men in worship (or other times).
Comment: Actually, the distinction between women as candidates for the ordained ministry and women’s styles in hairdressing and jewelry is the distinction between ontological reality on the one hand and evanescent, superficial adornment on the other. The meanings of specific articles or styles of clothing may change within a society or from society to society; witness Judaism’s reversal over the millennia on the question whether reverence to God is to be shown by uncovering the head or by covering it, or, in our own day, on the fact that white is in some cultures the color of celebration while in others it is the color of mourning. Maleness and femaleness, on the other hand, are fundamental, not superficial, and as such undergo no such arbitrary changes.
Also, few would hold that women are literally saved through childbirth (1 Timothy 2.15, continuing the reference to Eve in Genesis 3), even though they read the other references to Genesis (i.e., 1 Timothy 2.13-14) in a more literal sense. In other words, those who claim to read Scripture “literally” do not always read it in that same “literal” manner.
(Editorial note: These writers demonstrate their severe ignorance. The Church has always and everywhere taught that the meaning of I Tim. 2:15 is this: The Virgin Birth of Christ, the Seed of the Woman from Genesis 3:15, is the salvation of mankind; as Eve contributed to the Fall of Adam, the man who was head of the human family, so the Woman-Mary-has contributed to the salvation of the human family by her Son the Second Man, the Last Adam, the Head of the new human race. The writers quite obviously do not know this, which alone calls into question their competence in trying to teach matters theological.)
Far too often, those who seek to interpret Scripture “literally” in the sense we describe are accused of abandoning the authority of Scripture by those (1) do not do their homework or (2) think they individually can interpret Scripture without the input of others (even when other faithful Christians disagree with their interpretation).
Comment: Actually, when one chooses to reject the universal understanding of the entire Church about what Scripture is telling us on a matter of great importance, one opens oneself to questions about just how “faithful” one really is or even what it is to which one is being “faithful”.
Not all Scriptural passages relevant to women’s ordination can be treated in this paper with the same kind of detail as we have treated 1 Timothy 2 (and, indeed, there is much more that we could have said about that passage). We can only mention that when 1 Corinthians 11 and 14 (two other frequently cited passages from the Pauline corpus) are interpreted literally in the proper sense of that word, they are best understood as not precluding women from ordained ministry.
Comment: Who decides what is the “best” perspective for this understanding? Clearly it is not the consensus of Catholic Christendom, for that holds the other way.
V. The Order of Headship
In addressing issues of women and men, in the family relationship and in relationships in the church, Paul continually balances mission and order...We certainly understand the view of many faithful Christians that Paul’s teaching on male headship in families and in the church is best understood as culturally conditioned (i.e., applicable in patriarchal cultures but not in egalitarian ones such as ours). However, we are not convinced by arguments supporting this view and in fact see strong arguments in favor of the view that Paul’s teaching on male headship is applicable in every culture and is, therefore, transcultural. Indeed, we have consistently taught that male headship in marriages is a blessing to those spouses who practice it and to their children; when it is forsaken, we believe (and we hold that Scripture teaches) marriages and families suffer. However, it must be remembered that this headship takes place under the command of mutual submission in Christ (Ephesians 5:21). Headship is not “rulership.” It is mutual love and care given by God to husband and wife as well as the church.
(Editorial note: "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God (Eph. 5:21) " does not mean, and never has even indicated, the same thing as "Submitting to each other." Rather than "mutual submission," the text in Eph. 5 unfolds telling us which "ones" ought to submit to which "others." Apparently, for these writers, English is a foreign language indeed.)
...we take the position that male headship as seen in the family should continue to be practiced in the Church. We do not believe that our culture would view a “male bishop only” position with nearly as much hostility as the “no women in ordained ministry” position. We do not think this position of headship is a significant barrier to the gospel, at least not currently. However, even if our position would create a significant barrier to the gospel, we are not convinced that the traditional view (i.e., that Scripture requires male headship in the Church) is culturally conditioned (i.e., limited to patriarchal cultures). Therefore it is not subject to change even in the event it becomes a significant obstacle to the gospel. Instead, we see close scriptural parallels between headship in marriage and in the Church, and we are not convinced that the two issues can be separated.
(Editorial note: Again we see surrealism. Their basic point about Headship would be correct if they applied it consistently; but, they do not. Who, if not the priest in each local parish or mission, is in the obvious role of pastor to a local "family" of Christians? By reserving this fatherly headship only to a diocesan bishop, these writers remove the application of this Biblical principle from the realm of reality in any practical way. The result is that they advocate overthrowing in fact what they defend in theory.)
Comment: This paper has yet to offer any demonstration that our culture truly views “no women in ordained ministry” with hostility or that the Church’s traditional rule is actually any barrier to the spread of the Gospel, let alone a significant barrier. With the authors, and based upon personal experience, we are willing to assume that the traditional position is unpopular in college and university departments of religion in North America, but of what possible significance is that? They are already generally closed to Christian concepts and ideas.
We believe that there is to be order to the missional ministry of the church. While Paul affirms the role of women in leadership and teaching ministry within the church, he also affirms that these gifts are to be practiced in the context of order.
Comment: This mischaracterizes Paul’s teachings. What he actually models is that women may (and we can go further and assume women should) take part in the administrative and organizational functions of the Church, just as Lydia and Priscilla did. In appropriate circumstances, on a Christian-to-Christian basis, they may teach the basics of the Faith; how else did most of us learn that Faith but from our mothers? But Paul is clear and consistent in his requirement that women not undertake the public teaching of the Church, which without question includes what goes on during its liturgies.
This structure is affirmed in the Anglican system of bishops, priests, and deacons. In our understanding and practice of church structure and authority, the bishop is the head of each local congregation. Any priest there, rector or assistant, male or female, is operating on the bishop’s behalf, and under his authority. The Anglican Church in North America affirms the Pauline order of male headship, while also recognizing Paul’s affirmation of the gifting of women in pastoral roles of preaching and teaching.
Comment: Paul never affirmed women in these rôles of preaching and teaching and it is simply dishonest to represent that he did. Nor is it logical to assume that those to whom the bishop may properly delegate portions of his official ministry need not fulfill the same qualifications and prerequisites as the bishop himself does. To the contrary, it is much more consistent to assume that the bishop should only appoint as his local delegates and agents those who may, at least theoretically, some day succeed him in Office.
Then there is the problem of our cultic responsibility to those who have been placed in our spiritual care. We commit malfeasance if we give them any ministrations other than those we are certain accord with Our Lord’s expressed will for them. When the ordained ministry is exclusively male, we can be certain that those ministers, when properly ordained, are in fact carrying out His will for His people, for He Himself chose men for those functions. When we innovate beyond His own practice, and for the first time start instituting women into those positions, we cannot be certain that we are in compliance with His will and therefore that the results of those ministrations – most especially, the Sacraments – will be objectively valid as He promised they should be.
ACNA rules of order allow only men to serve in the position of bishop, while affirming that men and women can hold the pastoral offices of priest and deacon.
(Editorial note: In I Tim. 2 and Titus 1, we see that presbyters and decaons must also be "the huisband of one wife," not only bishops; and they too must be proven by how they rule their households. The polity of the ACNA is not drawn out of Scripture. The language of these two passages of Scripture clearly affirm the unity of the Scarament of Holy Orders, requiring the same for men in each Order, holding all three to the same standard.)
VI. Living With Differences
One of the realities of the church is that while it is a holy institution, it is also a human institution. And while we serve a God who is all-knowing and wise, we are creatures who are limited in our understanding and scope of knowledge...(We spare you some more embarrassing banality.)...The church is a family, and we must learn to live together under the same roof. When coming to an issue like women’s ordination, we must accept the fact that there will be differing opinions from people who are equally faithful to God and equally committed to the truth and authority of His word. So what are we to do? Heeding the word of James is an excellent place to start: “…Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1.19-20). Scripture clearly teaches that we should listen first, and truly seek to understand another person’s position. Then as we speak and dialog about our understanding of these issues, we don’t let personal passion lead to anger. Rather we always seek to be in right relationship to God and our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Comment: The dispute over the composition of the Church’s ordained ministry, and therefore over the validity vel non of the Sacraments it purports to administer, is not some little hiccup in interpersonal relations like that between Euodias and Syntyche appears to have been. (Paul, after all, dismisses that in one brief phrase.) It is, rather, a salvation issue because one of Anglicanism’s bedrock principles is that Baptism and the Eucharist are “generally necessary for salvation”, i.e., are necessary for the generality of mankind. When we tinker with the nature of the Sacramental ministry, extending it beyond what we absolutely know Our Lord approved, we risk departing from the terms of the Covenant under which He makes those Sacraments efficacious in fulfillment of His promises.
Indeed, it is difficult to see how anyone could tolerate the obvious risks created by female ordination unless that person views the Sacraments as mere symbols or (in the mundane sense) memorials, not as objective channels of God’s Grace as taught in the Anglican Catechism, “outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace given”.
In view of this central importance of the Sacraments, and instead of merely tossing off some formula about “getting along with each other”, we should rather look to Paul’s instructions as to how Christians are to deal with those who breach the fundamental unity of the community. We are to remonstrate with them and attempt to recall them from their mistakes but, if they persist in error despite our efforts, we are to cut them off from our fellowship, Titus 3:10-11.
VII. Frequently Voiced Questions and Objections
Question 1: Wouldn’t a literal interpretation of the passages of Scripture that say a woman shall not speak in corporate worship (i.e., in 1 Corinthians 14 and in 1 Timothy 2) require that women never serve as ordained priests? How can we claim to be a Bible believing congregation if we do not read Scripture literally?
Answer: What often passes today as a “literal” interpretation of Scripture is instead the farthest thing from a literal interpretation. That is, reading a passage of Scripture the way the author intended it to be read requires that the reader first understand the literary aspects surrounding the author’s writing, including the structure of the passage, the meanings of the words in the author’s context and how the author himself used them, the author’s overall purpose in the passages as it connects to surrounding passages, the facts and assumptions that shaped how the initial recipients of the author’s writing perceived the world, etc...
Taking into account the literary aspects of these passages, the best scholarship shows that they are to be understood as Paul’s instruction to a particular people, in a particular place and time, answering an issue that was particular to them.
Comment: It would be so helpful here to receive some explanation why the “scholars” who say “nay” are somehow “better” than the ones who say “yea”, but it is clear that will not be forthcoming. I, personally, just cannot accept unsupported conclusory assertions on a matter that is so vitally important.
Nor are we told how, once the whole Church accepted Paul’s writings as canonical, i.e., inspired, Scripture, those writings were not meant to be normative at all times and in all places. For as St. Vincent of Lehrins defined the Catholic Faith, it is that which has been believed by all people, in all places, at all times.
They are not addressing the appropriateness for all times and places of women speaking in corporate worship but rather only the appropriateness for that particular time and place. Ignoring the literary aspects of the passages – that is, failing to read them literally – has led many to see these passages as giving transcultural prohibitions on women’s ordination. Of course, there are some who do attempt take into account the literary aspects of these passages and yet still conclude the passages teach timeless prohibitions. We respectfully disagree with those persons and hold that the better scholarship shows the opposite. Most importantly to the question here, we certainly have taken into account the literary aspects of these passages in our earnest attempt to read them literally.
So, if a careful study of the literary aspects of the passages reveals that Paul’s intent was to teach a prohibition that is to apply only to his audience and others in similar situations (and not to every people, in every place and time, regardless of the issues that confront them), then to presume the prohibition applies to every people in every place and time is to misread Scripture. Instead, the better practice is to understand what Paul is saying to his audience in their particular context and then to determine how it applies to our own context. If our context is vastly different than theirs, then the principles at work in the passage may be applied in a different form in our context, or they might not even be applicable to our context. To those who have not done the hard work of trying to understand the literary aspects of these passages, we invite them to do so before drawing conclusions about what counts as reading Scripture literally.
Comment: What this means in plain English is, “Don’t worry about the express words of Scripture. If you find them uncomfortable or inconvenient, the ‘best scholars’ can always be counted on to show the Spirit-guided Church where it has been wrong these 20 centuries and to come up with an interpretation that will be easier for us to live with.” Of course, by replacing God with some ivory-tower academics we deprive ourselves of the assurance of salvation that we had when we tried to follow divine Revelation rather than our own imperfectly-understood experience, but that is a small price to pay for the privilege of being trendy and up-to-date.
Question 2: If one opens the door to women in ordained ministry, isn’t that taking a step down a slippery slope that allows one to make Scripture say whatever one wants it to say?
Answer: The mission-oriented approach to women’s ordination does not enable one to make Scripture say whatever he wants it to say.
...some have “summarized” Christianity as being about “love” and “freedom from oppression” and then continued to define what counts as “love” and what counts as “freedom from oppression” based not on what the Bible has to say about those topics but rather based on their own notions of those concepts as suggested by their own cultures. Thus, the gospel is perverted into a message about women’s equality, increased rights for homosexuals, and other cultural-political causes since these are judged to be the “loving” thing to do and as leading to “freedom from oppression”. It is along these lines of thought that many have argued for the ordination of women, the ordination of practicing homosexuals, same sex marriages, and the like. Ignoring the detailed teachings of Scripture and instead “summarizing” the gospel with broad strokes is the formula for making Scripture say whatever one wants it to say.
However, while the gospel is about love and freedom from oppression, Scripture fills in the details for us. Only when we do the hard work of seeking to understand these details are we able to arrive at scripturally based ideas of love, freedom from oppression, and other themes related to the gospel.
The Bible always and specifically condemns homosexual practice as immoral (i.e., applicable in all cultures). Therefore, broad notions of “love”, “equality”, and “liberation” cannot be applied as to overcome specific condemned activities such as homosexual practice.
Comment: The authors say they cannot be so applied, but they offer precisely no principles upon which we can distinguish women’s ordination from homosexual behavior as essentials of the faith or as adiaphora. I certainly understand and, indeed, agree with them that the prohibition on homosexual activity is fundamental, “transcultural”, and of the essence of the Gospel; what I cannot see is how that differs one whit from the prohibition on attempting to “ordain” women. If one can argue in favor of the one, then the same intellectual tools and methods may equally validly be applied to argue in favor of the other. Once again, ordination is a matter of essential being, which cannot be changed, where sexual misconduct is only a matter of behavior, behavior that, under the influence of grace, may always be amended. One is permanent, the other, at least in theory, is transitory. Thus if the Church may alter its view of the significance of what is permanent, how much more readily and appropriately may it alter its view of the significance of what is transitory.
Instead of painting with broad strokes, we have paid attention to the details of what Scripture teaches, seeking to be obedient to those teachings. Our arguments in favor of ordaining women are driven by the scripturally mandated mission-oriented approach which attempts to eliminate obstacles to the reception of the gospel only when and to the extent permitted by the detailed teachings of Scripture. The detailed arguments we make in support of our position on the ordination of women have nothing to do with the “broad stroke” arguments others have made in favor of equality, liberation, and the like.
Comment: The authors say this but they do not demonstrate it. In today’s parlance, they talk a good game but have yet actually to play it.
So, because Scripture always and specifically condemns homosexual practice as immoral, the mission-oriented approach would never allow for the ordination of practicing homosexuals or for the Church’s endorsement and blessing of same sex marriages.
Comment: Scripture always and specifically requires both the Old Testament and the New Testament priesthoods to be male. So what is the principled, as opposed to æsthetic, difference between these two issues?
As discussed above, Scripture’s detailed teachings on women in ministry are more complex and do require a much more elaborate examination by the Church as a whole ...
Question 3: Isn’t it significant that Jesus appointed 12 men as his apostles and that the apostles only appointed men to ordained ministry?
Answer: Determining someone’s intentions or beliefs based solely on his actions can often be problematic, as is the case here. Isn’t it just as likely that Jesus and the apostles were merely attempting to accommodate the message of the gospel to their own, patriarchal culture as much as possible in order not to avoid unnecessary barriers to acceptance of the gospel (i.e., taking the mission-oriented approach we have taken)?
Comment: Again, this implies the heresy that Jesus Christ was not truly God, of the same substance with the Father and the Holy Ghost. For if He were God, He would have had no difficulty in surmounting any cultural prejudice, such as that of the Jews toward the Gentiles, because as artifacts of society, such prejudices are aspects merely of the created order and God is supreme over, and is not personally bound by, the limitations of creation. I, personally, cannot accept such an Ebionite or Monarchian position, both of which the entire Church has roundly condemned as heretical and as impossible for a Christian to hold.
Given that Paul expressly teaches the mission-oriented approach in 1 Corinthians 9:22 and 10:23, it seems that a desire to avoid unnecessary barriers to the gospel may be even more likely the intention of Jesus and the apostles in ordaining only men. In any event, citing the actions of Jesus and the apostles to ordain only men without citing any teaching by Jesus or the apostles explaining why they did not ordain women does not really add anything to the debate.
Comment: The Gospels do not tell us why it was necessary for Christ to die for our sins, either. After all, God could have just short-circuited all the rigamarole, waved His hand, and forgiven and “justified” us without all that fuss. However, as St. John reminds us, there is a great deal of pertinent information that God did not think it necessary to lay out for us in detail, wherefore it is our part simply to accept, quite literally “on faith”, what we do know He laid out for us. One thing we do know that way is that Christ Himself selected only men for the formal leadership of His Church and that those men, who knew Him in the flesh and who had years of personal contact with Him, listening daily to His teaching, understood that they themselves were to select only men as their successors in Office. We also know that Our Lord promised us that, in these essential matters, He would guide His Church through the agency of the Holy Spirit.
Given all this, therefore, we need to look not for some statement in Scripture that the unquestioned practice of the Apostolic Church was not temporary but, instead, for some statement there that such practice was not, after all, normative at all subsequent times and in all subsequent places.
In the absence of such a qualification, the only safe conclusion we may draw is that the practice indeed was normative for them and remains normative for us.
We hold that the best way to understand Christ’s will with respect to His actions and example is to carefully study what the apostles taught as contained in Scripture since the apostles would not have taught anything contrary to what Jesus intended. To rely on speculation about what Christ’s actions must have revealed about his thoughts, without attempting to coordinate that speculation with, and subject it to, the scriptural teachings of the apostles, is effectively to make the mistake of giving more weight to tradition than to Scripture. And, even worse, it allows our biases (including those inherited through tradition) to color how we see and understand Christ’s actions. So, those who simply recoil at the idea of women in ordained ministry may be attracted to an argument allegedly based solely on tradition, though it may simply be their biases in action. The better course is to carefully subject our speculations and traditions about Christ’s example to the teachings contained in Scripture, which alone is trustworthy and free from error.
Comment: Our Lord gave His Apostles the power to circumvent, or suspend the ordinary workings of, the natural order, such as by raising the dead to life and casting out demons. Given that very large concession of authority, it seems indefensible to assume that He did not also give them the lesser grace necessary to surmount mere cultural prejudices – as, in fact, they did, vide Lydia and Priscilla and many others.
Question 4: If for almost 2,000 years the Church has held to the view that only men can be ordained to ministry, who are we to think we can change this?
Answer: The continued practice of the Church over the centuries of only ordaining men says very little about what those early Church leaders would do if faced with the task of proclaiming the gospel in North America today. Since our American culture (and indeed many Western cultures) over the last forty years has, for the first time in all of history, held such a great concern for women’s equality, we simply do not have a clear precedent in Church history dealing with how we ought to think about women’s ordination. Simply repeating the practice of ordaining only men may be misguided and out of step with the long-standing approach to proclaiming the gospel to be found in Paul, among missionaries, and in our Anglican tradition.
Comment: There is a certain breath-taking arrogance in assuming that 20th and 21st Century North America is somehow such a unique venue that it necessarily must be dealt with differently from how the Church has, for two millennia, successfully dealt with the entire remainder of the world.
The authors here may be comfortable asserting that they and their fellow citizens are such special people, somehow set aside from all the rest of humanity, but I for one feel it is a much safer assumption that the Faith that saved the Apostles will likewise save me and that the teachings, practices, ministry, and Sacraments of the Church that were “generally necessary” for the salvation of preceding generations – and that are still generally necessary for the salvation of those living on other continents today – are just as necessary and salvific here.
The mission-oriented approach tells us that, confronted by such a culture as ours, we should seek to ordain women as ministers in order to avoid unnecessarily offending those in our culture unless Scripture (not tradition) tells us otherwise. To see our stance as presumptuous is to miss entirely what we are attempting to do. We are not sitting in judgment over what our tradition has delivered to us, as if we know better than they do. Instead, we are simply recognizing that our mandate to proclaim the gospel, which our tradition has so faithfully handed down to us, requires us to reconsider the other practices and teachings (i.e., regarding women’s ordination) that were also handed down to us by those same faithful Church leaders. We can only guess what those earlier Church leaders would do in our situation, (Editorial Note: They may guess all they like. I prefer to read what they taught, and to abide by it.) but we have not doubt, ("We can only guess...but we have no doubt": Self-contradiction indicates dishonesty or insanity.) based on their manifest faithfulness, that they would uphold the proclamation of the gospel as more important than a preservation of tradition for tradition’s sake (For tradition's sake? That is one Hell of a presumption). Rather than presuming we are right and they are wrong, we are merely attempting to follow their good example as we seek to engage our own culture with the gospel.
Comment: This assumes, of course, that the Sacraments are not divinely-instituted channels of grace such that Our Lord Himself laid down the means whereby we are to receive them (and that He forgot to fill us in on His long term plans).
Question 5: Isn’t the priest considered to be an icon of Christ during the Eucharist, serving to represent Christ to the congregation (not just to represent the congregation before Christ)? As an icon of Christ, doesn’t the priest have to be a man just as Christ was a man?
Answer: We certainly understand this view from sacramental theology, though we do not share it. Instead, we understand the priest to be a servant of Christ Who is Himself present as the Host at the Table. So, the priest does not represent Christ and does not offer the Eucharist; instead, the priest presides over the congregation’s celebration of the Eucharist with Christ Himself being present. Therefore, because we do not believe that the priest is an icon of Christ, we also do not believe that this argument against women serving as priests carries much weight.
Even if we were to hold the traditional view that the priest is an icon of Christ during the Eucharist, it is not obvious that the priest would therefore have to be a man in order properly to represent Christ to the congregation. It is not Christ’s maleness that matters to His work on the cross but rather his humanity that matters. Indeed, if it were His maleness that mattered, then his death on the cross could only be effective for men. Instead, the Christian faith holds that Christ can represent us before the Father precisely because he took on our human nature.
Comment: Why then did Christ, in taking on a human body, take on a male one? It would have been so much more representative had He come among us as an hermaphrodite and it would have been so much more “inclusive” had He come as a “transgendered person”. After all, He wasn’t going to make any actual use of His organs of generation, so their lack of functionality would not have made any difference.
No, it is precisely because Christ in His male body died on the Cross for the salvation of all of humanity, of both sexes, that the priest, in his male body, serves simultaneously as the congregation’s agent and representative before God and as God’s agent and representative to that congregation.
Certainly, that Christ was male is not entirely (?) irrelevant, but it is irrelevant as to the power of the cross. Christ’s humanity, not his maleness, is what would be relevant during the Eucharist under the view the priest is the icon of Christ at that time. (The last Adam, the Second Man, had to be male in order to represent all humanity as Adam did.) That being the case, a woman, as much as a man, is fully able to represent Christ’s humanity (Can she represent the Bridegroom? Why are they blind to the relevance this has to their one big issue of sexual confusion in Same Sex sins?). Indeed, many have argued that it would be preferable to have both men and women representing Christ’s humanity during the Eucharist since that would more clearly represent Christ’s humanity. What mattered on the cross is Christ’s humanity, the one human nature common to men and women alike (Oh, so the Church has been deprived of a full picture of Christ's humanity for about two Thousand years? What is wrong with God that He failed to meet that need for so long?)
Comment: Were their contention true, then Christ would have included some women amongst His Apostles, who were to become the leaders of His new Church.
But, even if one holds the traditional view that the priest is an icon of Christ and yet rejects our notion that Christ’s humanity (and not His maleness) is what is represented during the Eucharist, we still think this objection does not change our position. For sacramental theology, though traceable to Scripture, is not expressly taught by Scripture and instead comes from a later development. Whatever truth we may claim in traditional teachings and practices, ultimately the express teachings of Scripture must outweigh our claims. Because Paul expressly and clearly teaches that we are to take a mission-oriented approach to our teachings and practices, even our long-held sacramental theology must be subject to reconsideration when it appears to support positions that would pose significant barriers to the gospel’s reception in a culture.
Comment: The Creeds, too, are not expressly taught by Scripture and instead come from later developments. Does that mean that we are authorized to jettison them, with their baggage of an incomprehensible Trinity and an irrational Communion of Saints, in order to make our message more appealing to an hostile world?
(Editorial note: Actually, I would put this point differently from Fr. Hollister. The entire content of the Creeds is from the Bible. The point, as I see it, is that what the writers here call "a later development" is not a later development either. The need for a man to be the priest is based on the entire revelation that Christ, the Man, represents all humanity as only a man can; for Adam was the Head, and Christ is the Head of the new humanity. Adam repesented all mankind in the Fall; Christ represented all mankind on the cross and before the Father; His representatives in ordained ministry carry on His ministry, not their own.)
Question 6: God has ordered all things in creation wisely and for our good, and part of that order is that man is to be the head of the family and men are to be elders (presbyters) or priests in the wider family of the Church. Wouldn’t ordaining women as deacons and priests be a disruption of this order, even if male bishops are heads over them?
Answer: We most certainly affirm the idea that God has ordered all things in creation wisely and for our good and that to go against God’s ordering is foolish, disobedient, and harmful to ourselves and to others. We also affirm the notion that man is to be head of the family, though headship is not to be understood as domination or a position of power but rather as a source of spiritual leadership. Nevertheless, arguments based on the order of creation (i.e., based on the nature of things) can quite problematic for several reasons.
First, there is the problem of distinguishing between the created order of things and the fallen order of things. When looking at the way things are, we must remember that everything in the created order has been tainted by sin to some degree or another. Telling the difference between the created and the fallen aspects of nature can be quite difficult. That difficulty is made worse by the fact that we ourselves have been tainted by sin, and our ability to see things clearly is often dampened by that sin. So, if we are relying on our own experiences or our own reasoning to try and determine what constitutes the created order, we are working with a fallen nature that can negatively impact our experience and reasoning and seeking to apply it to a task that is already difficult in itself.
Comment: That is precisely why the only safe mode of proceeding is for us to replicate, as closely as possible, what we know to have been the practice of the Apostles and to eschew novelties, no matter how seductive they may be or how heartily they are approved in Ivy League faculty common rooms.
Furthermore, Scripture has been used to support arguments about women’s ordination both as being consistent with the created order or a violation of it. Thus, some have argued that women were created as fully equal with men and only “subjugated” to their leadership as a consequence of the Fall. Others have argued that women were created as helpers of men who are, by God’s design, supposed to lead them and that the Fall merely tainted that relationship by causing women to rebel against male leadership and men to abuse that leadership. Those who make these kinds of arguments from Scripture, whether for or against women’s ordination, are attempting to discern from Scripture what is implied by it, not what is being expressly taught by it.
Comment: The problem is that when a man is ordained by a bishop who truly stands in the Apostolic Succession – as virtually all of the Lambeth Communion’s current crop of bishops very possibly do not – and that bishop in doing so uses an Ordinal that the Church has traditionally approved – which most definitely excludes the ordinal found in the 1979 “Prayer Book” – then we may be assured that man was, indeed, ordained. If we change any of those essential elements, as the ordinand from man to women, or the bishop from one whose church clearly stands in the Apostolic Succession to one whose church has raised questions about its Sacramental Intentions either by ordaining women or adopting a questionable ordinal or both, then we have no assurance that the result is a valid ordination.
Where our obligation is to guarantee those entrusted to us that they are actually receiving valid Sacraments, in fulfillment of Christ’s covenant promises, it is both dishonest and a gross dereliction of duty for us needlessly to create doubts about that validity. If our ordinands are not validly ordained, as the entire rest of the Catholic Church believes both DFMSPECUSA’s and ACNA’s are not, then we offer our people only some possibility that they are receiving Sacramental grace, not the guarantee it is our sworn obligation to give them.
Who, in his right mind, who had a truly “sure thing” at the race track, would leave off betting on that sure thing in order to put his money on the usual odds? And if no sane person would do that where the only thing at risk was his money, how much less would any sane person do it when it was his immortal soul that was at risk?
Yet, arguments made from what is implied in Scripture are generally very flimsy, particularly when so much is at stake as in the case of women’s ordination. Such arguments are even less convincing when made in support of one’s views about the created order given the problem of trying to distinguish between the created and the fallen order of things and the impact of sin on our ability to see things clearly.
Simply put arguments about what is implied in Scripture regarding the created order of things are among the weakest arguments that can be made, and perhaps the most dangers to the mission of the Church. We need not look any farther than our own American history to see how weak and how dangerous such arguments can be. Indeed, such arguments based on what is implied in Scripture and on one’s own experience and reasoning were used to justify American slavery, even though Christians universally reject the idea of slavery today:
Comment: This is simply untrue. The Church Catholic never, in its entire history, justified slavery. When confronted by slavery and unable to ovnercome the sin of slaveholding societies, the Church has counseled slaves to endure their lot with patience, but that is far from either approving of slavery or holding that slavery was commanded by God. It is unquestioned that certain self-interested parties perverted Biblical and religious arguments to foster their own economic benefit at the cost of great human misery, but that sort of compromise with the spirit of the age is precisely what this paper promotes.
“[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God ... it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation ... (Editorial note: Hogwash! Jeff Davis and these writers who quote him uncritically, have never read Deut. 23:15,16. Clearly, the idea of human beings as property is forbidden in the Law of Moses. DeBow's Review is not the stuff on which solid Biblical interpretation is built) ...it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts.” Jefferson Davis, President, Confederate States of America.
Comment: Colonel Davis received his higher education at West Point, which is not noted for the depth of its theological instruction. Further, he owned several plantations and large numbers of slaves, which meant his was far from an impartial analysis of the situation.
Arguments about the “order” intended by God and the “disorder” that results when we choose our own way should be limited to what Scripture expressly teaches. There is very little expressly taught in Scripture regarding the created order as it applies to the issue of women’s ordination (indeed, we can only find such express teaching where Scripture talks about male “headship”). We will do best if we avoid other arguments based on the alleged created order of things.
Question 7: Doesn’t a policy of ordaining women threaten the unity of the Church, both within Anglicanism itself and with other denominations?
Answer: The canons of ACNA have expressly allowed for differing groups to adopt differing policies with respect to women’s ordination. We believe this allowance for differing views is not merely a practical stance aimed at preserving unity but rather is reflective of the process of reception of women’s ordination within Anglicanism. We also believe it is compatible with the mission-oriented approach we are following because it allows local churches to adapt their teachings and practices in the manner they determine best suited to the proclamation of the gospel within the local culture, as long as those adaptations do not contradict the teachings of Scripture.
Comment: This process of “reception” may equally well be applied to other heresies, such as extramarital sex, homosexual marriages, and the like. “We’ll keep doing what we want and sooner or later you will come around to our way of thinking and ‘receive’ the same enlightenment as we already have.”
The approach taken by ACNA is therefore consistent with the principles of Anglicanism.
Comment: Actually, Anglicanism’s principle was always that there should be one, and only one, ministry that was universally recognized throughout the Anglican world because it was based upon the same historic episcopate and the same ordinal. Now women’s ordination has created at least two, if not three, inconsistent ministries such that a visitor to a strange congregation must get a questionnaire filled out before knowing whether it is safe to receive communion there.
So, if our policy of ordaining women threatens the unity of the Church, it only does so because Anglicanism itself does so. However, we believe that neither our policy on women’s ordination nor the principles of Anglicanism on which it is based threaten the unity of the Church. Instead, the principles of Anglicanism are a great benefit to the unity of the Church since they promote and help enable a faithful, corporate, coordinated approach to preserving the Christian faith in every culture Christianity encounters.
We are keenly aware that the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodoxy hold women’s ordination of any kind to be a threat to visible unity with those churches. While we do not take their concerns or arguments lightly, our highest duty is to attempt faithfully to uphold the teachings of Scriptures even when other Christians might disagree with our conclusions.
Comment: How vain. How self-satisfied. We are so wise, and so especially gifted, that when the settled practice and beliefs of three-quarters of all Christianity, based upon the unquestioned practice of the Apostles, are placed on one side of the scales, and our extraordinary perspicuity is placed on the other, the scales dip in our favor every time.
Indeed, this duty is not only to God but also to those other Christians with whom we disagree – we owe them our testimony regarding what we take to be the teachings of Scripture, even if they may disagree or may conclude that our position impairs their ability to be in unity with us. As we have argued, the mandate from Scripture to adapt our proclamation of the gospel to the cultures in which we exist compels us to reconsider the traditional teachings on women in ministry. Because of our duty to God and to our fellow Christians, we must take this course of action and can only trust that our fellow Christians will recognize our attempts to be faithful to God and to them.
Final Comment: Since the beginning of the Church, almost all the heresies that have developed have arisen through one and the same process. That is to take some idea that is, in the general context of the Faith true, and so to exaggerate that single concept that it comes to negate other ideas that are equally true. Thus, for example, the Christological Controversies of the Fourth Century and after came about through Christians’ contemplation of Our Lord’s dual natures united in a single Person. Some concentrated upon, and elevated their devotion to, His Divine Nature so that they came to believe He could not simultaneously be truly human. Others, in direct contrast, concentrated upon His humanity to the point where they came to deny His divinity.
This process is especially congenial to those who, today, would undermine the essential nature of the Faith. Thus those whose promotion of homosexual and lesbian activity is threatened by the clear denunciation of those activities in Leviticus, Exodus, and St. Paul, seek to deny the authority of those clear Scriptural directives. Their method of doing this is, first, to deny St. Paul’s authority by saying he was merely parroting the Levitical commands which, they say, were themselves ill-informed because the ancients were not favored with our current understanding informed by “the best scholarship”. This understanding, they claim, is that sexual preferences are somehow an “orientation” that is both inborn and irresistible but that was unknown to our ancestors, despite those ancestors experience gained from being immersed in cultures that were riotously undisciplined in sexual matters.
Having thus disposed of St. Paul and Leviticus, these revisionists then dismiss the Genesis account of Sodom and Gomorrah by claiming that those cities’ sin was not homosexual activity but, instead, the violation of the ancient Near Eastern law of hospitality toward strangers, so the Genesis account is not really a precedent for God’s disavowal of same-sex activity.
It is this branch of the revisionists’ argument that models the general process of the development of heresies. True, there was indeed an ancient law of hospitality and, true, it was generally viewed as being near to a sacred command. That, however, is not what the ancient Jews understood the account of Sodom and Gomorrah to be about nor is what the Church, for 2,000 years, has understood it to be about. Nor have either those ancient Jews or the subsequent Christians been in any doubt that both Leviticus and St. Paul meant what they wrote about homosexual activity’s being an abomination.
Yet this is precisely the technique that is employed here under the title of “the mission-oriented understanding”. It takes the perfectly true evangelistic imperative – which was imposed on the Church by Christ, not by St. Paul – and attempts to use that one principle to negate another which is contained in the plain words of Scripture. This overlooks the elementary fact that the Faith we are commanded to carry out into the world is the same Faith that was handed over to us by Christ and is the same Faith that St. Paul labored so valiantly to spread. Thus our mission involves not only the content given to us but the means and methods similarly given to us.
Thus to argue that the principles St. Paul was observing can be used to disregard St. Paul’s own, unmistakable words is simply untenable and is, frankly, intellectually dishonest.
Further, as the revisionists’ arguments in favor of homosexuality show, once this technique is accepted as legitimate, there is no inherent limiting factor that would restrict its operation just to the question of selecting ordinands.