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Wednesday
Aug022017

Steve Hutchens on ACNA's Final Report on Women's Ordination

The Final ACNA Ordination Report

Excerpts:

Was I right? Not entirely, for the Task Force, despite the methodological groundwork it had laid in irresolution because of the existence of differing ecclesiologies, was careful not to tell the bishops explicitly what they should do, but employed terminology that tended toward making the change of the current denominational status quo (i.e., ordained women in some dioceses) a long, distasteful, divisive, anger and angst-filled process, making it easier, much easier, not to change anything, and thus to fall back on denominational unity as the principal value to be served, with no weightier theological reasoning than the necessity to accommodate pre-existing ecclesiologies–the acceptability of none of which is apparently open to questioning–that is, the threat of more time-consuming, divisive, destabilizing, and unpleasant theological work.  Better all-round, it would appear, to make unity the thing by waking only one sleeping dog, and doing it carefully. . . .

The Report is heavily larded with the customary affidavits in defense of the learning, goodness, and godliness of all parties involved.  Alas, another red herring in which this long report seems to have specialized, as in this whole business of treating varieties of churchmanship as bearing on the issue.  A person’s goodness and godliness cannot, we are assured, be tested by his endorsement or rejection of women’s ordination.  Clever, but deceptive, since if someone is right about it, those opposing–who may be good and godly in a general way, but in this case are rejecting his word and will by promulgating error–are behaving badly, even if they don’t usually.  We may certainly believe that the lot of them are Very Nice, but none of that is to the point either.  Right doctrine and practice is good and godly; bad teaching and disobedience is not, and the question here is which of the two mutually exclusive possibilities is right.

Be sure to read the ongoing discussion in the comments below the article.

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Reader Comments (4)

I actually doubt someone's goodness and godliness if they hold to Christian priestesses.

August 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKen

If I may chip in. I read some of that report. One of the thing I am glad it acknowledges is that there are differing views as to *why* women cannot be priests. It laid everything out from the more Anglo-Catholic views espoused by C.S. Lewis to the more Sydney Anglican views that make all women subjected to all men 24/7. The *why* must be addressed. Archbishop Beach and his posse of orthodox bishops cannot simply lay down the hammer and say no more women priests without deciding on what reasons to give for it. Women want to know why.

Hear me out. We live in an age where women have, by and large, discovered what they are capable of. I practically launch rockets into space for a living. I am smart. I have a brain. I get insulted when men tell me that the reason I cannot be a pastor/priest is because I am stupid and easily deceived. These people nearly pushed me into the egalitarian camp on this subject. I remember in my Calvary Chapel days listening to a popular Bible teacher in those circles, who said that the reason women cannot be pastors is because women are easily deceived, and that all heresies have their root with a woman teaching men. Well, I ended up reading church history books. Surprise surprise! Men were inventing most of the heresies. While the heretics (such as the Gnostics) would target women first, I took that as their not being particularly educated in the Bible or in philosophy in that culture, thus making them easy targets. Which is probably why Paul wants them to shut up and learn, so that they aren't a walking target.

Back to my point. I have had my intelligence grossly insulted. If I am so easily deceived, then how do I know which man to listen to and submit to? See the problem? Quite frankly, I feel that misogyny has had a huge hand in creating this women's ordination problem. Had women been treated with respect all along, would we even be in this mess? For that matter, where is the order of deaconesses that once existed in antiquity? By what right did the bishops have to eradicate it? It's Apostolic! Where is the widow's order, which is also Apostolic? If we still had these today, would we be in this mess? Had our purview not been stolen from us, perhaps we women would have found contentment in those areas of leadership where we have a Biblical mandate to exercise authority (over other women, and as examples of Christlike service)? As it is, we largely feel useless. When we volunteer for anything, we are rarely paid for our labor. Everything we do is micromanaged by the pastor. We are, as it were, treated as perpetual children with no real responsibility. Going to seminary to learn is a dead end, when it should be the start for becoming a deaconess and serious women's ministry (as opposed to the not so serious women's ministry I see most of the time, which involves knitting and baking and not using our brains for anything).

The ACNA must come to the correct action for *the right reasons*. If they turn to a misogynist explanation, it will all be lost. Pope John Paul II was so very wise in this regard. He first apologized for misogyny in the church. He then stated that the church did not have the right to break from what Jesus and the Apostles had established. Finally, he and others embraced a reason that actually makes both Biblical sense and which also speaks to the soul: The pastor/priest is a type of Christ, ministering to the corporate bride. Just as you can't replace a husband with a woman, so you can't replace a priest with a woman. This reason is the only one that ever made any sense to me. It's the reason C.S. Lewis gave, and because of reading that from Lewis, I had naively thought that all orthodox Anglicans thought this way when I first swam the Thames. Sadly, this has turned out not to be so.

The more low church, borderline Presbyterians with Prayerbooks group does not like this explanation. They continue to read misogynist ideas about women being stupid into their Bibles, feeling that the Lewis / Anglo-Catholic explanation is too Roman Catholic. If this group wins, the ACNA loses. Again, too many women--even conservative ones like me--will be disgusted and leave. We want right reasoning that doesn't slap us in the face and tell us how we are defective.

This group argues that the Lewis / Anglo-Catholic / Pope John Paul II explanation is not Biblical. I posit that it is. Jesus said that the Scriptures are all written of Him. It astounds me how we can find types of Jesus in the Old Testament, but won't look for them in the New. And yet we know that marriage continues in the New Testament, and contains a type of Christ and His Bride. Why wouldn't the same be true of pastors/priests in the New Testament? Everything is about Jesus. It isn't about us. It isn't about men being so much more clever than women. It's about painting a multi-layered picture of Christ. It's beautiful. It draws women in. It makes us feel like a good part of the picture, rather than making us feel like defects.

If the pro-male-ordination-only group within the ACNA wants to win the women over, then they need to follow Pope John Paul II's fine example. They need to apologize for the misogyny, especially that being expressed by Sydney Anglicans and other low church factions. And then they need to lay out good reasons for not having women's ordination. Women on the fence as I once was *will* respond to this. Then they need to give women back their purview. Restore the order of deaconesses and the widow's order. Pay them like you would any man. Make seminary worthwhile for them. Women need to be equipped, too. And yet too often, we are told that that isn't valuable, even though the lack of Biblical education leaves us vulnerable to heretics grabbing hold of us. We are intelligent. Teach us, so that we can build other women up.

The ACNA has a chance to set something right a grave wrong that was done to women, all those centuries ago, when the order of deaconesses and the widows order were obliterated. I cannot imagine a better olive branch to hand women than to return to us what God intended us to do for the church.

August 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBibleBullet

This is a very thoughtful and articulate comment. Thanks. As for the "why", I am not aware of any Anglican who would employ the argument that women are too easily deceived, etc. The problem is, while Realignment Anglicanism knows what the the argument isn't, it is confused as to what it *is,* as clearly evidenced by the final report's observation that two incompatible ecclesiologies , one Protestant/Charismatic and one Catholic, underlie the differing views on women's ordination. I think you are right in realizing that Lewis (and Mascall) anticipated how task theology would develop in Catholic circles in response to the case for the ordination of women, and my own view is that there is no more thorough and devastating work for Catholic task theology than Manfred Hauke's Women in the Priesthood: A Systematic Analysis in the Light of the Order of Creation and Redemption. Yes, he's Roman Catholic. The problem is that we Anglicans are Catholics too, unless we're crossing our fingers behind our backs when we recite the Creed. Cranmer left us with a rite that is clearly meant to perpetuate the Catholic understanding of order, and the lion's share of Anglican reflection since then, largely spawned by Roman claims, is that Anglican orders are historically Catholic orders, with apostolic succession, sacrificing priests and everything else that goes with that. The Anglican Protestants who chafe at that do so, as you rightly note, because they are Presbyterians with prayer books.

Certain Continuing Anglican jurisdictions and the Reformed Episcopal Church do allow women to serve as non-liturgical deacons. They are probably going to hold the line on that one since for traditional Anglicans the liturgical diaconate cannot not be viewed as anything else than Catholic orders, the gateway to both the priesthood and the episcopate. I believe every trad Anglican jurisdiction should do this. There is no good theological reason not to, and there are countless very gifted women who are called to ministry. So believe me, I do understand your frustration. Hopefully we can get this thing sorted very soon.

August 6, 2017 | Registered CommenterEmbryo Parson

Thank you, sir! Your reply is a soothing balm to my soul. I did indeed have very specific low church Anglicans in mind in my comment. A certain moderator/contributor over at Virtue Online (which I otherwise call "Calvinists Online") comes to mind. He comes off kind of creepy when these matters come up. And that's just one example. It's a shame, because I'd like to pop in and wave my pom poms for them, but they kind of drive me away with their botched reasoning. Touchstone Magazine frequently does the same to me, which isn't surprising considering how ecumenical it's trying to be, representing everything from Baptists to Roman Catholics. So it ends up being all over the map. There comes a point where I wonder if it's worth it being so ecumenical. Sure, we Christians have a lot in common and should stand together on things; but when the different paths we take to the same goal don't quite align, it can drive people away who could otherwise be persuaded toward that common goal. It's the journey, not the destination. The way we get there matters.

Thank you for your ear!

August 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBibleBullet

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