November 24, 2014

November 19, 2012


Why the Church of England Desperately Needs Our Prayer

The clone is (almost totally) right when he says,

And you know what? I genuinely don’t know which of those two options is the right one.

But I’ll tell you what can’t be right, and that’s to suggest to the 469 voting members of General Synod that they have to vote a particular way because otherwise they will be going against God. It’s got to stop because it will ruin the next 48 hours and possibly the 48 months after it. This is the most important vote we’ve faced in two decades and if things carry on as they are both sides will lose despite whichever way the count of votes goes.

So please, dump your partisan hashtags and comments and just use a simple tweet – #prayingforsynod. Can we not just do that for two days? Is it so wrong just to turn to God and say “Your will be done”?

Is it?

No, I don’t think so. Well almost. I’m going to disappoint him and I would have been 100% behind him were it not for this letter in the Independent today…

 We, as clergy of the Church of England, stand alongside Rowan Williams, Justin Welby, and the dioceses of the Church of England, in hoping that the General Synod will vote on Tuesday to allow women to become bishops in our church.

We believe wholeheartedly that this is the right thing to do, and that the time is now right to do it. There are many reasons for this belief, and we highlight just some here.

First, because the Bible teaches that “in Christ there is no male or female”, but all people are equal before God. Just as the churches have repented of our historic antisemitism and endorsement of slavery, so we believe that we must now show clearly that we no longer believe women to be inferior to men.

Secondly, Jesus treated women radically equally. He encouraged them as disciples, and chose a woman as the first witness to His resurrection, at a time when women’s testimony was inadmissible in law.

Thirdly, we have promised as clergy to “proclaim the faith afresh in every generation”. We fear that failing to take this step would do the opposite, proclaiming instead that the church is more interested in the past than the future.

The legislation to be voted on represents enormous compromise from all sides. Those who wish to avoid the ministry of women will still be able legally to do so.

We hope and pray that all will feel able to work together in the future with the trust and respect that should characterise our church.

This does, genuinely drive me to my knees for 2 basic reasons.

First, if this is meant to be “a Biblical argument” then I fear very greatly for the place of the Scriptures as authoritative and normative in the Church of England. Any fair understanding of the conservative argument against Women Bishops would acknowledge that it has absolutely nothing to do with a view that women are “inferior to men”. It is utterly disingenuous at this point in the debate to launch such a puerile attack effectively branding every opponent of women bishops as a misogynist. The conservative  argument sits independently of Gal. 3:27 and, indeed, affirms it.

To then move on to antisemitism and slavery is another utter canard. These are matters on which, it is certainly true, certain elements of the church have had varied views at different times but the overwhelming consensus over the decades and a prevailing view in the early church was that anti-semitism and slavery were wrong. By contrast you cannot find anyone arguing for a female episcopacy until very very recently. Are we really suggesting that the church has been, almost in totality, wrong on this issue for 2,000 years? What arrogance.

“To be more interested in the past than the future” is in many ways a great statement of flattery to the church. We hold the Scriptures as our prime authority and that is certainly to “be more interested in the past”, at least when it comes to setting it against contemporary and future social trends as an alternate source of authority.

Finally on the issue of compromise and trust, I written here on a number of occasions about that. It is, once more, the height of arrogance to suggest that the position set forward is adequate for conservatives when they been united in declaring that it is not.

So I fear greatly for the Church of England.

First, because if this is meant to be “Biblical argument” then we are in for a torrid time going forward if we have any hope of having the denomination we love truly ruled by the Word of God. Second, because if this is meant to be “trust and respect” then I fear that we are yet to be utterly “’Mid toil and tribulation,
And tumult of her (internal) war”.

I would still urge you to vote against the measure (which will not be a surprise). But much more than that please be in prayer for the Church of England - I fear much more is at stake than we can possibly realise.


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25 comments

David,
This is what happens when Scripture is decoupled from tradition and reason. Scripture then becomes subject to manipulation. The decision in favor of women bishops will further divide Anglican, Orthodox and Roman churches.

[1] Posted by Fr. Dale on 11-19-2012 at 09:15 AM · [top]

The signatories are willing to disregard the actual countering arguments, in favor of a public opportunity to denigrate straw man (Aunt Sally) arguments attributed to their opponents - I find this quite telling, though unsurprising. 

For one thing, this letter is obviously a calculated political move.  It is an effort to (mis)frame the discussion, and to court popular opinion in a manner that bypasses the real countering arguments.  There is no engagement with scripture, no engagement with catholic teaching, and especially no engagement with their opponents and their actual concerns.  Pure politics.   

In another respect, this move is deeply dehumanizing.  This letter symbolizes a high and very public disregard for those making the countering arguments.  The signatories are communicating to their opponents: (i) your concerns are not worth acknowledgement; (ii) we signatories understand the real motivations; and (iii) we value you so little, that we are willing to bear false witness about you to score political points.     

I find all of this highly consistent.  These are anglicans that are comfortable excommunicating their fellow anglicans.

[2] Posted by tired on 11-19-2012 at 10:12 AM · [top]

GRRRRRRRRR.  I am so TIRED of this equality argument.  Regardless of which side of the divide you fall - please do NOT allow people to guilt you into things in the name of equality.  If you vote for it, have a sound theological reason for it.  If you are against it, have a sound theological reason for it.  And do it after much prayer and pleading that the Holy Spirit, who is part of the one true God, has led you to vote according to His Will. 

We must never forget that the call is not to have God on our side but that we have the wisdom and discernment to be on His.

Thank you, David, for taking a stand.  That is a rarity in these days.

[3] Posted by Jackie on 11-19-2012 at 10:43 AM · [top]

There are times when I wonder if there is any sanity left in the Church of England, and this is one of those times.  The upcoming vote in Synod is going to determine the fate of the Church…...of that, there can be no doubt.  Do outgoing Archbishop Williams and incoming Archbishop Welby want to see the Church disintegrate before their very eyes?  Does Rowan Cantuar see this happen on his watch, and does he want to be known as the Archbishop of Canterbury who aided and abetted it?  What about +Justin Welby?  How about the women who are seeking a bishopric?  Are they willing to be known as possibly among those who will be held responsible?  Yes, this is an internal affair for the Church, but it should be remembered that what happens in this Church also eventually affects all of us, and that includes any who aspire to be a part of the Anglican Communion.  Anyone who denies this is foolish.

[4] Posted by cennydd13 on 11-19-2012 at 10:48 AM · [top]

And this is another reason why I am in no hurry for our province, the Anglican Church in North America, to petition to become a part of the Communion just yet.  We can afford to wait.  As for the suvival of the Communion, that’s debatable at this point.  It hinges upon the vote at Synod, and if the curent trend is any indicator, I wouldn’t give a plug nickel fo its chances if women bishops are permitted.

[5] Posted by cennydd13 on 11-19-2012 at 12:32 PM · [top]

David, thank you for this.  I agree with you.  All we can do at this point is pray.  I would ask those women who are offended that some 25%-30% of CofE members cannot accept their ministries to examine whether this is about them or about God, and adjust their thinking accordingly.

[6] Posted by Katherine on 11-19-2012 at 12:48 PM · [top]

If this letter is indicative of the level of theological wisdom of the majority of the CoE, then the future is bleak indeed.

[7] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 11-19-2012 at 12:55 PM · [top]

Good post, David, and prayer is needed. What is distressing, on the American side of the pond, is that we in the ACNA seem not to be taking these lessons to heart. I don’t know what the outcome of the ACNA’s new task force on holy orders will ultimately be. But given that there is no moratorium during the years the task force will work, and that the announcement for the task force lauds the “two integrities” in the ACNA, there is also great need for prayer and renewed faithfulness here. Otherwise we will be just a few steps behind. We are seeing in England the results of thinking that you can cordon off a debate about priests from a debate about bishops—in the long run it cannot be done.

[8] Posted by Hitchhiker's Guide on 11-19-2012 at 02:16 PM · [top]

“Is it so wrong just to turn to God and say “Your will be done”?

Is it?”

No.  And especially not when you have the votes to accomplish the agenda purposed in politics (and opposed by Rome and Constantinople since Christian beginnings).  That way you can put the imprimatur of democracy on your determination of God’s will (or better yet bend Him to your political correctness).

Rather reminds me of Arian councils and political correctness.

[9] Posted by dwstroudmd+ on 11-19-2012 at 04:27 PM · [top]

Thanks for posting this David+.  Yes, the call to prayer is urgently needed.

“First, because the Bible teaches that “in Christ there is no male or female”, but all people are equal before God.”

This breaches the most fundamental principle of biblical interpretation - expounding one place of Scripture in opposition to another.  It is very clear that the same apostles who taught that there is no “male or female” also taught that men should occupy positions of headship in church and family. 

The Bible is entirely of Apostolic authorship (or Prophetic authorship in the case of the Old Testament), and each Apostle and Prophet who wrote or authorised books was inspired by the same God.  Therefore the Bible is internally consistent.  To expand one part of it in a way inconsistent with another is obviously wrong.

“Just as the churches have repented of our historic antisemitism and endorsement of slavery, so we believe that we must now show clearly that we no longer believe women to be inferior to men.”

Now the foolish authors of this letter move from a basic theological mistake, to a basic historical mistake.  Antisemitism has never been part of Christian doctrine, nor has endorsement of slavery.  Of course individuals and sometimes entire churches in a region have been involved with both errors, but its never been actually part of church doctrine.  Male headship has always been part of church doctrine.  There is no comparison between the issues.

[10] Posted by MichaelA on 11-19-2012 at 06:10 PM · [top]

A brilliant comment posted to one of the pro-Women Bishops articles in the UK Daily Telegraph, with a picture of a large green parrot attached:

“Ordain me now!  Ordain me now!  Ordain me now!

Who’s a pretty bishop then?

Come on, or I’ll set the animal rights lobby on you.”

[11] Posted by MichaelA on 11-19-2012 at 06:17 PM · [top]

Sorry, I forget to add, the username was “pollytheist”.

[12] Posted by MichaelA on 11-19-2012 at 06:17 PM · [top]

8.  A letter has been sent from our diocese to Archbishop Duncan’s office requesting a moratorium on the ordination of women to the priesthood, but I don’t what its status is at the present.  This is the first that I’ve heard about such a task force, though.

[13] Posted by cennydd13 on 11-19-2012 at 08:24 PM · [top]

No. 13, here is the authorization of the task force:

http://www.anglicanchurch.net/?/main/page/525

In keeping with the subject of the post, I should add that it’s important as we pray for the Church of England right now that we take to heart its lessons for us tomorrow.

[14] Posted by Hitchhiker's Guide on 11-19-2012 at 09:35 PM · [top]

Thank you for the information…..very informative.  And we indeed do need to pray for the Church of England as they meet in Synod.  May the Guiding Hand of God be upon them.

[15] Posted by cennydd13 on 11-19-2012 at 11:45 PM · [top]

Comments about this letter on a liberal web-site:

“While I’m in favour of women bishops, I’m not sure quoting Galatians out of context and pointing out that Jesus was nice to women forms a Biblical case for it.”

“As someone pointed out that letter needs some editing. There are a number of signatures that appear twice.  I agree with JP, too. I’m in favour of female bishops (I serve in a diocese with one, in fact), but if this is ‘the biblical case’, it’s very thin. I would have thought a thousand bright theological minds could come up with something better than this.”

I guess we will know fairly soon how convincing it has been.  But yes, praying for General Synod because there is no easy path for them - whatever they choose, there is still much conflict ahead.

[16] Posted by MichaelA on 11-20-2012 at 12:57 AM · [top]

I know I am late to this thread. Anyway, from this (US) side of the pond, it is very sad to see the Mother Church going down the same road of false teaching that so swiftly derailed TEC.  Kudos to you, David+ for taking a stand for the faith. This stance should make you *wildly popular* with other clergy wink

Theology aside (which does not seem to be a large part of the argument for women bishops anyway), there are other reasons to not have women clergy at all. +KJS should be reason #1. Does the CofE really want bishops like her? I can’t imagine why they would!! I have wondered if TEC had elected a male PB, would we be in our current mess? Perhaps so but I think there would be a lot less litigation!

[17] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 11-20-2012 at 08:06 AM · [top]

Synod voted against the women bishops measure.  A reprieve!

[18] Posted by Katherine on 11-20-2012 at 01:29 PM · [top]

yeah for Anglican laity of Synod upholding Vincentian orthodoxy

[19] Posted by tdunbar on 11-20-2012 at 01:30 PM · [top]

BBC “A handful more of “yes” votes would have tipped them over the two-thirds mark.”
(from link in Katherine’s posting)
 
not quite true, at least if 6 is one more than a handful.

[20] Posted by tdunbar on 11-20-2012 at 01:34 PM · [top]

It was close.  Laity need to continue to focus on electing people to the next Synod.

[21] Posted by Katherine on 11-20-2012 at 01:54 PM · [top]

#21 The point is that this is more of a political process than a theological one.

[22] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 11-20-2012 at 02:09 PM · [top]

“more of a political process than a theological one” .. i guess it would be too snarky to quip ‘Anglicanism in a nutshell’

[23] Posted by tdunbar on 11-20-2012 at 02:33 PM · [top]

The fact that it was political is underlined by the thin-to-nonexistent scriptural and theological arguments in support.

[24] Posted by Katherine on 11-20-2012 at 02:57 PM · [top]

Katherine #21, precisely.  Pray for orthodox evangelicals and anglo-catholics in CofE that they will be galavanised to continue their efforts to reform of CofE, and to spreading the gospel generally in Britain.  Nothing less than wholesale spiritual renewal of England is required if this victory is to be worthwhile.

[25] Posted by MichaelA on 11-20-2012 at 06:40 PM · [top]

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