Text and context on women’s ordination

The Australian theologian and Bible scholar John Kleinig said that women’s ordination used to not be a big deal for him–until he studied 1 Corinthians 14 and realized that it is far more forceful on the issue than most people realize. [Read more...]

Church of England says “No” to women bishops

The Church of England voted not to allow women to be bishops.  Bishops, priests, and laity had to pass the proposed change by a two-thirds majority.  The Bishops voted 44-3 in favor of female bishops.  The priests voted 148-45 in favor.  The measure was blocked by the laity, who voted 132-74, which was about 4 votes shy of the 2/3 needed.

The British parliament is indignant and is threatening intervention in the state church.

Some people recommend an episcopalian polity so that bishops would keep churches orthodox.  But it would seem, judging from the experience of American Anglicanism, that they don’t.   Some favor a clergy-dominated polity to keep the church orthodox, and yet, as we see here, the clergy are often the ones trying to enforce a liberal agenda.  In this case and in many others, the laity turn out to be most conservative faction in the church.

 

via Church of England blocks move to approve female bishops.

Church constitutions trumping creeds

D. E. Hinkle passed along an obituary for Prof. Wynn Kenyon, who sparked a controversy  in the Presbyterian Church back in 1974 for not going along with the ordination of women.  For our purposes here, consider the last paragraph in this excerpt:

Mr. Kenyon, who belonged to a forerunner of what is now the Presbyterian Church (USA), was an honors graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. In his ordination trial he was questioned about women and said that because he believed the Bible forbade women to hold authority in the church he could not participate in an ordination ritual. But he said he would work with ordained women and wouldn’t stop his own congregation from ordaining a female elder.

Pittsburgh Presbytery voted 147-133 to ordain him, but that decision was appealed to the highest court in the denomination. It ruled that “refusal to ordain women on the basis of their sex is contrary to the [church] constitution.”

Coupled with a decision allowing a Maryland presbytery to install a minister who didn’t believe in the divinity of Jesus, at least eight churches and some prominent theologians in Pittsburgh and Beaver-Butler presbyteries left for the new Presbyterian Church in America.

The case still reverberates, said Charles Partee, emeritus professor of church history at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. It marked a shift from creeds to constitution for defining the church’s beliefs, he said.

“You didn’t have to believe everything in the creed. Of course, the constitution cannot be scrupled. It must be obeyed,” he said.

via Obituary: Wynn Kenyon / Became beloved philosophy professor after ordination ordeal – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

In this mindset, which one sees quite a bit in church politics, the church constitution is not only supremely authoritative, it is clear in what it says and admits no wiggle-room in its interpretation.  Creeds, Confessions, and the Bible itself, though, are flexible, obscure in their meaning, and can be interpreted away.

Gay ordination vs. women’s ordination

Which is more problematic, ordaining a homosexual man or ordaining a woman? To ordain someone who sins publicly and without repentance would be a scandalous failure of discipline and Biblical fidelity on the part of the church body. And yet, there have been homosexual pastors before. No one has denied that, whatever their sin, they are true pastors and that the sacraments they administer are valid.

To question that would be to fall into the heresy of Donatism. A Lutheran cannot hold that position. The Augsburg Confession, Article VIII, says of Lutherans that “They condemn the Donatists, and such like, who denied it to be lawful to use the ministry of evil men in the Church, and who thought the ministry of evil men to be unprofitable and of none effect.”

In the case of women, though, the question is whether they can be pastors at all. If not, their orders are illegitimate. That would seem to mean that the sacraments they administer–with the exception of Baptism, which can be performed by any layman–are invalid. (Question: Is that the position of those who reject women’s ordination? Or since the keys are held by the congregation, can the congregation have valid sacraments no matter who the pastor is?)

So wouldn’t women’s ordination be worse than gay ordination? Yes, both are wrong. The ELCA has both, and the new breakaway denomination will only have the former. But still, it keeps surprising me how this one issue keeps inspiring breaks in denominations, even though more serious transgressions that have taken place earlier are ignored. Am I missing something? I’m just asking.


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