Pointy Hat

Dr George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury who pushed women’s ordination through the Church of England in the early 1990s has been in North Carolina for some weeks now. The story is that he is globe trotting, quietly ‘ministering’ to the morally conservative Anglican Evangelicals.

This is code for ‘rallying all the Evangelicals’ to fight against the insidious homosexualist agenda. Within polite Anglicanism this is definitely a ‘no no’. Retired Archbishops of Canterbury aren’t supposed to run about undermining their successor. They’re supposed to retire to a beautiful home in the English countryside, accept their new noble title, drink Earl Gray tea, write their memoirs and engage in a quiet hobby like producing a new edition of obscure sermons of the Cappadocian fathers or breeding Afghan hounds.

Not our George. he’s busier than ever on the speaking circuit. In fact a buddy of mine recently attended one of Lord Carey’s lectures at Duke University. In the Q&A; afterward my pal asked Lord Carey if he thought all efforts of ecumenical discussions between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church were at an end. Lord Carey’s reply was along the lines of, “I believe there are still possible ways forward on individual levels.” The next question was, “And don’t you accept some of the blame for this as your introduction of women priests into the Church of England brought about not only a huge division in your own church, but imposed new grave obstacles in the path to unity with Rome?” The former Archbishop’s reply was, “I have it on good authority from cardinals in the Vatican that the Catholic Church will be ordaining women in the near future.”

Hello? Can we have a reality check? Is this man in touch with the real situation at all? But should we be that surprised? This is the fellow who dropped a huge clanger in the first few months of his induction to Canterbury by saying that anyone who was opposed to women’s ordination was “in serious heresy.” Good opening remarks to get the ecumenical ball off on the right foot. Then, when visiting Rome he pulled another diplomatic gaffe by publicly calling on the Catholic Church to allow full intercommunion with Anglicans. Then, when Pope John Paul issued his moto proprio on women’s ordination stating quite clearly that the Church had no authority to ordain women, and that this was final and was to be held definitively by all the faithful, dear old George said, “We would like clarification on this…” Seemed pretty clear to me.

What wasn’t clear was how George Carey–a good Evangelical Bible believer–could endorse women’s ordination in the first place. When people raised 1Timothy 2:12 (Where St Paul says he does not allow women to have authority over men in church) the argument among Evangelicals of Carey’s ilk was, “We are not certain that was written by Saint Paul, but even so, we now have a better understanding of male and female roles in the church and are not bound by the cultural restrictions of that time.”

Only problem was, when Dr Carey and his fellow feminists tried to exclude the homosexualists, they pulled the same argument on him. When told that the Bible prohibited homosexuality the homosexualists simply said, “We’re not certain those passages were written by Saint Paul, but even if they were, we now understand more about human sexuality than they did back then, and we are not bound so much by the cultural understandings of that time.”

What can you do with reasoning like that? With that kind of slippery thinking you can do what you like. It’s like wrestling in jello. Where is a sincere Anglican to turn to find some sort of answer? The whole house has been built on quicksand. Where is there a solid rock on which to build?


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  • Robin Hunt

    While I trust that you meet all of the qualifications set forth in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, I do not expect to see thee a bishop—although stranger things have happened. The church at the other end of my street (and many others like it) may ordain only unmarried men as parish priests. But it does not strictly preach 1 Timothy 2:8-15. Verse 12 alone seems a dubious proof text for your point. There are instances in scripture that positively present women who exercise authority over men. On can argue that these are times when men fail to meet their responsibilities. In any event, I am unaware of any positive presentation of homosexuality in scripture. Any gay man (or any woman) aspiring to the office of bishop is going to find it difficult to be the husband of one wife. Can we cut Lord Carey any slack?

  • “I have it on good authority from cardinals in the Vatican that the Catholic Church will be ordaining women in the near future.” is translated:”Yeah, I screwed up. Next question.”

  • Perhaps he should have taken a cue from Father Jack of “Father Ted” fame and answered those questions with “That would be an ecumenical matter” and then closed his lips.

  • Robin, thanks for your comment. I wasn’t really discussing the issues of women’s ordination or homosexuality. I agree that they are not of the same order, and accept that some strong arguments can be made for women’s ordination. My post was really about the method of handling Scripture. Carey (like all Christians) explains away certain Scriptures, relativizes them etc. The methods he used to justify women’s ordination were the same being used to justify homosexuality. My point is that one needs some other authority structure than what is essentially private judgement. Without an external rock we build on sand.

  • Anonymous

    Good reasons for women’s ordination? In light of “in persona Christi” and in light of the mind of the Church expressed by Pope J.P.? As Fr. Corapi said the other evening, “Unless you are reading the Bible with the mind of the Church, you aren’t reading the Bible at all.”

  • Which is easier? To say,”I have it on good authority from cardinals in the Vatican that the Catholic Church will be ordaining women in the near future,” or to say, “Rise and walk?”Saying isn’t doing, especially in this case.

  • Anonymous, recognizing that (from a human point of view) there are some good reasons for women’s ordination is not the same thing as being in favor of women’s ordination.

  • Mike W.

    Where is a sincere Anglican to turn to find some sort of answer? I have it on good authority from a sincere Anglican, that the George was seen having tea (Eary Gray) and cucumber sandwichs with Margaret Starbird, Elaine Pagels and Karen King. A favorite quote of really sincere Anglicans should be from the Wizard of Oz when Dorthy said “Toto, I have a feeling we are not in Kansas anymore.”I enjoy your posts.

  • DGus

    Father:I am no apologist for women’s ordination, which concept is, in my opinion, damned more by the company it keeps than anything else; but as an Evangelical I rankle at your post about Carey and women priests. You say, “the argument among Evangelicals of Carey’s ilk was, ‘We are not certain that was written by Saint Paul, but even so, we now have a better understanding of male and female roles in the church and are not bound by the cultural restrictions of that time.'”I suppose the saving phrase in this sentence is “of Carey’s ilk.” I am not expert in his “ilk,” nor in what some subset of Evangelicalism with which you are familiar might be saying, so I can’t say this is outright wrong. But I can say that it is misleading and not at all pertinent to what the main body of American Evangelicals who do believe in women’s ordination would say. Your real complaint with the Evangelicals is and should be their disregard of (extra-Scriptural) tradition and the authority of the Church. It’s a slander to suggest that Evangelicals make arguments like the one you propound.They would most certainly NOT posit any doubt about Pauline authorship, nor would they claim any “better understanding” of anything. Rather, they would make two arguments:(1) Women-ordaining Evangelicals would say that a line must be drawn between the obviously [?] culture-bound sex rules (e.g., ladies must wear hats, 1 Cor 11:5) and the universal sex rules (e.g., wives submit to husbands, Eph 5:22). As for those culture-bound rules, we don’t toss them aside altogether, but instead discern the underlying principal (in the case of ladies’ hats, modesty, perhaps?) and apply it in our own culture. As for the universal rules, we obey them.(2) They would also say that the teaching in the NT, even where it is considered to be universal, has to be applied not reflexively but deliberately to the matter of “ordination.” By “ordination,” YOU mean ordination to the sacerdotal priesthood. There is no verse from Paul to Titus saying “Don’t ordain women to sacerdotal priesthood.” There is in fact no NT teaching to the effect that the leaders of the NT Church are sacerdotal priests. For you, the celebration of the Eucharist and the confection of the real body and blood of Christ is the defining characteristic of the priest, and this is the task your Church believes it has no authority to grant to women. Most Evangelicals would say that this extra-Biblical function is not an autentic part of the ministry of the NT Church and is therefore not really the province of (to use the NT term) an “elder.” Most Evangelicals would say that NO one is properly ordained to confect the Eucharist.The Evangelical would try, instead, to discern from the text of the NT what the NT Church leader really is and does, and to see whether that role is Biblically denied to women. They would look with special interest at passages like the one you cite and which you misquote. You say that in 1Timothy 2:12, “St Paul says he does not allow women to have authority over men IN CHURCH.” In fact, that last phrase is your interpretive interpolation and begs what is (in this context) the most important question about the passage: Is it a rule about church order, or is it a rule about husbands and wives? And even if it IS a rule of church order, what it it forbids a woman to do is to “exercise authority over a man”. It is not immediately apparent why such a proscription would also deny a woman the role of presiding at Communion. A female chaplain at a women’s prison would not violate or even implicate this principle. 1 Tim 2:12 poses much fewer questions about women being ordained to celebrate Communion than it poses for the practice of allowing women (for example) to be parish administrators when there is no priest, a practice your Church permits. The pastor of my Evangelical Anglican parish believes that women can be priests but, in view of NT teaching about female submission and male headship, believes that a women should not be a rector of a parish, and even prefers for this reason that the Senior Warden of the Vestry be a male. Of course you will think him very wrong–but not because he denies that the Pauline epistles are apostolic or says we can blow it off because we know better.Of course there are other passages to be contended with, but my point here is not to make arguments in favor of women priests but simply to deny that Evangelicals who ordain women do so because they have adopted a breezy attitude toward complying with Scripture.

  • DGus, thank you for your intelligent and perceptive comment. You are correct that I am not attempting here to engage in a detailed defense or rebuttal of women’s ordination. Nor am I proposing a particular Scriptural exegesis. I’m also not presenting one verse in the NT as a definitive proof text for what is a complex issue. Instead, I’m commenting on private interpretation of Scripture as opposed to relying on an external interpretative authority.There are two things to say about this. Firstly, I respect your indignation that Evangelicals treat Scripture in such a breezily dismissive manner. Your type of Evangelical may not do so, and I applaud you. The more liberal strand of Anglican Evangelicals do precisely this.Secondly, your long post makes my essential point doesn’t it? As an essentially ‘sola Scriptura’ Evangelical aren’t you rooting through the Scriptures to determine just what side of the fence to come down on? When you finally reach your conclusion, why should the one you reach necessarily be the correct one? I may like and agree with the interpretation you present, but why should it be any more correct than the conclusion reached by the other side? Haven’t they embarked on the same search for Biblical truth on this issue? Haven’t they sincerely and prayerfully searched the Scriptures? Haven’t they also ‘tested all things’? According to you expressed hopes, that is exactly what they have done. But the problem is, they have come down on the other side.I have no doubt that Lord Carey and ‘his ilk’ came to the conclusions they did because they sincerely searched for the answer in Scripture and they really did believe that God wanted female ordination.The reason I joined the Catholic Church is because I couldn’t figure out why I should be right and they should be wrong.

  • Thomas Hawkins

    Mike W wrote ‘Where is a sincere Anglican to turn to find some sort of answer’?With all sincerity and charity i suggest they try the same place as me and countless others after me, ROME! I thank God for the grace of faith and that i was shown the way home all those years ago.

  • DGus

    Father:Unless the Catholic Church has invented some new Platonic device that I haven’t heard of, it must always mediate its interpretive authority through the means of WORDS, alas–the same means that you find so deficient to communicate meaning on the pages of Scripture. And, indeed, we do see (some) Catholics who are just as aggresive in their “interpretation” of the Magisterium as the bad Protestants are in their “interpretation” of Scripture. So an authoritative Church that teaches by words will fall prey to the same deconstructive forces as the authoritative verbal Scriptures. If you temporarily win your apologetic by proving the insufficiency and non-perspicuity of the Scriptures, you may find that all your arguments come around and bite you in the behind and undermine any possibility of revealed truth.You say the Evangelical is “rooting through the Scriptures.” I wonder what “rooting” connotes–a pig looking for truffles? I recommend against that attitude. The apostles counted as “noble” those who rooted through the Scriptures–only they called it “searching” the Scriptures (Acts 17:11).More important than one’s atitude about Evangelicals is his attitude about the Scriptures themselves. Perhaps opponents of SOLA SCRIPTURA come to think of the Bible as one big incoherent “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations”, with handy quotes for either side of any proposition, to be used by the cynical or thoughtless. Perhaps they think that lay people can’t really aspire to knowing (for example) what the New Testament says about church leaders, communion, and men and women. ‘Tain’t so. It’s finite. Reasonable conclusions can be drawn.But really, I’m digressing. My point was not that Evangelicals have good reasons for what they believe, but that their reasons are not the ones you advanced. I confidently assume that you’re right that there are some self-identifying “Evangelicals” who come to their conclusions by denying the apostolicity and authority of the Scriptures; but I also assume that, in your current context, they would be few and far between. Perhaps it’s like talking about pro-choice “Catholics” who use birth control, remarry after divorce, and lobby for same-sex marriage. Yes, they do exist, but whatever their numbers, they really aren’t a valid participant in the discussion.

  • DGus, there are indeed some Catholics who venture dissenting opinions, and in many areas there is a legitimate open-ness to individual interpretation of some church teachings.The only difference is, at teh end of the day, the non-Catholic can only say ‘Well, that’s my opinion.’ The Catholic (even the dissenting Catholic) must say, “The church teaches…”Even when an Evangelical stands on the ancient credal formularies he stands on what the Church defined. Even when an Evangelical ‘stands alone on the B-I-B-L-E he stands on the canon of Scripture defined by the Church.We are now into the territory of ‘which came first’ the Church of the Scriptures? It was the Church was it not? Pentecost happened before the NT was written, and Jesus nowhere commanded his apostles to write inspired Scripture, but he clearly commanded them to found a Church.

  • Robin Hunt

    Good to hear from you, DGus. At least, I assume you are DGus.

  • Anonymous

    I am hopeful the Anglican communion disintegrates. Better for that to happen than for the facade of “unity” that it now represents.

  • DGus

    Father:Yes, in the end, even the dissenting Catholic must admit, “The Church teaches….”And in the end, even the “liberal” Protestant must admit, “The Bible says….”But in neither case will that really be the end. Rather, what follows will be distinction and qualification and mitigation and equivocation and denial.And it is also my opinion that Carthage must be destroyed. And that Evangelicals don’t deny Paul’s authorship of the Pauline epistles.Robin:Hi! Yes, it’s me. (I’m assuming you’re THAT “Robin Hunt.”)

  • Yes, indeed the liberal Protestant say, ‘The Bible says…’ you make my point. This is what the liberal Protestant says, and it is also what the conservative Protestant says. That’s why there is so much bitter disagreement between them. They both believe the Bible. They just cannot agree on what the Bible actually says. In other words, they have no agreed, external interpretative authority.The conservative Evangelical says, “Homosexuality is wrong and here are the verses in the Old and New Testament which say so.” The liberal says, “Ah, but we must consider the cultural context in which they were written. It is a question of interpreting the ‘spirit’ of these verses, and putting them in the context of the whole message of Scripture.”And, hello–they are using the same ‘rules’ for interpreting the Scriptures which any conservative Evangelical uses. He too says that the cultural situation must be considered, the ‘spirit’ of the text must be understood and the whole message of the Scriptures must be included. That’s why, despite OT prohibitions he enjoys shrimp and pork barbecue and doesn’t stone to death the lady next door who is living with another woman’s husband.I know this is bitter for the Conservative Evangelical to hear, but the liberals they so disagree with really do believe the Bible too. They really are prayerful, sincere and ‘Christian’ people. I realize that they do not believe the Bible the way the conservative Evangelical does, nor do they believe the Bible is what the conservative believes it is, but that too is part of my point. Without an external, objective, interpretive authority how will you even agree what the Scriptures are, what their extent is, how and to what extent they are inspired, how to interpret them, and what authority they have?PS:For anyone else who is following this blog, Robin Hunt, DGus and myself were all classmates at Bob Jones University–longer ago than we like to remember.

  • DGus

    Father:This game is easy to play, but tedious. (Perhaps tedious BECAUSE easy to play.) Without an external, objective, interpretive authority how can Catholics agree on what the infallible Magisterium is, how and to what extent it is infallible, how to interpret it, and what authority it has? The Magisterium itself can’t be that authority, since the very need is to evaluate the Magisterium.This may seem like a child’s taunt (“I know you are, but what am I?”), but it isn’t hypothetical. What with its authoritative Magisterium, the RCC should be a monolith and its members walking in lockstep. But it isn’t, and they don’t. It is widely believed among Catholics that the Pope has the charism of infallibility–employed twice: once in 1854; and once in 1950; the end. AD TUENDAM FIDEM presents a WORLD of interpretative issues and judgment issues–not just for the skeptic and the evader, but also for the docile and credulous, and everyone in between.All because the Church uses words. And then when it needs to explain those words, it does so with other words. Words, words, words. You mustn’t keep on teaching that words can’t really communicate, until you come up with something other than words to resolve the disputes.In fact, your beliefs are better than your apologetics. You DO believe words have meaning. And you’re right. You DO believe that we can know truth from God out of the words of the Bible.

  • DGus, of course I believe the simple words of Scripture can be understood. The problem comes when there is a dispute within the church. When the faithful disagree on what the Bible says there are only two choices: 1. We will all agree that our agreed external authority will make this decision and that it will be final (even if we don’t like it and still dissent) or 2. You and your lot go your way. Me and my lot will go our way.The first has the ability to retain both unity of form and unity of doctrine. The second can do neither.As to your second point, Catholic authority produces unity. It does not produce uniformity–nor should it. Catholic unity is like that of an army or a family. We unite around a shared belief, a shared cause or a shared loyalty. Even though we have our differences, what unites us is greater than what divides us.