Saturday, 24 November 2012

Female Bishops? Some Rambling Thoughts.

As I am not an Anglican, and I am a man, I am not sure I should be commenting on the question of women bishops. See But these are my rambling scribbling thoughts anyway - without taking sides ;o).
   Firstly, God can work through a woman as well as a man. Often women in Scripture showed greater faithfulness than men, even the judge Deborah was anointed to lead the people of Israel forward when there was no suitable male leader to do it.
   The Old Testament priests were men - sons of Levi - it is true, but Christ has become the great high priest, and Paul taught the priesthood of all believers. From this one may question the theological justification for having priests and bishops in the Church of England based upon the Old Testament Levitical model. Will the Anglican Church grasp this nettle and instead develop the wider body model of ministry that Paul argued for in Corinthians? I doubt it when there is so much prestige attached to Church positions and the division of clergy and laity along Old Testament lines. Both sides need to view ministry as a vocation towards God and share the gifts around as a community of priests, men and women, ministering to one another and the wider community. We need to be willing to minister faithfully without obvious recognition as well, as the example of Christ demonstrated.
   But are there still separate roles for men and women? Men still can’t enjoy the blessing of bearing children for instance. And does female emancipation lead to male emasculation? The complexity of this question turns around the complexity of both social and sexual needs of men and women. You will find many women actually prefer a male boss to a female boss because a male leader will show more sympathy towards them. A woman is more likely to choose a mate according to his social or employment status, where as a man is more likely to look for beauty and charm in a woman as well as her family capability. However, some women who are not content in domestic, blissful situations want to see their own careers progress.
   Furthermore, what is a bishop for? Is it an apostolic role of real meaning, one who is sent forth often into dangerous situations, or just a ceremonial role where people get to dress up in fancy frocks? If the former, does the New Testament recognise the existence of female apostles? I think you will find mention of Junia, arguably in the context of a female apostle (Romans 16:7). The evangelical church has also often sent its empowered women abroad where they can act in the role of apostle out of sight. Is that right? 
   A number of politicians not noted for their adherence to Christian faith, such as Ben Bradshaw, love to try and put the church in its place by suggesting parliament should legislate so that it is forced to accept modern, secular values. Of course liberal modernism hates long held tradition and principled argument, and the claimed dominance of the world is sure to rally the troops against the measure. Bowing the knee to modernist secular trends is not a good argument for change in the eyes of many Christians.
   It is ironic also how some liberals are quick to blame conservative evangelicals for this, when many such evangelicals I would guess are not that bothered. Giles Fraser writing in the Guardian Comment is Free - (but some opinions are freer than others) can’t help sneering at those he thinks responsible suggesting they are a minority who should be ignored. No desire to end the isolation and bullying of this minority group who he thinks deserve all they get. What Fraser can’t see is that some of the conservatives he describes love to expose the lack of backbone and double standards of some liberals who so easily turn into dictators when given the chance to suppress those who hold to objectivity in ethics. If change comes it must be for good theological reasons.
   A shame also that the present Archbishop of Canterbury should undermine the institution of which he is still leader by expressing his sadness in such a negative manner. He commented that the Church had ‘lost credibility’ As a man of faith one wonders why he speaks with so little faith about an organisation he has responsibility before God for. He is still the chief shepherd of his flock. If he has failed to convince on theological grounds then he should address that and start afresh.

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