Christian Life 

Women bishops; and the art of completely missing the point

The divisive issue within the Church of England on women Bishops illustrates failings to understand or implement a biblical theology of 'ministry', headship within the body of Christ, and direction and decision-making within it.
 
First published 21/11/2012

UPDATE 15/07/14: The previous 'No' vote (to which this article initially refers) has now been overturned in an historic decision to allow the ordination of women bishops.

UPDATE 17/12/14: The Reverend Libby Lane has been announced as the first female bishop for the Church of England, just a month after a historic change to canon law. Read on....

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Woman bishopThe outcome of the Church of England's debate on the validity of women being appointed to the bishopric variously astounded, perplexed, angered, pleased and dismayed those within the Anglican Church.

The decision not to appoint women as bishops also serves as both an epitaph to the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury and a baptism of fire for his successor Dr. Justin Welby. Both of these men – who between them have led and will now lead not only the Church of England but the worldwide Anglican community – argued passionately for a pro-women vote.

However the whole process serves to illustrate that the Church of England – indeed the whole Anglican communion, right across its membership and the theological spectrum – is continuing to fail dismally to either grasp or, otherwise, to apply biblical doctrines and principles within its ranks.

Women: yes. Clericalism: no

In terms of the theology of 'ministry' the teaching of Scripture is very clear. Women should not be placed in positions of authority over men. Full stop: exclamation mark. Emphatically, however this does not mean that women have no roles (ministries) within the body. In fact the Bible clearly teaches that God gives gifts of service (ministry) to every believer. What the Bible does not teach is the clergy/laity system which is rife across most of denominations; and which is killing the church.
 
So it's not that there should be a denial of women in ministry but there should be renouncing of the clergy/laity system.
Accordingly, it is interesting, nay tragic, in the current dispute that neither side of the debate can see – or if they do, admit to – this much more fundamental issue and causal factor. 
 
 The Art of Missing the Point 
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Christ the head; and His body
 
In terms of church government there should be no 'hierarchy' whatsoever in the body of Christ. Christ is the head, and under his headship his disciples share an absolute parity in the priesthood of all believers.

Of the three main systems of church government that we currently see Presbyterianism (in its true-to-scripture local fellowship expression) gets closest to the biblical model. Unfortunately, the Presbyterian system as it exists today is a mixture of oligarchy, hierarchy and bureaucracy. (If it were otherwise the Church of Scotland et al would not be in the divided position that it finds itself on the matter of human sexuality.) Meanwhile the Anglican system of 'top-down' authority is clearly unbiblical; as is congregationalism (the church is not a democracy).
 
The whole system of (what the world would call) 'leadership and decision-making' in (what the world and the church would call) 'the church' does not comply with the biblical model of male eldership operating in a consensual fashion; that of 'it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us' (with the 'us' meaning a local company of believers operating within the primacy of the local church).
 
The tragedy of the present crisis is two-fold:
  • Most of the church has succumbed to the spirit of the age which refuses to understand that men and women though equal in status under God, are nevertheless different.
  • But beyond that, and in addition to that, even the Bible-faithful segment of the church has failed, and is continuing to fail, to see beyond the superficial and get down to the fundamental misunderstanding of the biblical dynamic which should be found in the all-member ministry  of the priesthood of all believers within the body of Christ.
Until these issues are addressed the Anglican Church and the denominations beyond will continue to be dysfunctional in their service to, and witness for Christ Jesus, the head – the only head – of church. 
 
 

Footnote: There are many issues which find a locus in the above: the following articles address some of them.  In particular 'A Church in Ruins' and 'Sexuality and Women Bishops - a Reform view' (which includes a link to a recorded interview) relate directly to the present Anglican crisis.

The Role of Women in the Body of Christ
T
he Primacy of the Local Church
Clericalism is Killing the Church
V
oting: the great church splitter

Christians Together, 10/12/2013

Bishops and Gay Clergy in the C of E Rev. Paul Dawson
Reform is a grouping of churches and leaders within the Church of England who are seeking to maintain a Biblical response to sexuality and women in overseeing roles. A representative speaks to Christians Together in a wide ranging interview with much relevance for churches everywhere.
Downloads: 1884
Recorded: 16/04/2011
Length: 27 minutes
Listen Download MP3 Audio (25.1MB)

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Editor 24/12/2013 22:11
Charles, if you wish to post regularly on the site please either register with the site or alternatively make yourself known to me. Thanks.
Gordon, (Guest) 26/12/2013 18:09
Getting back to the point, I think we have now seen that God is no respecter of persons and that He deals with people without regard to whether they are Jews or Gentiles, Male of Female, etc. Believers are gifted for service in the Kingdom without respect to gender. This is evident from the fact there were numerous preachers, teachers, missionaries(called apostles),prophets, prayers, servants, etc, of both genders. All served the Lord according to their giftedness, not their gender.

Sure, there are differences between men and women, but there are also great differences within each gender. Some men may be very effeminate and some women perhaps very 'butch', but this does not prevent them from serving the Lord according to their ability and devotion. Anyone who serves the four-fold purposes for which the congregation exists, is showing leadership.

To me, the trouble arises when the congregation adopts an unscriptural model of authoritarian, ruling leadership, in contradiction to the clear instruction given in Matthew 23:10. Then we find the dominant, aggressive, male primeval instinct kicks in and the Alpha Male feels the need to assert himself. Or then the paranoiac, Amazon women start to use all their wiles to take control of the situation. The Devil must be laughing up his sleeve at having pushed the two genders into combat with each other. Their eyes have been taken off following Jesus ; instead they are arguing about irrelevant positions, imaginary 'calls', and their status in the man-made structure.

We need to return to hearing the simple words of Jesus saying: "Follow me", and to repeat the opening lines of Psalm 23: " The Lord is my Pastor". "He that followeth me, shall not walk in darkness" (John 8:12)
John Miller 27/12/2013 19:21
Effeminate men, butch women serving The Lord according to their ability and devotion? Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, "...serving the flesh according to the ideas of twentieth century liberal theology.
Colin Ford 27/12/2013 21:38
John,
A very hearty amen to your last comment.
On this particular thread we have been deliberating such Scriptures as 1 Timothy 2.11-14 KJV and 1 Corinthians 14.34-35 KJV. But whatever would our friend Gordon say about 1 Corinthians 6.9-10 KJV?

There is a popular movement today, within contemporary society where politicians/lawmakers and the 'great and the good' would have us believe that there are more sexes than the traditional male and female, which the Bible unequivocally teaches to exist; Genesis 1.27 KJV, Matthew 19.4 KJV: I kid you not! On certain Job application/and various government forms there are more than two sexes! Crazy and absurd, I know, but this IS the 21st Century!
So Gordon, how can a "very effeminate" man serve the Lord, in view of 1 Corinthians 6.9-10 KJV ? I would like to know.

Gordon (Guest) 27/12/2013 22:53
John and Colin,

By effeminate I simply mean a man with characteristics that are more often associated with women. What's wrong with that?
Should we not all strive to follow the good example of the holy women of the Bible, and of our good mothers and wives? We would be better men for it.

(Guest) 27/12/2013 23:44
Should we not strive to follow the good example of the holy women of the Bible
/
Yes, of course.
It is not acceptable for this website though.

Alec (Guest) 28/12/2013 09:23
1 Corinthians 6:9
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

Looks like simply being effeminate is enough to have you condemned, even if you are not gay.
(Guest) 28/12/2013 11:14
For John and Colin (and Gordon if he can accept the obvious)
Sorry that the following (borrowed) extract is long winded but I truly believe that it presents an 'open and shut' case for the preservation of God's order in the family (and therefore wider society) and the (true) church:

Through the power of His Holy Spirit, God has ceaselessly worked to instil and maintain His Order into the lifeless chaos which was once the state of this cosmos.
From insubstantial dust to substantial form - from substantial form to vegetation - from vegetation to animal life - and from animal life to mankind.
And through each phase of that 'resurrection' process which came to a penultimate culmination with the creation of mankind - and through each cycle of the reproduction process which starts with the fertilised seed of a child and concludes with its birth, the same Holy Spirit, expressing the same constant and unchanging Order of Eternal Life has always prevailed, and will always prevail despite mankind's attempts to corrupt and pervert it.
In the beginning - the Father's will and purpose - His mentally confirmed but unspoken Word, then His Voice - the authoritative and powerful expression of His Creative Word impressing itself on, and spending itself against the formlessness and darkness which opposed it, followed by the actual accomplishment of His purpose: Then God said, Let there be light: and there was light. - Genesis 1/3.
First the Old Testament - offering the precursory, genetic/symbolic/legal prescription of God's Word with its inherent promise, then the New Testament - portraying the actual birth, development and fulfilment of God's Word, followed by the child of their union – the complete Holy Bible.
First the Father, then His Son - Jesus Christ, followed by His Holy Spirit: And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Matthew3/16-17
First Adam, then Eve, followed by a complete oneness with each other: And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed - Genesis 2/25, and a complete communion with the Spirit of God: And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good - Genesis 1/31.
First the husband, then, in submission to the initiative of his divine remit - the responsive wife: For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: - Ephesians 5/23, followed by 'us' - the child of their union: Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. - Genesis 2/24.
First the Architect's plans and specifications, then in compliance with these plans and specifications - the process of construction, followed by the completed building.
First the acorn, then in compliance with its genetic specification – the process of development and growth, followed by the mature oak.
First the complete seed . . . The seed is the word of God. - Luke 8/11. The initiative and authority of God's seed - His eternally prescribed Law/Truth/Word, in whatever physical, psychological or spiritual sphere its male/Adam function is represented on earth, cannot have its initiative and authority countermanded by its corresponding process/expression (its female/Eve function), because that is rebellion against the essential nature of God's divine personality - and the only children who can be born, or maintained through such rebellion, in any sphere of reality, as Adam and Eve discovered to their cost, are disorder, deception, ignorance, error and death.
Jesus Christ knew that in relationship to His Father's Adam/male function, His was an Eve/female function, and that His duty, despite Satan urging Him to do otherwise during His forty days of testing in the wilderness, was to subordinate Himself completely to His Father's Word:
Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. - Matthew 4/10.
Jesus, in rejecting Satan's enticements to countermand God's Word, was keenly aware of the eternal and temporal implications of usurping His Father's authority.
Where the first Adam (encouraged by his deceived Eve partner) had disobeyed God's Word, and thereby brought mortality and death to himself and his descendants, the last Adam - Jesus Christ, in refusing to allow His Eve function to be seduced by Satan's wiles, remained obedient to God's Word, and thereby confirmed His own eternal status - as well as bringing eternal life to all of His followers: And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening (life giving) spirit. - 1 Cor. 15/45.
The apostle Paul, inspired by the same Holy Spirit, was also acutely sensitive to the perils of inverting and corrupting God's divine order when he wrote:
But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, was in the transgression. - 1 Timothy 2/12-14.
It was no co-incidence that Satan - the great perverter of God's Order, chose to approach Eve rather than Adam with his temptation to disobey God's prescription for Eternal Life. Satan cannot and will not submit to God's Law and Order. He was only 'doing what comes naturally' when he side-stepped Adam and took his divisive, deceitful and death promoting proposition straight to the more susceptible Eve.
And neither was it a coincidence that Jesus, in starting His ministry on earth, chose to approach - and appoint twelve men as His disciples. Jesus was fully submitted to His Father's Law and Order.

Gordon (Guest) 28/12/2013 15:56
Alec
If you consult several translations you will see that where the KJV uses the word 'effeminate'in 1Cor 9:6, it means something more like male prostitutes and practising homosexuals, not innocent girlish behaviour.
A Christian man with effeminate behavioural characteristics, who abstains from immoral sex, is a glorious witness to the Gospel. He is much more noble than the straight guy who indulges in pornography, fornication and adultery , whether this behaviour is in body or in mind.
David and Jonathan were dear friends, but there was no hint of any sexual impropriety in their relationship; nor was there with Jesus and the Twelve. Many missionary single ladies have lived together for companionship, while serving the Lord faithfully. It is not our degree of sexual orientation that counts with God, but our chaste behaviour.

We should not be ashamed of having some feminine characteristics, because someday we might find ourselves in a situation where the usual roles are reversed. It will then be your privilege to care for your wife the way she did for you all those many years.
Colin Ford 28/12/2013 19:52
Gordon,
"Innocent girlish behaviour" as you call it, can, does and will lead many into sin? The 'thin end of a wedge' or rather a 'little leaven' 1 Corinthians 5.6 KJV, Galatians 5.9 KJV.
"A Christian man with effeminate behavioural charasteristics, who abstains from immoral sex, is a glorious witness to the Gospel". Please, where ever in the Bible is THIS taught? We might just as well say any non-effeminate, or masculine Tom,Dick and Harry who abstains from "immoral sex, is a glorious witness to the Gospel"?
Look, lets cut to the chase as it were; the only "glorious witness to the Gospel", is one who's faith and repentance is toward the crucified One of Calvary, and lives in obedience to His Word?
No doubt there are many, many men who have been, are, and will be blood bought believers, who have a slight physical appearance, or indeed have some "effeminate characteristics"; that point is NOT up for contention.
The Apostle CLEARLY states in 1 Corinthians 6.11 KJV "such WERE some of you"? (emphasis mine) They HAD repented and abandoned their previous ungodly behaviour?
Certainly I agree with your commentary regarding "David and Jonathan", and "Jesus and the twelve", and I am sure many God fearing men and women can share accomodation with each other without anything unproper happening.
Your last sentence makes asolutely NO sense at all. I always, and often cook, wash, clean and do many, if not all household chores! Does this make me effeminate? I trow not.
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