Skip to comments.Women as Bishops: Rowan Williams of Canterbury got it right
Posted on 02/13/2006 5:59:31 PM PST by sionnsar
At the close of the debate in the Synod of the Church of England in early February 2006, Dr Williams said:
"People have talked at times about differences of opinion and how the Church can live with differences of opinion. I think that the problem is, for those who are not content with the idea that we should go forward along the line of ordaining women as bishops, the problem is not one of opinion, it's rather one of obedience. It's one of obedience to Scripture, or obedience to the consensus of the Church Catholic. And, while that's not a view I wholly share, I think we ought to recognise that that's where it comes from, those who hold to it are not just thinking 'this is a matter of opinion'. And therefore it is rightly and understandably a lot harder to deal with dissent if you are talking about what fundamentally comes down to a question of whether you obey God or human authority. That's why it's serious. That's why it's difficult. It is more than 'opinion'."
Let us note some themes in these very significant words.
1. Everyone has an opinion and this is assumed as a given by the media daily in their polls - opinion polls. But most of what we call opinions are not based on sustained study and prolonged investigation but on current feelings and circumstances, and often just selfishness. Opinions come and go.
2. The Archbishop recognizes that opposition to the ordaining of women as priests, and the consecrating of women priests as bishops, is not mere opinion (as that word is used in the West today). It is something much more profound and much deeper than opinion.
3. Dr Williams knows that serious students of the Bible, who regard it as God's Word written, find there that there is in God's ordering of the world a patriarchy (generous and gracious) to be exercised by the man in church and family. The father or bishop is to be a "father in God" (see the Ordinal of 1662/1928). Then the apostle Paul teaches that the man is to be the "head" of the family and "head" (pastor) of Christ's flock. Again in a generous and gracious way.
4. He also fully recognizes that the Tradition of the Church (as stated clearly by the contemporary Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches) is that of a succession of male bishops. Jesus appointed only chosen men as his apostles, but both women and men as his disciples. In obeying Christ as Lord, the Church has only male bishops as fathers in God.
5. Thus he is well aware that if one takes as of divine authority the choice of men as the apostles and the Tradition of male bishops then one cannot accept a woman as a bishop, however saintly and gifted she is, for it is a betrayal of faith and an act of disobedience to the Lord of the Church to set aside his known will.
Obviously, Dr Williams wholly understands this doctrine and knows it to be authentic, even though he leans towards finding ways to accommodate calls for women bishops to keep the peace in the C of E.
I am quite sure that Dr Williams knows well the content of The Apostolic Constitutions from the fourth century (but containing material from the third). Here the Church is portrayed as being in a culture where women were priests and where the Church had to think very seriously about why its tradition did not allow for women priests or even for women to baptize. The answer it gave was based on God's order in creation and in the new covenant.
Women are more than capable of performing the work of Ministry but if they did so then grave disorder would enter the Church. Why? Because in God's order man is male and female and in this creation by God there is order, a first and a second (not a superior and an inferior). The man is first in order and the woman is second in order, but they are equal in dignity and status before God and serve God together in a complementary manner. St Paul spoke of the hierarchy of holy relations in this way - God the Father, the Incarnate Son, the man/father and the women/wife. In God's order the Son is subject to the Father and the man and woman to the Incarnate Son, and the woman to the man. Yet this is the subjection of love and service within a gracious and generous patriarchy. Thus God's word in creation and in redemption forbids the woman to rule over the man; rather it requires the man to rule yet with nothing less than the love of Christ.
In the USA the Anglican Mission in America and the Continuing Anglican Jurisdictions are to be congratulated on standing firm to the principle of Scripture and Tradition in terms of headship in the ordained Ministry. In contrast, the Network and the Anglican Coalition in Canada cannot be congratulated because they have followed the modern doctrine of human rights in accepting the headship of women as probably OK and thereby have set aside obedience to the statutes of the Lord written into the created and redemptive orders.
We await with interest news of how the FinF of Britain deals with the developing situation in the C of E of the abandoning of divine order and headship. At the same time we watch with interest to see whether the ACC and the ACinC do some rethinking on the matter of headship in a world where human rights provide the basis of morality for most people and thus make the task of the Church to display headship very difficult.
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford) is the new President of the Prayer Book Society. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Saint Paul got it right.
Translation: "Um, God, I don't agree with you on this matter but if you say so, it's OK. You're the man...er, God."
BTW-Isn't this the person who is pushing for homosexuals to be priests and bishops? Homosexuals in. Women out. The women should have pushed their agenda first.
"The women should have pushed their agenda first."
Actually, they did. Openly, anyway.
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