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It takes two sides to build a bridge

The issues in the LCA are similar to that of UK Anglicans and their debate over women bishops.  Women’s ordination, of course, is inevitable in the LCA, but will Synod have clarity and strength enough to be clear that there cannot be a ‘church within a church’ where women are not recognised. The following article describes how those opposed to women bishops were intent on non-recognition, non-collaboration, non-acceptance, and in some cases non-communion.

One of our challenges is for women to even be included in the coming debate at Pastors’ Conference in 2015, which will discuss the issue and make recommendations to Synod.  It is an absurd situation to be in, equal to male parliamentarians 100 years ago voting on whether women should have the vote.

The presence of women, to ensure accountability, is essential to the integrity of any debate that decides the future of women’s participation in the LCA.  It is far too easy to ‘other’ women (used as a verb) without consulting them.

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 9.43.13 PMThe Christian message is at heart about reconciliation. But the church which is supposed to proclaim and live that message has often failed to do so in its own life and example, sometimes spectacularly.

The row over women bishops in the Church of England will be seen by many as another example of this, which is why Archbishop of Canterbury designate Justin Welby – no stranger to conflict zones – was so keen to emphasise at General Synod this afternoon that the vocation of the C of E ought to be “how to develop the mission of the church in a way that demonstrates that we can manage diversity of view without division; diversity in amity, not diversity in enmity.”

That is a right, bridge-building note to strike. But it did not work with the hardened minority. For the reality is that it takes two sides to build a bridge, and one of the difficulties of the current situation is that some opponents of full women’s ministry in the Church of England clearly want to be able to maintain a ‘church within a church’ based on non-recognition, non-collaboration, non-acceptance, and in some cases non-communion.

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Women Bishops: It’s About the Bible

Tom Wright, a former Bishop of Durham, is research professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of St Andrews.

(via Arise: a weekly exchange from CBE connecting you to the movement for Biblical equality)

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Tom Wright is uncomfortable with the language of rights and progress.  We are not totally convinced as we’re talking about justice. The first extract reflects our take on the matter – from Gaudete Theology.

What I’m thinking of, and what I suspect most other Christian feminists are thinking of, is the progress that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King had in mind:

“The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.”

Progress along this arc of history is progress towards that very promise, the promise from the Book of Amos to which Rev. King frequently alludes that justice will roll down like a river, the justice that is one of the characteristics of the new creation. Sexism, racism, and all forms of bigotry are sins of injustice. And when they are embodied in societal or institutional structures, they are structural sins of injustice.  Progress or Promise?

However,  Bishop Tom Wright makes a strong case:

Exhorting the Church of England (CoE) to “get with the program” dilutes the argument for women bishops.

“But that would be putting the clock back,” gasps a feckless official in one of C. S. Lewis’s stories. “Have you no idea of progress, of development?”

“I have seen them both in an egg,” replies the young hero. “We call it Going bad in Narnia.”

Lewis nails a lie at the heart of our culture. As long as we repeat it, we shall never understand our world, let alone the Church’s calling. And until proponents of women bishops stop using it, the biblical arguments for women’s ordination will never appear in full strength.

“Now that we live in the 21st century,” begins the interviewer, invoking the calendar to justify a proposed innovation. “In this day and age,” we say, assuming that we all believe the 18th-century doctrine of “progress,” which, allied to a Whig view of history (that history moves toward greater progress and enlightenment), dictates that policies and practices somehow ought to become more “liberal,” whatever that means. Russia and China were on the “wrong side of history,” Hillary Clinton warned recently. But how does she know what “history” will do? And what makes her think that “history” never makes mistakes?

We, of all people, ought to know better. “Progress” gave us modern medicine, liberal democracy, the internet. It also gave us the guillotine, the Gulag and the gas chambers. Western intelligentsia assumed in the 1920s that “history” was moving away from the muddle and mess of democracy towards the brave new world of Russian communism. Many in 1930s Germany regarded Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his friends as on the wrong side of history. The strong point of postmodernity is that the big stories have let us down. And the biggest of all was the modernist myth of “progress.”

“We call it Going bad in Narnia.” Quite.

It won’t do to say, then, as David Cameron did, that the Church of England should “get with the program” over women bishops.


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All Christian ministry begins with the announcement that Jesus has been raised from the dead. And Jesus entrusted that task, first of all, not to Peter, James, or John, but to Mary Magdalene. Part of the point of the new creation launched at Easter was the transformation of roles and vocations: from Jews-only to worldwide, from monoglot to multilingual (think of Pentecost), and from male-only leadership to male and female together.

Within a few decades, Paul was sending greetings to friends including an “apostle”called Junia (Romans 16:7). He entrusted that letter to a “deacon” called Phoebe whose work was taking her to Rome. The letter-bearer would normally be the one to read it out to the recipients and explain its contents. The first expositor of Paul’s greatest letter was an ordained travelling businesswoman.

The resurrection of Jesus is the only Christian guide to the question of where history is going. Unlike the ambiguous “progress” of the Enlightenment, it is full of promise—especially the promise of transformed gender roles.

The promise of new creation, symbolised by the role of Mary Magdalene in the Easter stories, is the reality. Modern ideas of “progress” are simply a parody. Next time this one comes round, it would be good to forget “progress”—and ministerial “program”—and stick with the promise.

 

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The gathering of the perfect storm

The church would like to think that it stands for eternal unchanging values. Well, yes … but change is in the air in striking ways, and not just in one or two churches.  The groundswell among laity and (often) clergy is overwhelming but the resistance from those who hold the reigns of power is strikingly alike. Power and authority is a tough thing to give up.

Rome has criticised US Catholic nuns for working too closely with the poor and not speaking loudly enough about birth control and homosexuality. While nuns say that they will not compromise their mission three Catholic bishops are in talks with the nuns in hope to find agreement. Bishops and Nuns hold ‘cordial and open’ meeting

A Maryknoll priest has been dismissed from the priesthood for refusing to recant his call for the ordination of women.  Maryknoll: Vatican has dismissed Roy Bourgeois from order | National Catholic Reporter.

While the Church of England votes against ordaining women bishops, down in Africa Anglicans have ordained their first woman bishop.

Seventh Day Adventists have voted to ordain women at all levels of their organisation except for the General Conference leadership, which focusses simply on organisational unity.  Why women’s ordination in the Seventh Day Adventist churches?

I guess you’ve heard of Sex Abuse in the Catholic Church. This link records convictions against Australian Catholic  priests and religious brothers but we know the abuse has occurred around the world.  Meanwhile the church declares that it has “taken decisive steps in the past 20 years to make child safety a priority and to help the victims of abuse,”  yet, the abuse continues.  Why is it that a supporter of women’s ordination is dismissed while child abusers are not?

The church is in turmoil.  These are pivotal days.  Without engaging with our changing culture we are a lost people and a lost church.

 
 

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