We live in a church that is attempting to discern the kinds of disagreement that are tolerable and those that are not. Paul allowed Christians to agree to disagree about things such as food sacrificed to idols or which days one considered sacred (1 Cor. 8:1–15; Rom 14:15). Paul did not extend this “agree to disagree” attitude to all areas of the church’s life. The pursuit of Spirit empowered holiness was not up for debate (Gal 5:16–25).
The ACNA has agreed in its constitutions and canons to allow each diocese to decide its own policy on women’s ordination. Thus, we do not believe that it is impossible for us to live together, and our bishops have modeled this charity by continuing in fellowship with one another. While the majority of ACNA dioceses do not ordain women, a slight majority of the membership of the ACNA resides in dioceses where ordained women can minister. These statistics do not speak to the beliefs of individual churches, but we are episcopally led. Given this reality, we cannot continue to carry on this discussion as if those who support women’s ordination are a beleaguered minority with second class status. We are not.
I am at peace with living in a church that is discerning the mind of Christ. I am persuaded by arguments in favor of the ordination of women, but I understand that some of my brothers and sisters are not. Since I believe that truth can be known, a consensus in the God’s own time is possible. This means that I must, as a matter of course, be willing to listen to arguments pro and con that help me read the Scriptures and understand the church’s tradition better. I am fine with that process, but what is wearying is caricature. It is in the spirit of discerning the Scriptures together that I offer a reflection on the article written by a fellow Anglican clergy person and theologian entitled “God is not Fair.”
The title does not appear to assume the best of proponents of women’s ordination. It seems to argue that we believe that God’s fairness requires women’s ordination. After setting this up as the basis for his argument, he then goes on to counter this notion.
Now it is undoubtedly true that one might be able to locate some who advocate for women’s ordination based purely on a modern notion of fairness, but to think that this is the primary argument for proponents of women’s ordination in the ACNA is to fail to take seriously our engagement with the relevant Old and New Testament texts. When many of our clergy women (and others) see arguments such as this put forward it is deeply discouraging.
The article cites in succession Ephesians 5:21–22, 1 Cor. 11:10, and 1 Tim. 3:2; 2:12; Titus 1:6. Speaking of Ephesian 5:21–22 the author says, “Sure, he told the members of the Ephesian church to submit to one another (Eph. 5:21). But then his very next word was for wives to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:22). At that point, we expect him to follow that up with a word to husbands to submit to their wives, but he does not.”
As a point of fact, Ephesians 5:22 does not include the word submit in the Greek text. Rev. Dr. McDermott rightly assumes that Paul intends to refer to submission because he has mentioned submission in 5:21. Nonetheless Eph 5:22 says, and wives to your husbands…” Now it is more than fair to bring the submission language from 5:21 to 5:22, but that also means that section Eph 5:21–33 must be read as a commentary on what mutual submission looks like in a Christian marriage. Therefore, we cannot wall off 5:21 as a discussion of the congregation and not an instruction that husbands and wives submit to one another. This does not in itself prove anything about women’s ordination or the proper ordering of Christian marriage. It does show that we can sometimes read our assumptions into a text instead arguing from them even when citing them.Continue reading “Come Let us Read Together: A (hopefully warm) Invitation to Think the Best of Each Other in the Women's Ordination Discussion”