First let me thank two men: Rob, for his incredibly helpful book, and then C451 who, despite (or because?) of his own views on the subject, gave me his collection of books on women and their ordination (it may explain the dates of some of what I quote from) as well as some guidance which was offered with characteristic generosity of spirit.
Second, an apology because I know that at times I have let vent in ways which while they show my feelings, offer, as C451 put to me, “more heat than light, which never helps with illumination.” As Neo said to be, “we’re all human,” which while true and a good explanation, isn’t an excuse, any more than responding in kind, is an excuse. I hope that the last few posts have, to a large extent, rectified that failure on my part, but a general apology is hereby offered.
Third, an explanation of what I am trying to do might be in order, since some comments suggest that I have not been as clear as I thought. In my own Church the matter of women’s ordination is a done deal, and as C451 has, again with a generosity of spirit that shames me, it may be that other churches will find in it lessons and an example. I know C well enough to have spotted the coded caveat of “for good or ill”! What I am trying to do is to explain how someone who considers herself a high Anglican in the Anglo-Catholic tradition, can possibly have ended up supporting the ordination of women.
I want to begin with Phoebe, as a way of illustrating the wider context. We are told that Phoebe is a “helper” or a “servant”, and that is, of course, a translation of the Greek diakonos. Paul uses the same word to describe his own monistry in his letters to the Corinthians and Galatians, but in a purely English version of the New Testament you might be hard put to see their roles as parallel. It is hard to escape the conclusion that circular reasoning is at work here. We know that when the word is applied to Paul it represents what he does, which invests even the word “servant” with a halo. When it is applied to Phoebe, there is no halo. The Douay-Rheims is an honourable exception translating it as “in ministry”. The choice of the words “servant” or “helper” are, I fear, gendered. It goes thus: we know women were helpers in the Church, therefore we translate diakonos as helper. Then, when asked what the role of women was in the early church, we are told they were “helpers” and pointed to the NT as evidence, where, helpfully, that is indeed the word used – QED. Except, of course, for the circular reasoning. Now if we found the same translation of the word applied consistently to men as well as women, my point would fall away; but we don’t, so it doesn’t.
If we look at the Greek, Paul describes Phoebe as “being” (the participle ousan) “of the church is Cenchrae” which is why the DR uses “ministry” – it is clear from the context that Phoebe was in ministry in the church, and that is the sense in which she was a “helper” or “servant”. In other words, absent the gendered assumptions and no-one would have any reason to question that Phoebe was a “minister.” We can discuss what that means, but I hope this explains why I can’t avoid the issue of gendered assumptions.
While on the subject of Phoebe, it might be worth saying that when Paul says she is delivering the letter, that does not mean she was just the postman. The likelihood was that she would have been reading it out and answering questions about it – so she would have been in Paul’s confidence and had an idea of what he meant – something generations of scholars have wished for! This, of course, involved a public teaching role.
Paul also calls her a “prostasis”, another Greek word often translated in her case as “helper.” This is a difficult one because the word in that form is found only in Paul, but its masculine form, “prostasis” always denotes a form of authority, which of course may be why it is not often applied to Phoebe, if we are back to the cricular logic we have already identified. The majority of translations translate the word as “helper” or a synonym, you have to get to contemporary ones before the word “leader” is used. So again, we see how unconscious bias downplays the role of Phoebe. If she’s been a “he” called “Philip” I wonder how many translations would have used the word “helper”?
This has taken me further than I thought, and means that I shall need another post to say something about how it all maps onto leadership in the Church. Let me say though, in parting, that it is for each Church which inherits tradition to interpret it as it does. The Roman Catholic Church has a high doctrine of the magisterium, and therefore, whatever an Anglican might say about tradition does not apply to the way that Church views things. This is not an argument to be seen in a Roman Catholic context, though some in the communion will be challenged and are challenged by such arguments, it is, however, an argument to seen in a catholic context to explain how a high Anglican can not only accept, but welcome and celebrate the ordination of women who have been called (lucky things!).
Well, explained, leaving me still straddling my fence. We will see where you go, before we decide, if we decide. Some issues are, in my mind, at least, best left unargued, until necessity strikes. This is one of them. Why? Not because I don’t care. I do. But because both sides make both good and reasonable arguments.
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I do hope so 🙂 xx
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There is a bias of translating women out of the Bible.
“On the Power of Revival Women: – “On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang” [Judges 5:1]; the word sang is I the feminine singular, indicating that it was Deborah’s song and that she did the majority of the singing. Verse 2 is very difficult Hebrew to translate; it says “she sang and blessed that the leaders led in Israel”. There are a variety of translations for it, but the interesting point is this, the word ‘leaders’ or the ‘freeing ones’, is feminine plural, despite the fact that a translation like ‘princes would lead us to think it is men in view here. Whereas, it was a group of women who were the leaders and liberators of Israel. … Sisters in Christ … reaffirm your heritage, and follow Mary in bringing forth ‘The Word of God’ into the world. …”
From the booklet “Deborah Leads a Revival by Roger T. Forster
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Thank you Rob – and the book was a great help 🙂 xx
You might like this book by Faith and Roger Forster “Women and the Kingdom” http://shop.ichthus.org.uk/books/?sort=featured&page=2
I cannot read God’s mind but I can clearly see what He did in Scripture.
He breathed life into Adam and then made Eve from Adam; flesh of thy flesh.
He set Aaron up as being the High Priest of His first Church and even his sister was punished for thinking herself equal to Aaron.
Christ too, had many faithful and loving followers amongst women and yet not a single one was invited to His Last Supper which we Catholics see as the first ordaining of Bishops for His Church.
Christ breathes upon the 12 (men) and tells them that they can forgive sin: a type of blessing) and a very important role for the priesthood. This follows from he OT Church which passed blessings on by the laying on of hands to the first born son etc.
We see a man being ordained by the laying on of hands in order to replace Judas.
We see no other texts in the last 2000 years that the Church has ever ordained a woman as a priest or bishop.
So was God and Christ (His Only Begotten Son) misogynistic? Or is it likely that His Church was made very different from the Pagan religions rife with priestesses and vestal virgins and such? Maybe He knew our natures better than we know ourselves. A religion that is female in character will drive away men but a masculine religion gives men something (a duty to God) that makes it incumbent upon men to practice religion lest it fail for lack of interest. Women will (as history proves in Judaism, Christianity and Islam) able to thrive with men at the helm . . . though, even with that, we usually lose more men to the world than we do women.
And lastly, Pope Saint John Paul II saw the actions of Christ as being settled. The Church has not the ability to ordain women as we must continue in the way that Christ founded His Church. They can teach, they can evangelize and they can prophesies and become great saints but they cannot consecrate the bread and wine nor can they hear confessions. It is simply the way of God; like or dislike it and call it names if you like but it is very simple . . . God spoke by His very actions.
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I shall deal with some of these arguments tomorrow. At the moment all I will say is that you are relying on English translations, and if you think presbyter means a “priest” there are dozens of learned theologians who will not agree with you. Oddly, the Pope you don’t recognise probably does agree with you.
I do understand that we are living in a world that is constantly looking for legal loopholes because they don’t like the laws or rules which is very much what this all seems like to me.
As an aside, your church had been operating for 400 years before Lambeth decided to make a u-turn on contraception which had been held as immoral almost universally throughout Christendom. A 180 degree change is not development of doctrine. A boy grows into a man or a girl grows into a woman is an accepted truth that we should all believe; though in our modernity we teach folks in the world that it is normal for a boy to become a woman or a girl can become a man.
It just seems to me that this is a modern attempt to have people accept that in certain cases it is OK to not honor your father or mother. For it is without doubt that for 2000 years our forefathers and mothers believed the same thing the Catholic faith still teaches regarding ordination; and if they weren’t teaching it they were doing it without anybody getting upset about the order that Christ and the 12 Apostles left to us.
But then, I guess if a law or a rule has no consequence for violating it then it is nothing more than an opinion that can be changed. Perhaps that is why people are spending so much intellectual energy poring over the Greek of the scriptures and the writings of the early Church Fathers . . . surely if they can find a jot or a tittle then they can claim something that is not the reality and never was a reality. Ordination of women is a pipe dream and a myth regarding the early Church. Direct evidence they will never find.
Only you can explain your desire to attribute dark motives to those who do not share your views; that is sad, but your problem.
No one is seeking to use legal loopholes, because, for most of us, our Faith is not defined by the Law; St Paul had quite a bit to say about this and I commend his words to you.
Where, doctrinally, did the church promulgate as doctrine that contraception was wrong? I can understand someone of your views being upset that women are able to regulate whether they become pregnant or not without having to forego whatever the pleasures they find in marital intimacy, but I think you will find that even most of your fellow Roman Catholics do not abide by a patriarchal teaching. Perhaps when you have persuaded your fellow RC’s of your point of view, you could start on the rest of us?
Most Americans I know are perfectly aware that the Church in this country is far more than 400 years old. We did not cease to be that Church when Henry VIII repudiated the rule of Rome, we simply took control – something I think you are generally in favour of with nations.
I have no idea why you bring honouring your father and mother into things. if that meant doing nothing but what they did, the world would never move on.
It seems not to have occurred to you that the many scholars and holy men and women who pore over the word of God in its original form may be motivated by good things.
Why do you have such a low view of human nature and the motives of others? I find that very sad.
I have a low opinion of the worldliness of mankind as I have lived long enough to watch the unintended consequences of their marvelous, novelties turn into the diabolic: abortion is the ultimate form of contraception,
I am stuck with that saying of St John’s about the importance of love.