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: 1163
Recorded: 16/04/2011
Length: 27 minutes
Listen Download MP3 Audio (25,753 KB)

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Alec (Guest) 28/12/2013 20:55
Gordon

The issue of translation, or maybe "Bible version" is important here. The KJV uses the word "effeminate" The NIV uses the words "sexually immoral".

These are two completely different things.

I know men who are effeminate, one in particular, who is straight as a die, faithful to his wife (as far as I can tell) and a totally decent sort of guy. Sure he's got "mannerisms" which might look a bit gay, but I have no doubt as to his orientation. He certainly isnt the next definition, viz:

"Sexually immoral" is a statement about behaviour, NOT appearance or mannerisms

Two totally different things. Which has serious implications:

1) When someone talks about being "biblical" which evangelicals love to do, they need to specify WHICH bible. Which translation.

2) Or else, there are some bible translations out there, which are heavily used, BTW, which are simply wrong.

3) Or the original Greek is so vague and ambiguous as to make an accurate translation impossible.

Whichever it is, simply saying "the Bible says" or "being Biblical" is not adequate.
Colin Ford 28/12/2013 21:20
Alec/Guest,
I assume that you believe a catastrophe, or indeed some "chaos" happened between Genesis 1.1 KJV and Genesis 1.2 KJV?
This is where we have the unbiblical long ages, or millions of years creep into God's Word?
There was NO chaos, yes, the earth WAS without form, just as a lump of clay was before the potter made it into a pot? The Revised Version is in error here. Exodus 20.11 KJV tells us that the earth was made by God in six literal 24 hour days, around 6000 years ago, according to the Genesis account.There was NO "gap". Yes, your last post should make us think twice about what translations we use? This is why I quote "KJV" behind every verse. The KJV is NOT perfect, or "inspired" the translation team of 1611 would tell us that. God's Word is only "inspired" or "perfect" in the original languages.
I would go into more detail, but the thread is about "women bishops"....
Gordon (Guest) 28/12/2013 22:04
Colin,

As I said earlier, by effeminate I simply mean-as per the dictionary- a man with characteristics more often associated with women. Traits that have traditionally been cited as feminine include : gentleness, empathy, sensitivity, caring,sweetness, compassion,tolerance, nurturing, deference and emotional tone. How like the life of Jesus ?
If you could add to your admirable domesticity, these common, soft, feminine traits ; if..... "you'll be a Man my son" !
Colin Ford 28/12/2013 23:21
Alec/Guest,
I assume that you believe a catastrophe, or indeed some "chaos" happened between Genesis 1.1 KJV and Genesis 1.2 KJV?
This is where we have the unbiblical long ages, or millions of years creep into God's Word?
There was NO chaos, yes, the earth WAS without form, just as a lump of clay was before the potter made it into a pot? The Revised Version is in error here. Exodus 20.11 KJV tells us that the earth was made by God in six literal 24 hour days, around 6000 years ago, according to the Genesis account.There was NO "gap". Yes, your last post should make us think twice about what translations we use? This is why I quote "KJV" behind every verse. The KJV is NOT perfect, or "inspired" the translation team of 1611 would tell us that. God's Word is only "inspired" or "perfect" in the original languages.
I would go into more detail, but the thread is about "women bishops"....
(Guest) 29/12/2013 01:07
Colin,
I take your point, and can accept your point regarding God creating the world in 6 days. If God had so desired He could have created the universe in 6 days but,

The Hebrew word 'hayah' which has been translated 'was' in Genesis 1/2 can be equally accurately translated 'became'(as it is in subsequent scriptures) - and if this translation is applied then it most definitely suggests that the universe had enjoyed a pre-existent life and reality - which, when you think about it, it certainly must have done.

I mean, how could God say 'Let there be 'anything' without Him having the foreknowledge of what that 'anything' was going to be ?

And that foreknowledge must have been contained within the spiritual realm of God's mind, which means that everything in the universe had had a spiritual reality which preceded its physical reality.

There is much. much more to be said on the subject but as you stated this topic is about 'women bishops'

PS
I would agree with you that the KJV is the most accurate translation but it is not devoid of serious error: In the KJV the word 'Pascha' is translated 'Passover' in all scriptures except that in Acts 12/4 where the KJV translates it EASTER - after Astarte/Oestre the name of a false god. And to this day the unenlightened in Christendom commemorate Christ's sacrifice by associating it with a false god - NOT GOOD!!! but, sadly, so typical of Romanism


Colin Ford 29/12/2013 16:46
Gordon,
Yes the Bible does indeed teach us that the Saviour has many of those attributes that you name, and indeed more.
But, I may add that many also forget the OTHER attributes of the "One with whom we have to do" Hebrews 4.13 KJV? For example Matthew 13.42 KJV, Mark 9.48 KJV, Luke 12.51 KJV and a host of other Scriptures?
Many at this time of year would have us keep our Saviour in His crib? Baby, little Lord Jesus etc...
Even the "disciple whom Jesus loved" John 13.23 KJV, "fell at his feet as one dead" Revelation 1.17 KJV, when he saw Him in His glory?
I think you would agree that we shouldn't lose sight of the "other side" of the "meek and lowly" gentle Jesus; Matthew 11.29 KJV?
Editor 15/07/2014 12:10
WOMEN BISHOPS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

Yesterday, the Church of England voted to allow women to become bishops for the first time in its history.

Its ruling General Synod gave approval to legislation introducing the change by the required two-thirds majority.

A previous vote in 2012 was backed by the Houses of Bishops and Clergy but blocked by traditionalist lay members.

Roger Pigott, the religious affairs correspondent for the BBC has written:

"It is hard to exaggerate the significance of today's decision at the York Synod.

"It breaks a hitherto unbroken tradition of exclusively male bishops inherited from the first Christians almost 2,000 years ago.

"Some Anglicans see it as a 'cosmic shift' - arguing that the Church's theology has been changed by its acceptance that men and women are equally eligible to lead and teach Christianity."

See - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-28300618

Ironically the two camps within the CofE which have opposed the move come from completely opposite ends of the theological spectrum. High-church Anglo-Catholics (who are generally more concerned with 'tradition' than what Scripture teaches) see the move as a serious impediment to union with the Roman Catholic Church, whereas low-church evangelicals have fought against the move based on their view of what they believe Scripture teaches on the subject of women in authority over men.
Editor 07/01/2015 10:13
In the run-up to Christmas, the Reverend Libby Lane was appointed as the first female bishop for the Church of England, just a month after a historic change to the denomination's canon law.

She is now the new Bishop of Stockport, a post that has been vacant since May 2014.

Mrs Lane has been the vicar at St Peter's Hale and St Elizabeth's Ashley, in the diocese of Chester, since 2007.

The general synod voted to back plans for female bishops in July and formally adopted legislation on 17 November.

The appointment will end centuries of male leadership of the Church and comes 20 years after women became priests.

Read on...http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30510137
John Miller 08/01/2015 13:43
Women have been priests in the full scriptural meaning of the title for now nearly two thousand years. These men and women who adorn themselves with extravagant titles and raiment are no more priests than the simplest born-again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

If they fulfil that requirement they can claim priesthood in Christ's church, if not they are hypocrites and impostors. The pretence of a Christian priestly hierarchy is unbiblical and obnoxious.
John Miller 09/01/2015 09:17
To name certain individuals in a exclusive class as "priests" is a blatant denial of scriptural truth. Every man (or woman) who takes such an officially conferred title and puts on some form of clothing to emphasise the superiority of their status in the Christian faith exalts themselves.


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