On The Ordination of Women
Concerning the Ordination of Women
by: Sean Orr
I would like to politely request that anyone who is reading this letter or considering publishing it to keep an open mind. For the subject I am going to write about is about as popular as the plague during the middle ages. I have been reading various articles in Anglican publications about a small minority of Anglicans who oppose the ordination of women. There have been no explanations that I have read so far of why there might be a plausible reason for such an opposition to this matter. The public opinion about my parish is that anyone who would oppose the ordination of women would have to be a bigot who is stuck in the past and must wake up and realize that the times have changed. I will try to explain as best as I can my reasons for opposing the practice of ordaining women .
First I would like to start with the Book of Common Prayer An Outline of the Faith. Why do we call the Holy Scriptures the Word of God? We call them the Word of God because God inspired their human authors and because God still speaks to us throughout the Bible. As a person who was baptized and confirmed and continues to be an Anglican I hold this doctrine to be true. Please consider this collect from B.C.P: Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them. Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them; that, by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
I was a teenager when the way was cleared for the ordination of women. I can remember a hubbub that was about at that time. I also remember thinking, what‘s the big deal? Many years later, as a New Years resolution, I began to read the bible cover to cover. It was at this time that I came across certain Scriptures that directly contradicted the practice of ordaining women. I had to come to terms with my attitude toward scripture. How am I to consider scripture? First lets consider some scripture that speaks about scripture. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (II Timothy 3:16) I will admit that what Paul is speaking of here is the Old Testament but the traditional church has held this is true of the New Testament also. So any scripture held as canonical by the church has its origin in the Holy Spirit. Is this a concept that has been in dispute? Did Paul claim to speak by the Spirit?
An Episcopalian from,
Cedar Creek, Texas
If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to youward? How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery, as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ. (Ephesians 3:2,4) And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh , the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.(II Corinthians 12:7)
It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. (II Corinthians 12:1)
If one is to say that Paul was not inspired by the Holy Spirit he would have to throw out most of the New Testament. One of the scriptures sited that supported the ordination of women is this. “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew not Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:27,28). I will guess that the logic behind this is that if we are all one in Christ we cannot discriminate against anyone in any of their pursuits One of the scriptures I found that did not support the ordination of women is this. “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” (I Timothy 2:11,15) So what is a person to do? Be content with two scriptures that tend to contradict or dig further? Would Paul write one thing and then turn around write the opposite to someone else? I chose to dig further. One saying I hold on to when studying scripture is context, context, context to truly understand what a scripture means is to understand its context. I would rather not have to write out all of the verses around. Galatians 3:28 but if you will take the time to read them you will find that the context that Paul is speaking about is in the context of salvation and not so much about earthly service. Jews at that time considered themselves to be the chosen people, also many people at that time had misconceptions that a persons status also had bearing on your salvation. Part of the Gospel message was that the saved were amongst all classes and races of people. Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” (Acts !0:34,35) And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth. (Acts 17:26) We cannot be content in accepting contradiction of scripture. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. (I Corinthians 14:33)
Nor can I be content in accepting the concept of a human origin of many scriptures that do not reflect the Holy Spirit. For this would contradict church history and tradition and scripture itself. To throw away any of Pauls writings would also go against scripture. “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” (II Peter 3:15,16)
Does not this scripture speak to us today? I read this with much alarm. For if I discount any of Pauls writings because I cannot or will not try to understand them I pave the way to my own destruction. I as a God fearing Christian cannot discount or ignore any scripture. Marcion the second century figure who won himself the title of heretic did so in part by removing portions of scripture he did not find to his liking. He also won the honor of being called the first born of Satan by St. Polycarp when they had their famous encounter. I would have to say at least Marcion was honest about it. Is it not worse to discount or ignore scripture than to openly omit it? If you will allow me lets take a closer look at I Timothy Chapter 2. If I were to just omit this chapter I would have to throw out such verses as, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (I Timothy 2:1,4)
Do we not pray for rulers and leaders and give thanks every Sunday? Should we stop doing this? “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (I Timothy 2:5,6) Is this not a pivotal verse held by the reformers? Does it not proclaim our freedom from mediators who would stand between us and God like the Roman church practiced for so long? I don’t think anybody wants to throw out any of these verses. If I am to keep the verses I like, I must also keep the verses I dislike. One of my difficulties with my walk with Christ is that what I want is not always what God wants and what I perceive as good is not always what is true good. I must constantly ask myself when I am pursuing life, is what I am doing have its origin in God or is what I perceive as good have an origin in myself or other men? Lets continue with I Timothy chapter 2. “Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.” (I Timothy 2:7) Paul was ordained by Christ and the Holy Spirit. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. (Acts 9:11)
“As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the Work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” (Acts 13:2,3)
I would say that Paul has pretty good credentials, maybe we ought to listen to what he has to say. Lets continue with I Timothy. “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” (I Timothy 2:8)
The lifting up of hands while praying has been a forgotten practice but I have seen it sneaking into a few churches of the Anglican communion. If you see someone doing it, know that it has scriptural backing. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. (I Timothy 2:9,10)
You could probably say that the things hard to be understood that Peter proclaimed start here. We really cannot single women out in the context of this verse because all Christians must humble themselves before the Lord. Lets get to the really hard verses here. Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. (I Timothy 2:11) We must understand the context of why this was written. Early Christian services were held in houses. (Romans 16:5, I Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4:15, Philemon 1:2). The service would have been very informal and would have included a meal (I Corinthians 11:20„22) and many times it would involve the gifts of the Spirit. (I Corinthians Chapters 12,13, &14) These services suffered because of disruptions. (I Corinthians 14:26, 40) It is very possible that the source of many of these disruptions were from women because I Corinthians 14:34 is very similar to I Timothy 2:11. When I have inquired to my friends who attend the Charismatic churches if there were any disruptions during their services the answer was most often yes. It was also volunteered that the source of all these disruptions was a female who could not control herself when overcome by the Spirit. But Paul plainly taught. The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. ( I Corinthians 14:29) Lets get to the heart of the matter. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. (I Timothy 2:12) I must note that this is not a blanket statement stating a woman can never teach. Because Titus 2:3,4 states, “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the. young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children. (Titus 2:3„4) The teaching spoken of in I Timothy 2:12 is that over a man. And if a woman is put in authority to teach over a man, that authority is usurped. It is also objected that Pauls use of in verse 12 means that he is speaking about himself and not by the Holy Spirit. But this cannot stand the scrutiny of scripture for Paul speaks in the first person quite often. He uses the phrase my gospel in Romans 2:16, 16:25 and II Timothy 2:8. He is not claiming that the gospel has its origin in him and not in Christ. Also look at Galatians 5:2,4. “Behold I say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:2,4)
This is the Crux of the book of Galatians yet Paul freely uses the first person, do we dare say that he is not speaking by the Spirit but has thought of this himself? Lets return to our subject. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. ( I Timothy 2:13,14) We must not discount these two verses because they give great insight to original sin. Adam was not deceived. But the woman was. The woman was in the transgression but was not blamed for the sin for that honor rest on Adams shoulders. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. (Romans 5:12)
Lets continue. “Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety. (I Timothy 2:15) I think this verse ties us all the way back to Genesis. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. (Genesis 3:16). What was once conceived as a curse is now part of what saves a woman. Other proof verses Romans 16:1 is also asserted to prove the validity of ordaining women. I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. (Romans 16:1) The word servant is translated from the Greek diakonos which can be translated deacon. We must not jump too quickly on this least we fall into the errors that our Congregationalist friends have fallen into. The three offices that Anglicans have recognized (deacon, priest, and bishop) all have their roots from common Greek words. Diakonos=servant, minister, and deacon; Presbuteros=presbyter, elder, and priest; Episkopos=bishop, and overseer. So when these words were used in scripture they do not necessarily pertain to a specific ordained office or even a ordained office at all. The word diakonos easily apply to all Christians much like the term saint. So if I am speaking in complementary terms of a Christian, whether they be a lay, person, deacon, priest, or bishop, I can easily speak of them as a servant or deacon whether they be ordained or not ordained. The few examples of ordained deacons that we have all went on to be teachers and preachers (Phillip and Steven). If you go on to, I Timothy chapter 3 which gives the qualifications for an ordained person it can be easily seen that a deacon was expected to go on further and become an elder or priest or bishop. Paul gave no instructions in Romans 16 that the people were to heed the teachings of Phoebe but to assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you. I would also say that Phoebe was an excellent servant because the book of Romans survives today and Praise the Lord for that.
Another example cited is that of Priscilla who along with her husband Aquila expounded unto Apollos the way of God more perfectly.(Acts 18:26) Is this an example of a woman teaching with authority over a man? Lets put this to the test. Firstly we must note that this event took place in Ephesus (Acts 18:24-26), Timothy was sent to Ephesus to oversee the church there.(I Timothy 1:3) II Timothy 4:19 shows that Aquila and Priscilla remained there during the time that Timothy was there. 1st and 2nd Timothy were written to instruct Timothy in his overseer-ship there. Our proof verse against women teaching with authority over a man is from 1st Timothy. Thus Priscilla would have been directly effected by this instruction. So what was she doing if she was not teaching. I think I should point out that though women are not to teach, they are not forbidden to witness. For there is a difference. Witnessing can be a valuable tool in teaching and they are closely related but they are different. Women are an invaluable resource for witnessing for God has poured his blessings on women as well as men. There are countless women who have led more Godly lives than I would ever dream of approaching. I would suggest that Priscilla assisted her husband as a supporting witness to Gods saving grace through the action of the Holy Spirit which apparently Apollos was ignorant about.
In Conclusion, We must concede that all holy scripture is authored by the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit is of the blessed Trinity which we recognize as God. We must also recognize that this scripture we reviewed is as true today as it was when it was first written. For it is not the Old Testament law , nor has it been nailed to the cross, nor has it been done away with by some minor dispensation. If we are to throw this away or ignore it we would also have to throw away the entire New Testament. The book of Hebrews state. “ Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable to you.” (Hebrews 13:17)
You can see the quandary a lay person like myself would have if one whom the Holy Spirit said was not qualified was put in authority over me. Where do we go from here. To any women who are ordained or who are considering a move to do as such. I will commend you for your desire to serve God and your fellow man. Your ability may be very great but I will remind you that along with Christian service comes obedience and all Christians are called to obey the Holy Spirit. Holy scripture was given and preserved for us to guide us in our walk with Christ. It is a guide we must follow otherwise we are not following the God who has saved us. Like Paul says in I Corinthians 12, there are many parts to the body of Christ but an eye cannot be an ear or a foot, or a mouth. Women are not called by the Holy Spirit to teach with authority over a man. Those who are ordained have the authority to teach over a man. Women are called to be an intricate part and function of the body of Christ without them the body of Christ could not function. But it must be a function that is congruent to teaching of the Holy Spirit otherwise we will be on the road to dysfunction. If you are looking for ways to serve I would suggest turning to holy scripture for your examples. Our savior ordained only men to serve with authority but had several women in his entourage who served a vital function.
To the Church I will say that the time to repent is now. We hold ourselves to be a traditional Church but with this issue we snub our nose at tradition. We say in the Nicene creed that we are an apostolic Church but on this issue we do not follow the teaching of the apostles. The words of St. Paul in I Timothy are very concise and clear there is not much room to interpret. I would say there is more direct evidence for the doctrine I have presented in scripture that that of Trinity. If we say that something that is of the Holy Spirit is not of or contrary to the Holy Spirit, we are in grave danger of blaspheming the Holy Spirit which is the only sin that cannot be forgiven. “Wherefore, I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto Men.” (Matthew 12:31
To the bishops I will warn you that the book of Hebrews says that you will have to give an account so it is time to stop hiding behind the canons of the Church and fulfill your responsibility to the body of Christ. For a canon cannot replace or contradict scripture but complement it. Your first priority is to scripture, which is inspired rather than to a canon of men which is unspired.
In closing I would like to say that I have nothing to gain by writing this. I will no doubt earn the scorn of my friends and family in not my Church. I do so because nobody will proclaim the truth or is just not interested. I have no desire to leave the Church or to be part of a splinter group, but to have the body of Christ united in sound doctrine. Please remember that Christ is coming again and when he does all the rules will change. I will leave you with this gem found from a late First Century manuscript. “Loving and doing what is right, we must be on the watch for God’s Kingdom hour by hour, since we do not know the day when God will appear.” For when someone asked the Lord when his Kingdom was going to come, he said, “When the two shall be one, and the outside like the inside, and the male with the female, neither male nor female.” Now “the two” are “one” when we tell each other the truth and two bodies harbor a single mind with no deception. “The outside like the inside” means this: “the inside” means the soul and “the outside” means the body. Just as your body is visible, so make your soul evident by your good deeds. Furthermore “the male with the female, neither male nor female,” means this: that when a brother sees a sister he should not think of her sex, any more than she should think of his. When you do these things, he says, my Father’s Kingdom will come. (II Clement)
(Used by permission of the author.)
(I read this letter in the ESA Anglican Chat area and wanted to share it with you.)