Should the Church be led by opinion poll? Ask the Laodiceans

Mar 14, 2013 by

by Julian Mann If YouGov had conducted an opinion poll asking the members of the church in Laodicea in the late 1st century AD whether they thought they were good Christians, the results would have been overwhelmingly positive. They thought their church was rich in Christian spirituality and commitment and they were very pleased with themselves. But the risen and reigning Lord Jesus Christ, walking among the lampstands of the seven churches in Asia, revealed to the Apostle John his assessment of Laodicean spirituality and it was radically different from that of the congregation: "You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked" (Revelation 3v17 – NIV). This was the spiritually complacent church that, unless it repented, the Lord Jesus was going to spit out of his mouth – because it was lukewarm, neither hot nor cold. Given that devastating biblical precedent, why would any Christian place confidence in an opinion poll for deciding the way forward for the church of Jesus Christ? According to a news report on Christian Today, Linda Woodhead, a professor of religion at Lancaster University, thinks a YouGov opinion poll on women in spiritual leadership overrides the interpretation of the New Testament, held by the orthodox early Church Fathers and then by the evangelical Reformers, that the headship of local churches is the pastoral responsibility of men. Commenting on the poll commissioned for a Westminster Faith Debate on whether it was right for religions to treat men and women differently, Professor Woodhead said: "These new findings show that the churches are seriously out of step not only with society but with their own members. In failing to allow women's leadership in the churches, church leaders are privileging the views of a tiny, disproportionately male, group of people over the views of the vast majority of people in their own churches and in the country as a whole." Professor Woodhead MBE would be advised to revisit her church history. At various points in the Arian controversy over the eternal deity of Christ in the 4th century AD, it looked as if the battle for orthodoxy was going to be lost. Opinion in both church and society was favouring Arius, the champion of the view that Christ was a creature. But the then champion of the eternal deity of Christ, Bishop Athanasius of Alexandia (c297-373), did not allow himself to be swayed by the winds of fashionable opinion and stuck to his biblical guns at considerable personal cost. His perseverence under God resulted in the adoption of the Nicene Creed, which clearly states the biblical teaching that Jesus Christ is "God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made". What a man of God Athanasius was. Both the New Testament and church history testify that faith in opinion...

read more

Seeking for truth – reflections on the ways in which the decision to ordain women changed the nature of the Church...

Feb 2, 2013 by

By Hannah Phillips, New Directions Many years ago when a vote was passed to ordain female priests, I was a teenager. The news had little impact in my convent school, except for Father wandering around muttering under his breath as to how this would change the nature of the Church. Now, I understand what that poor priest (in a school full of girls) was muttering under his breath. The nature of the Church changed on that day and continues to be manipulated by a secular philosophy. Different and complementary No longer is being a ‘woman’ or ‘mother’ seen as being something to desire. In fact most of the time it is portrayed as someone failing to reach their full potential. This is not the image that God desired when he sent an Angel to an innocent girl and gave her the gift of carrying the Messiah. Echoed in that acclamation from Elizabeth, ‘Hail Mary, full of Grace’, is the message that this was a great and wonderful vocation from God. Mary both chose to accept this immense gift, but also bore with strength the sacrifices that came with it. The Holy Mother has embodied the feminine characteristics that help to make the Gospels the powerful scriptures they are. The gift of the Messiah, born of a woman, was a boy. The maleness of Christ is essential to the narratives in the Bible. The significance of the two genders being different and complementary is written throughout the Bible, first of all as the People of Israel (God’s chosen people) being portrayed as a loved wife. The imagery is then carried on as the Church itself being the Bride of Christ and is therefore evident in the writing of our Liturgy. Stumbling block To propose, even for a moment, that our omnipotent God had not known the implications of the impact of creating these roles, is to underestimate him. Should he have chosen to have reversed the parts of the sexes I am sure he could have done so, with success. Therefore the view of secular culture encounters a stumbling block, when advocating an apparently gender-neutral view of roles. The two genders are different and God created us to be so. It is generally considered that a female athlete would not compete against a male one, as she acknowledges she has no chance of success. This however does not in any way diminish the fact that she is a great athlete. So in the matter of Holy Orders, I believe that men and women were chosen for different roles within the Church. Saying that a woman cannot be a priest is not in any way undermining her value as a person, called to fullness of ministry in Baptism. Nor does it make her unequal in the eyes of God. ‘We are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Gal. 3.28), without all being/doing the same things. Gender-neutral language The eventual consequence of this concept of equality is actually that we should have to...

read more

Diocese of Blackburn clergy write to the Archbishop of York

Jan 23, 2013 by

From Thinking Anglicans The following press release has been received: 22 January 2013 MEDIA RELEASE: Lancashire clergy write to the Archbishop of York Over fifty clergy from the Diocese of Blackburn have written to the Archbishop of York, urging him to ensure that the next Bishop of Blackburn will be prepared to ordain women as priests, and fully affirm their ministry. The letter was co-ordinated by the Vicar of Lancaster, the Revd Chris Newlands, and has been signed by fifty-five clergy from across the diocese who are keen to see a supporter of women’s ministry appointed as Diocesan Bishop. Mr Newlands said, “Many churches across the diocese have been greatly enriched by the ministry of women, and we believe that to fulfil his calling as a focus of unity, the next Bishop of Blackburn should affirm the ministry of all the priests in the diocese who hold his licence.” Read...

read more

Church job prospects

Dec 28, 2012 by

By Karen Soole, Evangelicals Now So many voices are crying out about the ordination of women bishops. Many are expressing their pain at discrimination, their outrage at the sexism inherent in blocking progress, blocking their vocation. Into this fray I want to speak too, but my voice feels weak among all this outrage. I am a natural candidate for ordination. I am a committed Christian who longs to serve Christ with all my energy. I love to teach the Bible, in fact I ache to teach the Bible, to introduce others to the wonders of Christ in the Gospels, to build others up in their knowledge and love of the Lord, to proclaim Christ so that he may be known, and I grieve at the ignorance in this generation of God’s Word. Not only so, but I am available to begin a new career, my family are growing and, before I know it, will have left the nest. Surely now is my moment to fulfil my heart’s concern — I could go forward for ordination. It would satisfy my longing to teach God’s word and give me a ready platform from which to do it. It would provide me with a clear identity, a defined role and, most likely, a very helpful salary. When I sit in yet another service where the gospel message is fudged and muddled, I scream inside, I could do this better. It is tempting. Perhaps I should, and perhaps I could… Equal but different But I should not and will not go down that path, despite its attractions, because it would undermine everything I know to be true of Scripture. I have grappled with the ‘difficult’ passages about the role of women in the Bible over the last 25 years and how I have longed for them to say something other than they do. I have fought and wrestled with them and never been able to find wriggle room to escape two basic principles: that teaching authority in the church is given to a man, and wives should submit to their husbands. I have studied the debates about the controversial Greek in 1 Timothy 2, but cannot escape the clear instructions about male leadership in 1 Timothy 3. I have read the arguments about the changing face of culture, but cannot escape the fact that Paul argues not from culture, but from Genesis. Read...

read more

Fragile Church of England Maginot Line against gay marriage

Dec 15, 2012 by

By Julian Mann The clarity of the Church of England's stance against same-sex marriage has so far been commendably clear. But the chinks in its defensive armour are becoming ever more apparent. Take the episcopal complaints about the lack of consultation over Maria Miller's announcement that the Government is constructing a 'quadruple lock' against Anglican clergy being sued for refusing to take same-sex weddings. One would have thought 'thank you' would be the word for the Government's decision to give foot-soldier vicars like me clear legal protection by making it illegal for the established Church to take gay marriages. But instead the legislative process came under fire from prominent ecclesiastics. The complaints about the process are actually the outward visible sign of a far deeper spiritual reality. And that is the fact that many liberal leaders in the Church of England support gay marriage. They do not believe that the Bible forbids homosexual practice, so, they reason, why not foster greater stability and fidelity in homosexual relationships by celebrating gay marriage? It is important to note here that the same liberal approach to biblical interpretation that allows for women vicars and bishops also allows for an acceptance of homosexual relationships. This point has not been lost on gay rights campaigners in Parliament. They realise the link between the two issues, which is why they are continuing to highlight the General Synod's failure to approve women bishops. The strategy has been very successful in drawing abject apologies from red-faced bishops. Ironically, the Church of England's public response to the Prime Minister's announcement that he wants to allow churches to 'opt in' to gay marriages asserted the complementary difference between the sexes: "The uniqueness of marriage is that it embodies the underlying, objective, distinctiveness of men and women. This distinctiveness and complementarity are seen most explicitly in the biological union of man and woman which potentially brings to the relationship the fruitfulness of procreation.   "To remove from the definition of marriage this essential complementarity is to lose any social institution in which sexual difference is explicitly acknowledged. To argue that this is of no social value is to assert that men and women are simply interchangeable individuals." I am of the traditional integrity on both women bishops and gay marriage on the ground of biblical authority. For example, St Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians addresses both homosexual practice and male servant leadership in marriage and in the Church. If you consign Paul's apostolic teaching on those issues to the dustbin of cultural irrelevance, then why not his famous hymn to love in 1 Corinthians 13, which Tony Blair read at Princess Diana's funeral? It is quite possible that 1 Corinthians 13 would be culturally unacceptable in a heavily militarised, aggressive society which wanted to promote holy war. Such teaching might be regarded as unacceptably sentimental in that culture. Would the Church then lower the public profile of such teaching? The Lord Jesus Christ stands above the shifting sands of...

read more

Fair Measure 2012

Oct 24, 2012 by

A new site has been launched for papers, links and comments about the Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure which is due to be debated by the General Synod of the Church of England on 20 November 2012. It will show that the Measure as it stands is not fit for purpose, because of its unjust treatment of significant minorities within the Church of England. It must be stopped before it damages the Church irreparably, and replaced with a new, fairer Measure which enables us all to go forward together. Read...

read more