Sunday, June 24, 2007

WO continues to rear its ugly head

So I've been laboring through the Women's Ordination thread on Stand Firm for the last two days. I'd seriously put it off because of my fatigue and the basic desire to avoid the issue for now. I don't want to get into the frey over there, however unfair it is to Matt to leave him all alone. For one thing, he's much more clear headed and intelligent than I am, and for another, there's nothing like a hysterical muddle headed woman priest mucking up a theological debate. I'm happy to let them wrestle it out.

I did want to say something about feminism, though. You might notice the Ladies Against Feminism link on the side, and a number of other highly conservative links. I don't agree with everything on these sites. In fact, my husband periodically exercises his headshipply authority and disallows me from reading these sites because I work myself into a froth over them.

It is bewitching, for me, and apparently for so many Continuing Anglicans, the idea that feminism, being a Bad Ting, can be got over by going back to those glorious days before it happened. Those good and honest days when women stayed home and cooked dinner and looked adoringly into the eyes of their husbands and made quilts and wore hats in church. In the good old days, it didn't occur to women to seek orders, it didn't occur to them to try and pray out loud in church, they wouldn't have run for vestry.

And now things are such a mess. Working women busy bodying themselves around, reading in church, distributing wine during communion. And of course me, preaching on occasion, making announcements, teaching Sunday School, organizing various ministries.

Thing is, I'm not a feminist. I think feminism, in its present strident form is a destroyer of many things-boys, homes, churches even, where men have run for cover and women unhappily run the show. Feminism, as so many 'isms' has shown itself essentially to be a lie. Any ideology that elevates the human being over God is doomed to fail.

But while I'm not a feminist, I can't go back to that premodern, pre enlightenment, prefeminist age of glory (if indeed it was an age of glory), any more than the church can really go back to preKantian theology. We can't go back, we have to find a way to fix the problem where it is now. Many women are creatively doing this, finding ways to stay home with children, making educated decisions about work and family life, trying to rebuild a place in a church that has been hollowed out and corrupted by the very ideology/theology that purported to help and serve them.

I don't have any solutions to this problem tonight. Its been a long day of church. But I hope to return to this thought in the days to come. This WO debate comes at a delicate and unhappy moment in the life of the church, when there are so many problems, and so many errors that sorting them out and finding their root causes is primary on everyone's mind. But reading through the thread and trying to stave off the headache caused thereby, I get the sense that, as with the communion itself, we have the choice to either fling ourselves into the past and bury the issue in the sand, or fling ourselves off a cliff into further error, or deal creatively, honestly, realistically and scripturally with what we have in hand.


Anonymous said...

Well, Anne+

I think there are good, sincere Christian people on both sides of this debate. I'm totally supportive of WO myself, but when I was in seminary knew many godly men who continued to struggle with this whole concept. I certainly didn't feel they were all misogynists.

I don't feel that either way this needs to be a church dividing issue. I basically feel that we need to love each other as Christians no matter what.

Our unity is in Christ, not in total agreement concerning so many of these other issues. So often folks are ready to judge and to seperate from one another at the drop of a hat, when Jesus prayed for us to be one in Him.


Chris Jones said...

Dear Pastor Kennedy,

This is a good post. While I am on "the other side" of the WO question from you (of which a bit more later), I think you have a very important insight in realizing that feminism "cannot be got over by going back to those glorious days before it happened". It is an insight that is lost on a good many conservatives and traditionalists (of which I am not ashamed to be one). Even if it be true that "feminism is a bad thing," it is something that has happened, and has changed the world in a big way. Traditionalists, of all people, should know that we cannot make the world into the world that we wish it were, but must deal with the world as it is. And "the world as it is" is a world shaped by the phenomonon of feminism.

But what we can do, and what we as traditional Christians must do, is to face the world as it is on the basis of sound Christian principles. The world has changed, because of feminism and a whole lot of other things, but the fundamental things that we, as Christians, believe have not changed. We must not be afraid to be who and what we are because it is somehow out of step with what the world has changed into. Indeed, part of who we are as Christians is strangers and sojourners in this world, whose citizenship is in heaven ("we have here no continuing city ..."). So we ought to expect to be out of step with "the real world" as they call it.

What that means for women's ordination, of course, is that the question ought to be decided on theological grounds, on the basis of Scripture rightly interpreted according to the Church's rule of faith and her authentic tradition (not on any "private interpretation"). That leaves plenty of room for respectful debate among believers as to what is or is not "rightly interpreted" and as to what is the Church's authentic tradition and what is the result of sin and corruption. But what it does not leave any room for is the measuring of the Church's orthodoxy and orthopraxis by the standard of feminism or any other ideology of this world. Sadly, the debates in ECUSA back in the 1970s were not, in my experience, primarily theological in nature, but were framed precisely in terms of the this-worldly values of feminism.

So while it is true that we cannot "go back to the glorious days before feminism happened", nevertheless if the WO question was wrongly decided (because the debate was framed in this-worldly terms and the question was decided on the wrong basis), then I think that the Church ought to repent of that decision. That would not make feminism "un-happen" either in the world or in the Church, but it would enable to Church to face the world being more authentically herself, and being less "conformed to this world".

Your husband's argument in favour of WO is among the best such arguments that I have seen, precisely because he makes his case on the basis of Scripture without recourse to extra-Scriptural political principles. I have rarely seen that. In reading and closely analyzing his argument, I was surprised to find that the reason that his argument failed to persuade me was not that I am a (former) Anglo-Catholic and he an evangelical, but because he interprets Scripture according to Calvinist principles and I am not a Calvinist. In a way I find that refreshing, because I find myself differing from a fellow believer on clear theological principle, rather than differing because someone is arguing from a political principle masquerading as theological principle.

(In the interest of full disclosure I should note that I am not now an Anglican. I left ECUSA in the early 1980s (and yes, WO was what they like to call these days the "presenting issue"), was Eastern Orthodox for ten years, and am now a Missouri-Synod Lutheran. I especially wanted to note that because in browsing your parish web site I saw that there is a "Chris Jones" who is a member there and I did not want you to think that I am he or to hold him responsible for my opinions.)

At A Hen's Pace said...


Thanks so much for your comment on my post today. It was so encouraging to both me and my husband to hear of your experience and how much you would recommend it.

I am praying now for your ministry there and the "waiting" God is calling you to.

May He bring convergence to us both, soon!


Anonymous said...

Ironic that this post turned up, as the pub quiz Sunday night (you'll be glad to know I'm quite heathen while over here. No, not really. We went to the pub AFTER the evening service,) asked what year Women's Ordination took place. Our team got it wrong, but we won the quiz anyway and took home a tub of strawberries.

You have no idea how much I miss your sermons when over here!!