The Editor of the Church Times (Paul Handley) reads New Directions we discover from the Guardian (where else?). That is good news. But ND is second only, in his list of preferred periodicals, to the quarterly magazine of the Christian Caravanning Club Which will come as a surprise to some – though we wish him many happy hours of camping. Paul, at the same time, is married to a woman priest. Which will surprise no one at all.
Since the editor of our premier Church newspaper seems in danger of confusing theology with caravanning – and since the arguments against women’s ordination are unlikely to feature as a regular subject of discussion over the Handley breakfast table, we take this brief opportunity of rehearsing those arguments again – lest the Church Times lose sight of them.
First, there is the scriptural argument. No reading of Paul, (except one which attributes to him a form of schizophrenia) could suppose that his ordering of his infant churches included or tolerated female presidency of any kind – the recently exploded ‘Junia’ not withstanding.
Then there is the argument from Christian tradition. The wisdom of two thousand years seems as nothing only to those who suppose themselves to be riding the crest of modernity. At the very least they should beware of the next innovation hurtling toward them with the same doubtful hermeneutic to back it up.
Then there is the argument from the nature of orders themselves. It is inimical to the nature and purpose of Holy Order in the Church that priests whose orders are unacceptable in other provinces should be introduced in some. Provincial autonomy, as is apparent to all but the brain dead, is no way for a Catholic Church to conduct its affairs!
Then there is the ecumenical argument. A Synod representing fewer than a million communicant Christians cannot hope to make such a change and continue to claim a share in the orders of the undivided Church. Ask the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Then there is the argument from consensus (or rather, the lack of it). To effect significant changes which a third of the members of a Church reject is to foster and encourage schism. Internal schism (which the Act of Synod consecrates) is no less sinister than formal schism (which the consecration of women as bishops will inaugurate.) And schism is sin.
One can only encourage Paul to keep caravanning. It is obviously what he does best.