As we draw close to final crisis within the Church of England and the introduction of women bishops we review the range of possible theological arguments in favour of this novelty
What are the arguments in favour of the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate? It may seem late in the day to be asking such a question – when reams have been written to make the case, and when the great and the good of the Anglican establishment have embraced it with such enthusiasm. But this paper has invited numbers of proponents to make the case again in these pages; and either they have declined to do so, or made a poor fist of the attempt (in the eyes of our readers at least).
It is not so much the need to persuade or be persuaded, or to change peoples minds, as the desire to grasp what exactly are the reasons for this innovation. Is it, as so often seems the case, no more than an historical inevitability, for which justification is neither sought nor needed; or
are there actual theological reasons? The proponents seem unable to say.
So, at the risk of tedious repetition, it may be helpful, at the eleventh hour, to go over the arguments again. The following list is intended to be indicative but not exhaustive:
1. The exclusion of women from the sacred ministry is fundamentally unjust.
2. The exclusion is based on a flawed understanding of the proper relationship of women and men both in Scripture and in society.
3. The general thrust or trajectory of Scripture is towards ever greater inclusion. What, for cultural reasons, could not be stated explicitly in the first century is nevertheless implied and entailed by what was then said and written.
4. If women can be baptized, they ought also to be ordained.
5. Jesus’s choice of men to constitute the twelve is irrelevant to the contemporary priesthood.
6. Women were ‘apostles’ in the early Church.
7. All the baptized (including women) act in persona Christi – so that there is no special or iconic role reserved to the ministerial priesthood.
8. The priest acts in persona ecclesiae, so that women as well as men should have a part in that representative role.
9. The maleness of Jesus has no soteriological significance.
10. The risen Christ is neither male nor female, but transcends both.
These arguments are all theological or pseudo-theological.
Over the coming months New Directions will be examining these ten theological arguments listed here.