From Mr James Siddons
The Revd Dr Threlfall-Holmes’ article [ND April] demonstrates the extent of the differences between the supporters and the opponents of women’s ordination. She is at some pains to stress, following St Gregory Nazianzen, that our salvation, whether we are male or female, depends not on Christ’s maleness but on his being a fully representative human being, as well as fully God. But she differs profoundly from Gregory and other Fathers in claiming that Christ’s maleness is only a ‘historic particular’, of no great significance in itself.
It is true that the Fathers did not see it necessary to emphasise it, probably because it was generally taken for granted, even by heretics. Nevertheless, they were all aware that maleness was a key feature of Christ’s Person. All the messianic prophecies – for example that there would be another prophet like Moses [Deut. 18.15-19] and the Son of Man prophecy [Dan. 7.13] – presuppose the maleness of their subject, as do the Passover sacrifice and the sacrifices of the Day of Atonement.
The maleness of Christ in his humanity was therefore essential to his being readily identified as the fulfilment of all ‘the types and shadows’ in the Old Testament, and to enabling the early Church to understand the Person he was, and eternally is – the Word made flesh.
When, at the Fast Supper, our Ford commanded the Apostles – who were all male – to ‘do this’ , he said it was ‘in remembrance of me’. It follows from this that the Church, traditionally, has required that the Eucharistic President, representing Christ at the altar, should be male. There is surely no reason to suppose that the risen, ascended, glorified Christ he represents has become androgynous, or that maleness is no longer part of his specific human nature.
The question is whether the Eucharist is to be celebrated with the full focus on Christ, the Ford of all Creation and Ford of the Church, or is it to be a celebration of the fact that, in him, women and men enjoy total equality?
The latter point is surely covered and expressed in the fact that the congregation of the baptised, female and male, young and old, are all part of the Body of Christ, intent on growing in his likeness and on serving him in every aspect of life.
Prayerful consideration of such questions should surely be part of the process of reception to which the Church of England has committed itself. Until this process is complete, advocates of women bishops cannot in justice deny to their opponents the equal and full recognition of which neither a Single Clause nor a Code can provide.
71 Queens Road, Beckenham BR3 4JJ
Our mild Calvinism
From the Revd Jonathan Frais
In ‘Faith of our Fathers’ [May], Mr Middleton writes that ‘Calvinists resented the fact that predestination and its corollary reprobation had no place in Anglican doctrine.’ But it does have a place – the ‘unspeakable comfort’ of Article XVII (Of Predestination and Election) – and so our assurance is grounded in how God gathers a people [Deuteronomy 7.7-8], and what Jesus taught [John 15.16] and Paul celebrated [Ephesians 1.4-5].
11 Coverdale Avenue, Bexhill TN39 4TY
That extra digit
From Mr Anthony Kilmister
I read with a mixture of fascination and incredulity [‘& finally’ May] that the future Edward VIII was sent by his father on a visit to the Holy Fand in 1862.1 am staggered since this was 32 years before he was born and test-tube babies were not the rage in those days.
Believe me, Sir, it is my practice to always say ‘If it’s in New Directions it must be true!’ but even I had to reach for a pinch of salt in face of this history lesson.
Better late than never
From Mr Christopher Holden
It is boring and predictable that your two pieces in 30Days in April yet again seek to ridicule the name of Wescott House, its staff and students. Those of the house who seek to maintain traditional Anglo-Catholic faith and practice find it disappointing that our brothers ‘in another place’ continue to find pleasure in such jibes.
Wescott House, Jesus Lane, Cambridge CB5 8BP
From Mr Christopher Pierpont
Two things occur to me in connection with the Synod vote to ban some of us from membership of the BNR 1) If the General Synod does not like a particular party, it is probable that there are at least some things about that party which might be commendable, and 2) if it is the BNP today, it will be UKIP tomorrow, and even the Tories by the end of the week.
7 Greenway Close, Llandrindod Wells FD1 6SA
Tell me what to do
From a parish priest
Forgive me for sending an anonymous letter: like so many sinners I can be more ashamed of asking a question than in giving an opinion.
Ours is a semi-rural, largely white parish, but the European elections give us direct exposure to the BNP, with the opportunity to vote for that legal but unchristian party. I would be inclined to include a reasoned, Bible-based condemnation, perhaps not as a sermon but as part of a sermon.
I wonder now whether I can honourably do so. My moral authority to condemn is in part, it seems to me, based not on law, but on the fact of having to share the moral decision with my parishioners. Which, of course, I can no longer do. I am not permitted by General Synod to be a member of that party – so I have no moral decision to make, and I cannot (metaphorically) put my money where my mouth is.
It is true that I could vote for them (the ban is, strictly, only on membership of the party), but I feel that I am now a spectator to this debate, and somehow have no proper right to pronounce on the subject. This may not be what Synod intended, and I dare say that if I was back in the inner city (as I once was) I should not be trifling with scruples. But there you go.
[Name and address supplied]
Letters for publication should be sent to:
2A The Cloisters, Gordon Square
London WC1H 0AG