Keeping Older Women out of Church

My last blog post concerned the issue on getting blokes into church. As churches, we struggle with that. We don’t seem to have the same problem with old women. For the record, I’m all for old women in church. Love them, can’t get enough of them. My mother is one. And who could be against her? But I’m not talking in generally about wonderful older women, I’m talking specifically about the episcopal variety. Two letters have been written this weekend on the thorny issue of women bishops. They are, of course, by definition ‘older women’.

This one from Jonathan Fletcher, the Senior Minister at Emmanuel Wimbledon, concerns the issues surrounding the Consecration of Women Bishops. [Ex animo, as I learnt to my cost at a recent Reform Southwark meetings, means ‘from the heart’. And there was I thinking it was ‘used to be an animal’.] Jonathan wrote to the Church Times. His point is not that the Consecration of Women Bishops is wrong, though he believes that it is, but that the Anglican Denomination is making no provision for those within it who cannot in conscience accept the oversight of female episcopacy. It’s a brilliant letter. It’s well worth reading not only for the content, not only for the logic of his argument but mainly for the gracious manner in which he writes.

The Times has a letter here on the issue of the Presiding Bishop of ECUSA, Katherine Jefferts Schori. The issue with her is not simply that she’s a woman, but that she’s a false teacher. Let me quote the letter,

Bishop Schori is well known for her doctrinal statements and practice that are contrary to the teaching of the Bible. She is also well known for initiating many litigations against orthodox congregations within the Episcopal Church and defrocking doctrinally orthodox bishops and clergy, so exacerbating disunity in the Anglican communion. Only recently she defied the instruments of the Anglican communion by reneging on the agreement made by the Episcopal Church to abide by the moratorium regarding the consecration of actively gay and lesbian bishops.

I wouldn’t let her run a Sunday School class. But she’s been invited to preach and preside at Holy Communion at Southwark Cathedral. It’s no real surprise. In the time I’ve been in London, it’s not exactly been a bastion of evangelicalism! Quite the opposite. We ought to expect more from senior officials in the Diocese, but I’ve long given up on that. But good on ‘the boys’ for writing. They’ll get some flak. But if we’re going to remain in such a theologically shot denomination then we need to constantly and loudly distance ourselves from heresy so that it’s clear that those who spout it don’t represent us. Whether it’ll make any difference remains to be seen. I’m not holding my breath. I suspect that they’ll go on gathering round them teachers who say what their itching ears want to hear [2 Timothy 4:3]. It’s just a shame that orthodox evangelical anglicans are paying them to do this.

6 thoughts on “Keeping Older Women out of Church

  1. Phil C June 14, 2010 / 1:50 pm

    They are good letters. I am encouraged by the mix of people who signed the letter to The Times.

  2. Grandmère Mimi June 14, 2010 / 2:07 pm

    “The issue with her is not simply that she’s a woman, but that she’s a false teacher.”

    What about the commandment in the Bible about not bearing false witness? Everything in the paragraph that you quoted from the letter is untrue. I suppose that does not matter. And the writers could not even get Bishop Katharine’s name right

    The Presiding Bishop is a woman, and she’s broken into the old boys’ club of male bishops. The old guys just can’t handle it, and apparently you and other threatened males like you can’t handle that situation, either. Sad.

    • theurbanpastor June 14, 2010 / 2:34 pm

      Mimi
      Thank you for your comments.
      It does matter if anything that’s been said is untrue. Presumably if anything that’s been said is untrue it can br proven beyong reasonable doubt in a law court. I look forward with eager anticipation to the libel case!
      I’m not sure that I’m going to be able to persuade you otherwise, but my opposition to Women Bishops comes from theological convictions borne from a commitment to biblical authority not mysogynistic tendencies. I feel threatened by lots of things but American Women Bishops isn’t even in my top 100.

  3. Grandmère Mimi June 14, 2010 / 2:54 pm

    urban pastor, I assure you that we shall not meet in court. I doubt that I will be able to convince you, either, but, as we saw in the readings from the Revised Common Lectionary yesterday, Jesus turned Simon the Pharisee’s views about what was proper and improper behavior (for a prostitute no less!) upside down. Perhaps love trumps theological convictions.

    As for the lawsuits against the “orthodox” churches in the US, the plain truth is that those who left the Episcopal Church took property that did not belong to them. That is stealing. Anyone who wishes can leave the church, whether bishop, priest, layperson, or a group, but they may not take the property. The Episcopal Church is a not a congregationalist church, but rather is a hierarchical church, and church property is held in trust for the whole church.

    Blessings and peace.

  4. Grandmère Mimi June 14, 2010 / 3:39 pm

    “Bishop Schori is well known for her doctrinal statements and practice that are contrary to the teaching of the Bible.”

    I can’t answer the above objection by the clergy who signed the letter to the Times, because I don’t know to which of +Katharine’s “doctrinal statements and practice” the clergy refer.

    From Bishop Katherine’s Pentecost letter:

    “At the request of other bodies in the Anglican Communion, this Church held an effective moratorium on the election and consecration of a partnered gay or lesbian priest as bishop from 2003 to 2010. When a diocese elected such a person in late 2009, the ensuing consent process indicated that a majority of the laity, clergy, and bishops responsible for validating that election agreed that there was no substantive bar to the consecration.”

    The Episcopal Church did not consent to an open-ended, forever moratorium and held to the moratorium for 7 years. The consents given to Bishop Mary Glasspool were not focused on the moratorium, but on whether +Mary was considered fit to be a bishop in the Episcopal Church. Her diocese elected her, and, according to due consent process, the decision was made by a comfortable majority that she was.

    I will now retire, having answered the objections as best I can, with little hope of convincing you or others of like mind, but still remaining your sister in Christ.

  5. James June 14, 2010 / 4:25 pm

    With all due respect Grandmere Mimi, (and the bible does command us to treat the older women as mothers), the one case in the gospel which gives us insight into Jesus’ approach to sexual immoratility according to the Jewish law was the case of the woman caught in adultery. I lump practicing homosexuality in with adultery here because, according to Jewish Old Testament law, both were prohibitted sexual conduct. These days it seems to be no longer clear to everyone what is and what isnt sin. But for the sake of argument, we’ll put them together here. So the religious leaders (we could include Simon the Pharisee here) brought her to Jesus and said that according to the law, she should be stoned, and what did he have to say? They wanted to test Jesus to see if he would over turn the law, so that they could accuse him. However Jesus completely upheld the law. He told them in effect that they were free to stone her, according to the law, but he simply suggested that whoever was without sin among them should commence proceedings. Perhaps he was being risky in calling their bluff this way! But not really. He knew there was noone sinless among them. However, he was not condoning sin. He then turned to the woman who he had thus spared, and said ‘go and sin no more’. And I’m sure, after such a gracious, saving encounter with Christ, that she did just that – went and changed her life and gave up her sinful ways.
    I personally dont have a problem with a woman being a bishop, if she is the best person for the job. I nearly used a famous description of Margaret Thatcher, who was described as ‘the best man we had’! Sometimes women are better leaders than men, possibly, often so!
    However I do think the issue here is that, as Richard quotes, she is indeed a false teacher. She, and other liberals like here, would effectively change the above gospel story and put the words in Jesus mouth, to the woman caught in sin, ‘Go and carry on sinning dear, and ignore all these nasty bigotted hypocrites – I just proved that they are all sinners too, so you can just carry on’.
    Exposing the hypocrisy of hypocrites is not a license to indulge in immorality – that just replaces one set of hypocrites with another.
    The lesson to take from Jesus example is that none of us are fit to judge each other, and that we should all turn from our sins.

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