Comments: More press coverage and comment

Susan Leafe says she voted no because she believes in equality and in an inclusive church.

Posted by Randal Oulton at Thursday, 22 November 2012 at 3:26am GMT

While Welby is 'listening to all the other bishops' perhaps he would like to remember that not one of them is a woman. Just maybe he ought to listen to a few women as well.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Thursday, 22 November 2012 at 7:49am GMT

Whatever side of this issue that you take, the wider issue is the political perception of the church as a credible partner with the State in shaping national policy.

There will be significant debates next year regarding the future of marriage. I would suspect that any attempts of the church to influence those debates or uphold the importance of religious exemptions will be viewed as an unwarranted intrusion upon civil matters.

That's not necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps it's time to: 'Give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and give back to God the things that are God's.'

Posted by David Shepherd at Thursday, 22 November 2012 at 7:56am GMT

But what does Susie Leafe's husband think?

Posted by Pam Smith at Thursday, 22 November 2012 at 11:41am GMT

Conversation with teenage daughter last night

Daughter: So does the Church not believe women are equal?

Dad: Some people in the Church do, others think they’re not equal, that women have to submit to men, that women can’t have authority over men, others think that they’re equal but different - complementary.

Daughter: Complementary?

Dad: Yes, some people believe there are some things that men just can’t do (like having babies) and some things that women just can’t do (like be priests or bishops)....

Daughter: And having authority is one of those, the way bishops have authority?

Dad: Well, yes.

Daughter: So the Church of England doesn’t really believe women are equal, does it?

Dad: Well, some people in the Church, probably most people in the Church, really do believe it.

Daughter: But the Church as a whole still says it’s okay to believe that?

Dad: I guess that’s fair....

Daughter: So, if the Church says it’s okay to insist that women can’t hold authority, if they say it’s okay for a woman to vow to obey her husband, then the Church doesn’t believe in women’s equality. Isn’t that true?

Dad: Again some people in the Church holds those views....

Daughter: Yeah, but then the Church has to be honest: if it’s okay to hold those views in the Church, then the Church doesn’t actually believe in women’s equality.

Dad: I’m afraid you’re probably right.

Posted by Joe at Thursday, 22 November 2012 at 1:17pm GMT

From the article by Susie Leafe "the Church of England wanted women bishops but within the framework of an inclusive church ... voting no was a vote for unity in the church and we are now in a strong position to work towards better legislation that will enable women to become bishops and all traditions in the Church to flourish."

Ms. Leafe articulates perfectly the misguided premise that grounds the debate about gender equality in the churches. Like many who hold her position she confuses inclusion with the nurturing of two parallel universes, one in which men and women are defined on the basis of equality and one in which men and women are defined on the basis of difference. The latter produces not unity but a truce, and its is women, whose human rights must be abridged to keep it, who pay the price.

The Church must commit, first and foremost, to the equality of men and women. Are people who claim to be something of a "gospel people" committed to the unity of the human family or not? To be otherwise deprives the community, the men and women in it, and even those who oppose the ordination of women, of an opportunity to wrestle with the demands of social equality. Besides, the gospel is not about biology as destiny, its about human dignity as destiny.

Having said all of that, perhaps legislation that attempted to merely tolerate women bishops while continuing to anoint sexism as a credible and dominant "theological" motif, is better off the order paper. Perhaps it really was, "a wolf in sheep's clothing", as the similitude goes.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Thursday, 22 November 2012 at 1:32pm GMT

Interesting comment, David. I agree with your tentative implication (not for me, of course, 'tentative'). The boundaries between church and state are disputable, especially with the C of E as 'established', but church leaders constantly behave and argue as if they don't exist at all, which is a serious error, alike intellectual, political, religious and (I would say) moral.

Posted by John at Thursday, 22 November 2012 at 2:22pm GMT

Perhaps one positive thing the Bishops could do is to address the idea that complementarianism is somehow 'Biblical'.

They might also like to have a go at the argument that Jesus is subordinate to the Father within the Trinity while they're at it.

Posted by Pam Smith at Thursday, 22 November 2012 at 2:51pm GMT

Seen the headlines on gay marriage fast-track and Sir Tony Baldry's comments. Like I said, 'I would suspect that any attempts of the church to influence those debates or uphold the importance of religious exemptions will be viewed as an unwarranted intrusion upon civil matters.'

The State is seeking a divorce from the Church, citing unreasonable behaviour. It has no truck with those it now sees as political pygmies.

Posted by David Shepherd at Thursday, 22 November 2012 at 6:14pm GMT

Can anyone remember who it was who argued, during the debate, that Jesus is subordinate to the Father, hence women's subordination is acceptable? Surely equality between the Son and the Father is affirmed in the Athanasian Creed?

Posted by Savi Hensman at Thursday, 22 November 2012 at 11:35pm GMT

Angus MacLeay

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 23 November 2012 at 12:08am GMT

"And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other: none is greater, or less than another;
But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together: and co-equal."

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Friday, 23 November 2012 at 2:48am GMT

I think the whole point of the argument is that Jesus is both functionally subordinate to the Father and equal with Him - you may not agree with the position, but there's nothing gained by misrepresenting it.

Posted by Erasmus at Friday, 23 November 2012 at 8:38am GMT

Dear Savi,

I recently read Tom Wright's _How God Became King_. Excellent for the most part, but I couldn't help noticing the juxtaposition of the fact that, in a couple of places, Prof. Wright asserts the subordination of the Son to the Father, with the fact that he talks a lot about there being _two_ great creeds - the Apostles' and the Nicene, leaving out the Athanasian.

Posted by Feria at Friday, 23 November 2012 at 3:01pm GMT

and yet, the same Tom Wright writes a few posts further up in the TA thread:

"All Christian ministry begins with the announcement that Jesus has been raised from the dead. And Jesus entrusted that task, first of all, not to Peter, James, or John, but to Mary Magdalene. Part of the point of the new creation launched at Easter was the transformation of roles and vocations: from Jews-only to worldwide, from monoglot to multilingual (think of Pentecost), and from male-only leadership to male and female together.

Within a few decades, Paul was sending greetings to friends including an “apostle” called Junia (Romans xvi, 7). He entrusted that letter to a “deacon” called Phoebe whose work was taking her to Rome. The letter-bearer would normally be the one to read it out to the recipients and explain its contents. The first expositor of Paul’s greatest letter was an ordained travelling businesswoman."

And the Bishop of Liverpool says:
'Yet I've come to see that to believe “God is the head of Christ” cannot mean that Christ is subordinate to God or that Christ has less authority than God. Otherwise we would be denying the full divinity of Jesus. Therefore, headship in this verse cannot mean that a woman is subordinate to man or has less authority than a man.'

The idea that there is a hierarchical structure in the Trinity that means that God is the boss of the others who have to obey him is appalling theology. It should not be allowed to stand unchallenged.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 23 November 2012 at 4:42pm GMT

I found the former Cardinal Ratzinger's (Pope Benedict) 'Concerning the notion of person in theology' to be one of most cogent explanations of the Trinity in modern times. He starts with Tertullian's Adversus Praxean', the idea of God revealed as ever dialogical in being ('Let us make man', 'the Lord said unto my Lord') and that 'person' must be understood as relation. In Deo nihil secundum accidens dicitur, sed secundum substantiam aut secundum relationem' said Augustine: 'In God, there is nothing accidental, but only substance and relation'.

The former cardinal wrote, 'Relation, being related, is not something superadded to the person, but is the person itself. Put more concretely, the first person does not generate in the sense that the act of generating a Son is added to the already complete person, but the person is the deed of generating, of giving itself, of streaming itself forth. The person is identical with this act of self-donation.' Eqully, the Son is the etern

The language is not of essential substance, but of one essentially relational being. In contrast, gender relations involve the interaction between individuals who are completely diverse and delimited from each other.

Christ is only subordinate in His redemptive role through which the entire universe is bought back from enslavement to a temporal end. The complete self-donation of God streams outward from eternity past as pure revelation into the universe. This is the eternal Son.

I therefore find it hard to relate the divine subordination of Christ to roles of gender ascendancy in the church. A better parallel would involve personal self-sacrifice for the betterment of others.

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 23 November 2012 at 10:17pm GMT

Joe, your daughter is spot on. What a shame that women of her calibre are being turned off from church by outdated sexism disguised as theology. It is the Church's loss in the end.

Posted by serena at Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 11:04am GMT

Angus MacLeay's view of the Trinity stems I suspect from the view held by the authorities in the diocese of Sydney. For this see the book on Sydney Anglicans by Muriel Porter...and for a more sophisticated theological discussion "Reflections in Glass" by the former Primate Abp Peter Carnley.
Sarah Coakley is surely right to feel that the Bishops have been remiss in not pushing the case with critical theological rigour.

Posted by Perry Butler at Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 9:14pm GMT

Dear Erika,

For the avoidance of doubt, I agree with you, both on the importance of women in leadership roles in the early Church and on the structure of the Trinity.

Posted by Feria at Sunday, 25 November 2012 at 3:19pm GMT
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