An old-fashioned liberal

Peter Mullen reflects on the decision by the Governing Body of the Church in Wales to allow the ordination of women to the episcopate

Where Wales leads can England fail to follow? The Church in Wales has just voted in favour of the consecration of women as bishops. What I found interesting about this was the remark earlier this week by the Archbishop of Wales saying, ‘The consecration of women bishops is obviously theologically right.’ Interesting because if it is so obvious why didn’t it occur to the church for the first two thousand years of its history?

The integrity which opposes the ordination of women to the priesthood as well as to the episcopacy is no mere misogynist whim.

Theological integrity

Despite what the Archbishop of Wales says, it is a theological integrity and it was outlined as long ago as the Forties by the great Christian apologist C.S. Lewis. He said:

‘Suppose the reformer begins to say that God is like a good woman. Suppose she says that we might just as well pray to Our Mother which art in heaven as to Our Father. Suppose that the Incarnation might just as well have taken a female form. Suppose the Second Person of the Trinity be as well called Daughter of God as Son of God.

Suppose finally that the mystical marriage betwixt ‘Christ and his Church’ were reversed, that the Church became the Bridegroom and Christ the Bride. All this is involved in the claim that a woman can represent God as priest.’

A profound shift

Lewis concludes devastatingly but incontrovertibly: ‘If all those supposals were ever carried into effect, we should be embarked on a different religion.’ Well Mr Lewis, they have been and we are. There is a profound shift in original mystical theology, in the psychology of ritual and in our beliefs concerning the Divine ontology when a female stands at the altar and declares, ‘This is my body.’

These things are not trivial: they go to the heart of Christian apprehension where they actually make the relationship between God and humankind a matter for experimentation.

After agonized prayer, Our Lord appointed twelve male apostles. The Gospel says he ordained them (St Mark 3.14). He had warm and close relations with women, and was even accused on occasions of being too friendly with them. But he did not ordain any of them – not even Mary Magdalene, the first witness to his resurrection. We are not at liberty to think that this decision of Our Lord’s was just a matter of cultural relativism: as if Jesus were merely primitive and reactionary and stood in need of correction by the militant feminists of our day. He did not ordain any women and so we must assume that there was a reason for his decision.

Secular standards

Those who favour the ordination of women and the consecration of women bishops generally cite the example of the other professions. They say, ‘We have women doctors, women judges, women astronauts – why not women priests and bishops?’ The question simply misses the point by substituting secular standards of judgement for legitimate church order based on biblical and patristic authority.
I am an old-fashioned liberal. By this I mean that I do not expect everyone to agree with me, but I do believe strongly that allowances must be made for people who beg to differ. Even such a dyed-in-the-wool liberal as John Stuart Mill understood that democracy is about more than counting heads: it is about ensuring that dissenting minorities have their views represented. Twenty-one years ago, such allowances were made for those who could not conscientiously accept women as priests.

The same sort of provision should have been made for the significant minority who cannot accept women bishops. That it was not made amounts to the criminal dispossession of traditional Christians. There is a female ascendancy in the church and it has a certain character. It is broadly feminist, left-wing in politics and obsessed with environmental issues.

Dearth of doctrine

The church will become dominated by a single party – the politically-correct party. There will be demands for equality between traditional views of marriage and same sex partnerships. We are already hearing a lot more about light bulbs and carbon footprints. There will be a corresponding dearth of doctrine and theology.

For many of the people who will assume control of the church are generally uneducated: they attended dumbed-down theological colleges where little was taught except about diversity, feminism,
environmentalism, institutional racism and the evils of English history. Really we are seeing the growth of a paganized, feminized, secularized and trivialized church in which those who profess traditional faith are ridiculed and marginalized. ND

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