There must be many who, secretly or not so secretly, despise the church for the fact that in the year 2013 large sections of the church still teach that allowing women or practising homosexual ministers is wrong and against God's will. Fortunately, our standard is not what society may think of us but rather the word of God as our 'supreme rule of faith'. Still, even accepting this there are disagreements within the church over these two issues.
Recently, I was pondering the biblical case (or lack thereof) for practising homosexual ministers and it suddenly occurred to me that I'd thought about these issues before in another debate within the church, this time on women ministers. It is interesting to reflect on the extent to which those arguing for the acceptance of women ministers and those arguing for the acceptance of practising homosexual ministers use much the same type of arguments for making their case.
One argument involves the Christian teaching on gender and the other the Christian teaching on sexuality. Any attempt to make a biblical case for them involves explaining away explicit bible verses to the contrary. This does not automatically make the ideas wrong – there are parts of the Bible which are no longer applicable today (the Old Testament sacrifice system or civil laws for Israel for example). But it's important to note that to faithfully argue against what the Bible says on a matter must involve using another part of Scripture that overrides the other. For example, the New Testament authors are quite clear that because Jesus implemented a new covenant the old order of things passed away. Hence we have a biblical reason to not obey another part of the Bible.
Edited last paragraph because I didn't realise women priests were already allowed by the CoE. Terms like bishops and priests confuse us reformed folk!
A year or so ago I was having a discussion with a friend about girls and I passed on a particular pearl of wisdom (not my own): “Sympathy not solutions.” To my concern the expression on my friend’s face furrowed into a confused frown so I expanded my explanation saying that when a woman comes to you with a problem unless they specifically ask for help all they want is sympathy whereas for men we expect and give solutions. I could see the cogs turning in his mind as he assimilated this information before with a great cry of frustration he said: “But that’s not logical!” My reply was a wry laugh. The point of my hopefully amusing anecdote is that men and women are different. It may seem a pretty obvious observation, akin to the observation of Newton that apples fall to the ground, but it is a truth that I feel is often forgotten. For instance, I bet some people reading this will immediately assume that by different I meant ‘inferior’ or that my story somehow is meant to reflect badly on women (when frankly it says more about men’s inability to cope with anyone more emotionally complex than a teaspoon). The reason I mention this is because of the recent decision by the Church of England not to allow women ministers, well, it was more that not enough people agreed that they should allow them. In particular I write because of the reaction I observed on Facebook to this decision.
The comments made by my non-Christian friends did not bother me too much for this is a question of Scripture and theology and the unspiritual man cannot understand the things of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2 v 14). But it was the reaction of my Christian friends that saddened me for many were expressing disappointment that such a decision had been made. So I write this letter because the love of Christ compels me to and because I know we all share a desire to love God with all our heart, soul and mind; that we want to obey him in every aspect of our life because as Jesus said: “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14v15) and that we hold Scripture to be the Word of God, inspired and our final authority on all matters of religion.
Sexist! Abusive! Misogynistic! Old fashioned! Backwards!
I imagine that your initial response to the title probably went along the above lines maybe even to the point of screaming at your computer screen and strangling the air. It’s hardly surprising – biblical truth is rarely popular and no more so in the case of manhood and womanhood. We’re all naturally rebels against God and this shows in our thought patterns. And we’re all coming from a cultural background that is at complete odds with the biblical perspective. Which is why what I’m about to say may make you mad. But adverse feelings do not mean that what I’m saying isn’t true.
So let’s get this straight. This is not the Benjamin Frank Mildred View of Gender Issues nor is it Ye Old Victorian View. Instead, this is God’s view as expressed in the Bible and as our Creator he designed it all to work this way. As with everything I say judge me on how strictly I keep to the Bible. If I stray from that then shoot me down by all means but if not then keep in mind that you’re not going be arguing with me but with God. The only authority I claim is that of scripture.