For as long as I can remember, I’ve probably always affirmed the gifts of women for ministry. In college, in a discussion with a Hebrew Bible scholar and feminist, I was told I was a “bad inerrantist” for accepting even her authority as a professor. Closer to my senior year, my Calvinist friends from Reformed University Fellowship and I would also argue over women’s ordination. Back then, I was ill equipped to defend my position even though I managed to point out women who were in leadership in the early church. My points were dismissed, and I was “scandalized” as an Egalitarian Christian who voted DEMOCRAT. OH NO’s!!!!
Fortunately, I also had a closer circle of friends at the Baptist Student ministries and the local baptist church I attended. To put it politely, Al Mohler named this church a group of heretics for ordaining women a long time ago. So while I was shamed by one group, I was affirmed (in my Egalitarian Dudebroism) in another community.
I was happy with the results of last Monday’s vote by the Church of England to ordain women bishops. Ecclessial theology disputes aside, it was the right thing to do. I agree with Stanley Ntagali, Archbishop of Kampala/Primate of Uganda , “The most important matter in selecting Bishops is their personal commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, an apostolic calling, and a demonstrated commitment to living and leading under the authority of God’s Word written.”
The problem with all of what I just mentioned is: WHY DOES IT EVEN MATTER? As my friend Sarah Moon says, men are heavily invested in patriarchy, so us commenting on the timing, whether it was too late or too soon is irrelevant. The only time that matters is NOW. You are either for women’s ordination or not.
Now, there are African-American male writers who argue that Black men didn’t practice patriarchy because they did not have any economic or political power. These same writers however are far from being invested in mutual relationships with women. Whether it is Gaslighting women’s experiences of sexual assault or claiming anything women say to be a “power move” this doth not look like advocacy for equality.
The view Black men have not benefitted from patriarchy is absolutely false. Black male leadership rarely goes questioned in politics ( Charlie Rangel, ahem!) and in the church ( Bishop Edde Long, for ex.). Black men like myself are as seen as the defacto leaders and spokespersons for our race, as if Black women haven’t experienced racism. In fact, a concrete example of this is during the Civil Rights Movement a number of women were in leadership roles and were activists, only to be overshadowed by the men. For more on the history, see the book, Freedom’s Daughters by Lynne Olson. A contemporary example today is the Neo-Calvinist Movement and its selection of Holy Hip Hop artists and black male authors who hold complementarian and anachronistic views of the history of black families.
Abolitionist and suffragist activist Frederick Douglass argued that absolute power concedes nothing. In his book, Why We Can’t Wait, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily” (80). Now, there are many ways men hold on to privilege and positions of power over others, which really should be service because of the nature of Christ. One is the open and honest complementarian denial of women’s ordination. I know where Al Mohler and John Piper stand on this issue. They aren’t backing down anytime soon, and neither am I.
Truth be told, I would rather work with complementarians mentioned above than men who are lukewarm about their position. In a post over at Patheos “Progressive” Christian entitled 3 Reasons why The Church Of England Decision Is Right On Time, Zach Hoag concluded,
” If our ecclesiology is too low, we might scoff at a lack of progress. We might compare this with liberation happening in other corners of the Church and deem it lame. But if our hearts are oriented toward the totality of God’s liberating work, then we will see in this not just the political dimensions but the beautiful and lasting effects for the Church universal.”
The common criticism that “radical” egalitarians and feminists have “too low” of an ecclessiology is one usually argued by NeoAnaBaptist (mostly white, male) writers trying to follow in the footsteps of Stanley Hauerwas. One basic premise is that sociological cues show us that progress is inevitable, and so churches have to be slow and patient in implementing social changes. The other premise is the ever beckoning call to unity. White NeoAnabaptists never give us details about what this unity requires, and whose terms this unity is going to be on, BUT THEY SURE DO LOVE TO TALK ABOUT IT!
“That’s another way of saying that faithfulness entails unity. Yes, there are some issues that justify division, but those issues, again, must be painstakingly discerned.”
Whose understanding of faithfulness do we go with? What if being faithful means thought-provoking critiques and peaceable but “not-so-civil” engagement with the status quo in line with the prophets during Israel’s monarchy and exile? There are some folks who like to call themselves “prophets” but they don’t like talking about the difference between false and true prophets. While Jeremiah was preaching doom and gloom, false prophets were pointing to the temple (their ecclessiology) as the safe, foundational point of reference.
Bottom line: the White NeoAnabaptist arguments of claiming to have a “high ecclessiology” are elitist, and show a rather low view of the laity to be persuaded on women’s ordination. It’s a Top-Down #EmpireBusiness approach. I don’t think one can claim to actually talk about liberation if they prefer their abstract, hierarchal ecclessiologies over the very real, concrete livelihoods of women. The choice of Liberation always involves the choosing of the concrete over and against the abstract, praxis over the theoretical.
The right time is always NOW. The Kingdom is here NOW in the present as well as future. THE HOLY SPIRIT empowers women and men in the here and NOW.
*this is my first post for the #faithfeminisms synchroblog