Tag Archives: ordination

Quip of the Day: Why I Don't Believe Men Should Be Ordained As Bishops

Cover of "The Screwtape Letters"

Cover of The Screwtape Letters

A few weeks ago, there was all this bruhaha over the Anglican church narrowly voting against ordaining women as bishops. Amanda posted her thoughts and recognized soft-complimentarian Mike Bird for his thoughts who suggested, “Women bishops are inevitable.”

I would like to make a few points. I am all for women being ordains as pastors and ministers, just as full heartedly as I am for men as well. I do not support women being picked for bishops, or men for that matter! Why would that be? Because I am a Baptist, and I believe as a faithful Protestant in the priesthood of all believers. I live in the state of Texas, where even the Catholics behave with a certain neoconservative Southern Baptist swagger that’s easy to spot. Some may say it comes down to my biblical interpretation, and that it is subjective in nature. While I would call that crazy talk, I think one only need to glance at both recent history and church history in the past: parochial church structures are just as chaotic (if not more so) as congregational churches.

One typical anti- “low” church perspective and argument comes from the likes of C.S. Lewis, who claimed to believe in a “Mere Christianity” (only slightly tinged with high church conservative Anglican biases) to completely distorting the congregational principle in The Screwtape Letters, Jesus desires (according to Lewis through the words of Screwtape) “the parochial organization” because it brings “a unity of place and not of likings, it brings people of different classes and psychology together” (see chapter 16). Meanwhile, as many Christians do, Lewis argued that the free church tradition is the church of the social clubs, the cliques, etc. How can anyone honestly read anything about Christian history and affirm this as true? And let’s talk about how problematic the high church/low church dichotomy is too, should we not? Such a division reflects a logic that allows for the continuation of top/down gender hierarchies, even in the form of “soft complementarianism!” There is no high church nor low church, but “THE CHURCH” and what I don’t know about you and what that means, but “the Church” for me only means that group of people who have in history confessed Jesus as LORD and Justifier and live their lives for causes of justice.

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Zilpha Elaw: 19th Century Inerrantist for Abolition and Women’s Ordination

I have perhaps become a little infamous for my negative theology and criticisms of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy. If people think that my outright rejection of this statement makes me a heretic, then so be it. I could care less about that label anyhow.

It’s a shame that some of the best “defenders” of orthopraxis/orthodoxy and of evangelical orientation are ignored because they are either northerners, people of color, or women. In this case, Zilpha was all three (she was born in Philly in about 1790). As I was reading and re-reading through Zilpha Elaw’s Memoirs last week, I found some interesting and even new theological possibilities with her views. Although she claims at one point in the book that it was just the Lord and her doing it all alone; it is far from the truth, in fact, the very same page she makes such a claim, she goes on to tell the story of how she was discipled by the Methodist tradition. In fact, the noun Methodist appears every hundred words in her autobiography (that’ called an overexaggeration and a joke, people). Honestly, I found her allegorical interpretation Scripture re-freshing (she was living during the early 19th century). Concerning the Bible, she says,

“it is the high privilege of those who are begotten by the Word of truth [re:Christ] to read the Scriptures, not as the word of man, but as they are indeed, the Word of God, a sacred volume, the production of the infinite God […]”

(page 133)

Granted, given her stances of being pro-abolition of slavery and pro-women’s ordination (both issues I will deal with in later posts), for her to hold a definition of the Bible as the Word of God, with Jesus being the Word would be considered quite peculiar, especially in the Slave states of the U.S. where inerrantist Christians were both staunchly pro-African enslavement and anti-women’s ordination.

What to make of all of this? First, I would say that Zilpha Elaw has a superior definition of Scripture’s function compared to today’s run of the mill conservative evangelical in the United States. The key to the Bible for Zilpha Elaw was not human rationality (re: male/phallocentric reason) but the Holy Spirit who allows us to partake in the Intelligence of the Triune God. For Elaw, Scripture was not about lording our particular doctrines and traditions over each other (I am saving that for another post too), but for the purpose of becoming “increasingly assimilated to the same image, from one degree of glory to another, as by the Spirit of the Lord” (Ibid). Her doctrine of assimilation rings so much of Clement of Alexandria for me (I could not help it!). I think an appropriate, tentative phrasing of a definition of Zilpha Elaw’s view of the Scriptures, similar to John Calvin< and Zwingli/a> as trustworthy would be this, “That the Bible does not err in that it leads us to all things necessary for sanctification.” Close to Calvin, just replacing salvation with sanctification, since that was a big part of Elaw’s Holiness theology.

I know what you are thinking. What about women’s ordination? What about Elaw’s anti-slavery arguments? How did Zilpha Elaw feel about men who gossip too much? And just why did she consider the Founding Fathers to be apostates? I will get to them in the near future, but for now, I just wanted to introduce her to you.

For more, read Zilpha’s story in William L. Andrews’ Sisters of the Spirit.

Epistle to the G̶a̶l̶a̶t̶i̶a̶n̶s̶ Megachurches: Ch. 3

You ignorant megachurches! Who was it that bought you? You know the story better than anyone! Christ died for you!  The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Was your faith ever real, or did you simply find a church big enough to hide from God?  Are you so stupid? You had turned your focus on God, and yet you have ended up fully devoted to yourselves again?  Did you experience so much for nothing?—if it really was for nothing.  Well, let me ask you this: Do your big lights, amazing stages, radically expensive buildings, and slick 3-point sermons make God show up? Or does God show up and move among you despite your ridiculous conformity to the vacuous culture around you?

Take Abraham for example. He was pretty wealthy, but he put all of his wealth on the line numerous times. He left his culture and people behind. He left his family behind. He took on Lot, whom he shared with and it cost him financially. He gave 10% of his tithe to the local priest Melchizedek. He wasn’t stingy, and often was poor himself. Why is it so strange to your ears to hear about serving others? God blessed Abraham saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.”  You all benefit from Abraham’s faith. You didn’t earn it. You didn’t pay for it. Abraham did. Yet you resent others in your country benefiting from your wealth. Please, compare your combined blessings with how the rest of  “all the gentiles” are getting blessed. Hoard much?

Everyone who relies only on themselves will eventually fail. Haven’t you heard the song, “Lean on me?” Remember that line, “Lean on me, when you’re not strong. And I’ll be your friend. I’ll help you carry on. For, it won’t be long, till I’m gonna need somebody to lean on.” You simply can’t do life alone. So why so much hate for those who have admitted they can’t help themselves? Can you give them a job? Those candidates you elected haven’t given them jobs. If you are God’s hands, then you are making God a liar, because the gentiles, and even those poor within the church, aren’t blessed.

Why am I making such a big deal about the poor in comparison to your richness? I wish I had a more intellectual answer than the one I am about to give. The reality is, helping the poor doesn’t make sense. Ignoring, blaming, exploiting, or getting rid of the poor would help everyone else a great deal. Unfortunately, while benefiting financially, we cannot spiritually afford to do this. Because when I read the scripture, from the very beginning to the very end, taking the words of the prophets in equal measure with the words of Paul, and everything in-between, I cannot escape the fact that God always hears the cry of the oppressed. God always hears when the poor cry out. The rich never, ever, deserve or get special protection from God, but the poor do. Many times, the scriptures condemn the rich simply for being rich in the presence of the poor. Time and time again, God commands us to help the poor. NEVER, EVER, are we told IN ANY WAY to help the rich. We aren’t told to safeguard their wealth. We aren’t told to help them get richer. We aren’t told to focus our evangelical efforts on them. To the contrary in every case. How then, can you justify building an entire church movement based on having thousands of people in the same building every week, whose faith amounts to the slickest presentation of religious goods and services, while outside your walls, there are people who God cares about suffering, while you protect your rights to have more wealth?

You sound rather like the pharisees and Sadducees that Jesus argued with. You have gotten so good at parsing words that you can explain with great flair why it is speaking against corporate and individual greed never gets brought up, but speaking against abortion and gay marriage is a weekly occurrence.  Shame on you! You manipulate the words of our very Christ to suit your own needs – the needs of the few.

Pay attention! In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.  As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is no longer Rich or Poor, there is no longer Republican or Democrat, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.  And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. But be warned, if you continue to act and live out the differences, ignoring the poor, equating Christianity with Republican politics, and excluding women from top leadership, you will lose your place in God’s community entirely.