Men, Women, Bishops, The Church…

I am a little hesitant in writing this post, usually I write about controversial issues from a definite standpoint and usually do a reasonable job of arguing my case. However, on the issue of women bishops I am undecided. Why then am I writing this post? As a Christian I feel it is right for me to say something about an issue that so many secular people are commenting on; is this simply a matter of discrimination in the workplace, or is there possibly more to it?

In starting, as I have in other posts I would like to say that I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, nothing got in there by mistake, and nothing that God wanted to be written in it was omitted. I hope and pray that the Church believes this too, because if they don’t, as one person commented, they might as well have meerkats for bishops!

There are many verses of scripture that are quoted about silence and hats when discussing this issue, I would like to approach things slightly differently.

In the beginning…

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

In the very first chapter of the very first book of the Bible, we see that God created mankind in his own image. We also see that he created male and female and that both male and female were created in the image of God. As Christians, we believe in the Holy Trinity, God is Triune. Not three gods, one God with three persons – all distinct, but all equal. As Christians we believe that this is something that makes God great, not only is he perfect, but he is the perfect picture of relationship – God is in relationship with himself! The different persons of the Trinity have different roles, this does not make them unequal, just different. Is it possible that something similar exists for the men and women that God made in his image? Could it be that God made men and women equal but better suited to different roles?

Jumping ahead…

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Ephesians 5:22-24

Now I guess you may be thinking what has this to do with bishops? At first glance not a lot, what I am trying to demonstrate is the role being described. Paul is saying, that in a marriage, the husband is to exercise headship over his wife just as Christ is head of the church. Just as human relationships echo the perfect relationship of the trinity, so marriage is a reflection of the Church. I am guessing that a lot of feminists will be getting very anxious at this point, especially with the use of the word ‘submit’ and all the connotations that go with it however, Paul goes on…

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:25-33

This submission is not a ‘down on your knees, grovel in the dirt’ slavery kind of submission, this is a respect from a position of safety knowing that you are being loved by someone willing to die for you kind of submission. The thing to extract from this is that husbands are instructed to love and wives are instructed to submit to that love.

Given that human relationships echo the perfect relationship of the trinity and the marriage relationship (which man is given headship of) reflects the Church, it becomes slightly easier to see where the traditional view that only men should be in positions of leadership within the Church comes from. When you start to look at the issue from this point of view, it is not about discrimination in the workplace, it is about a fulfilment of God-given roles.

The first thing I did when I read about the ‘No’ vote was to speak to my mum (which may give you an idea about how I view women teaching the Bible)! She made an interesting point about how the overall situation felt…

In the past over issues of slavery, poverty and education, the Church has always been a spearhead challenging the people to think differently and be more like the person of Christ regarding these matters. In this situation, it feels like the Church is jumping on the ‘equality’ bandwagon in an attempt to conform and appeal to more people. We know that it is not for Christians to conform…

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

So, women bishops, yay or nay? Paul describes man as ‘the head of the wife’ as Christ is ‘the head of the church’. Any earthly leaders of the Church are still only members of that Church under Christ which incidentally Paul describes as ‘she’. It would be no bad thing if the leaders of the Church exercised their ‘wifely’ duties and submitted fully to the authority of Christ over all matters; and as we have read it is the role of women to submit…

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2 comments on “Men, Women, Bishops, The Church…
  1. […] would finally allow women to become bishops in the Church of England was anger. After reading the blog post of a somewhat troubled Christian friend (who is certainly not a misogynist) on the subject, I felt I […]

  2. Anton Green says:

    Perhaps at the very core of the debate is a confusion over the concept of submisson. Christians can not deny that Christianity is about submission: submission to the Godhead, the gospel and the Church which we are called to serve. As regards whether one gender is to submit more than another, this seems an appropriate question to ask when the word seems to have become associated with subordination. In Grudem and Rainey’s ‘Pastoral Leadership for Manhood and Womanhood’, they describe that the ‘Biblical View of Submission …requires her to submit to him…, while no passage indicates that a husband should be subordinate to his wife’ (GRUDEM W & Rainey D (ed.s) Pastoral Leadership for Manhood and Womanhood, p.203-4). It is in the casual exchange of the word submit for subordinate that significant problems lie. These two words are not synonymous because the former is theological and about ‘dying to self’, the latter is worldly, denoting inferiority. When a woman’s Christian submission is also subordinationism to men, it seems that she is, as a consequence, denied the role of oversight in the Church. However, scholars like E L Mascall, despite being a Conservative, say that ‘behind St Paul’s thought about the man and the woman… the fundamental relation is not one of inferiority but of mutual perfection and of derived partnership’ (MASCALL, E.L., ‘Women and the Priesthood of the Church’ p.119

    One little perspective on submission…Anton

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