Monday, 9 June 2008

On the Ordination of Women Part IV(ii): Headship

(Continuing some thoughts on how thin the headship thing is as an argument against the ordination of women.)

To my knowledge, the only other passage which refers to headship is to be found in the household code of Ephesians (5:21-33), where it is explicitly stated that the husband is head over his wife as Christ is head over the church. Notice it is husband and wife, which seems not irrelevant to the debate. And notice that no attempt is made to connect the headship of husband over wife with ministerial leadership in the Christian community. Indeed, when Ephesians speaks of the ascended Christ's gifts to the church, the ministries mentioned are ones we know women held.

It is not only the headship idea that is thin. There is only one text in the whole of the NT that actually forbids women to teach men (1Tim 2:2), although, again, this might refer only to husbands and wives. There is another which commands women to be silent in church (1Cor 14:34f, although remember in 1Cor 11 Paul acknowledges that women are praying and prophesying in church, and safeguards this ministry through what he writes), while none of the passages around the submission of wives (not women in general) in the household codes and in Titus (Col 3:18f; Ephes 5:21-33; 1Peter 3:1-7; Tit 2:5) make a connection between the subordination of wife to husband and ministerial leadership in the church. On the other hand the NT is full of women's ministry that gives them authority within the church. Junia is a good example, the woman apostle mentioned by Paul. (Rom 16:7) There is also a woman deacon named Phoebe (Rom 16:1), and women prophets (Ac 21:9; 1Cor 11:5), as well as various other female workers Paul mentions inhis letters. (Rom 16:3, 6, 12; Phil 4:2f cf 1Thess 5:12f)

And one final point: those who think that a woman cannot have spiritual authority over a man, what about the Queen's role in the CofE? Many of those against the ordination of women seem also to take seriously BCP's acknowledgement of the monarch's spiritual authority in the church. Seems a bit odd.

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