Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Link to John Richardson article

I have decided to post the article written by John Richardson, the Ugley vicar, ( he said it, not me!) in which he explains that,

"Unsurprisingly, those women drawn to ordination to the priesthood tended to be those less committed to biblical precision, whilst those women drawn to full-time ministry, but of precise views, tended to avoid ordination to the priesthood." ( about paragraph eight)

(NB: this blog accepts no responsibility for the effects on anyone with medical condition such as high blood pressure.)



  2. I am glad you made that clear, Bo :)

  3. I thought that brand of thought was only on this side of the Mediterranean!

  4. So where's your disagreement, Sue?

    You and your readers might be interested in the "Mind of Anglicans" survey carried out on behalf of Cost of Conscience, the results of which were published in 2002 and can be viewed in summary here. The thing is, they do at first glance appear to provide objective support for what I'm saying.

    You see, to me this is a question of fact, not opinion. If I were wrong then there ought to be a similar proportion of theologically 'conservative' women in the Church of England's ordained ministry as there are men. I am not seeing that, but then of course I may be missing it.

  5. If I may, is it possible that the theologically "conservative" woman may not believe it's her place to join the ordained ministry. Just a thought!
    PS: If someone could define for me what "theologically conservative" means, and throw in "biblical precision" too for good measure. I'd appreciate it.

  6. John, how do you define 'theologically conservative'? And what is 'biblical precision'? As Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones used to say, 'let us define our terms!' Otherwise we're just misunderstanding each other.

    Iffy Vicar

  7. Biblical precision I would define as "trying to be precise about our interpretation and application of the Bible". To give an example in this case, 'precision' would be saying that "Historical-grammatical analysis indicates that the first letter to Timothy relates to a specific Ephesian situation that has no general bearing on women's ordination today." Imprecision would be, "Paul was a man, and moreover, a man of his time, so he would say that sort of thing, but it doesn't matter for us."

    Theologically conservative in the Church of England would indicate a commitment to the Bible as God's Word written and the source of what we preach and teach as essential to salvation, the Creeds as a good summary of biblical doctrine, the Prayer Book as a good expression of the biblical understanding of the Sacraments, and the Thirty-nine Articles as a good, though historically conditioned, outline of the faith.

    These are just the sort of issues where the Cost of Conscience survey showed marked differences between male and female Anglican clergy, which is why I drew attention to it.

  8. My disagreement with you is also over the term "precise views" and "biblical precision". What you may see as "precision", someone else may describe as a blinkered and selective application of scripture.

    It is only to be expected that ordained women hold different views from yourself on the issue of the ordination of women! I do not think it fair to then say that ordained women are generally imprecise in the way they approach and interpret scripture.

    I also think it a little strange to say that the church is being "gerrymandered" away from traditionalism. The church may well have been changed by the admission of women to the priesthood, although the very fact women were admitted showed that change was already happening?

    Women clergy are actually a diverse group of individuals who come from a range of traditions and perspectives. That group includes many evangelical women, who believe in scripture as divinely inspired, who are as you define it "theologically conservative." There are also many men, clergy and laity who wholeheartedly support women's gifts and ministries.

    Any research requires interpretation and analysis. I can't comment on the figures and statistics,but I wasn't really impressed by the quality of the analysis shown in the document you linked to.

    I think that women in the church are not the homogenous group that you suggest and the range of attitudes and perspectives is actually quite complex, even within the "labels" we use. Within the "evangelical" label,in particular, we find quite strong differences.

    I have to say I have never met a female priest who used the woolly expression in your "example". I must be associating with a more precise and intelligent class of women!

    Thanks for your comments.

  9. Thanks Sue. JR is just a good example of someone who begins with the answer and then defines the questions and the methods to fit the answer he already has. The clue is in the expression 'God's word written'. Once you've made that judgement, all your Biblical study will be carried out in such a way as to arrive at particular conclusions. So, 'Bibllcal precision' ignores modern scholarship and fastens on to obscurantist readings.

  10. Sigh - the most conservative women would not get ordained, so the average ordained woman must be less conservative than the average ordained man,if it were not so then something very peculiar would have happened.

    I see prejudice on two fronts, one is that evangelicals are better than liberals and the other is that men are better than women.

    I think we accept prejudice against women and homosexuals because we are used to it. If we replaced these terms by the words 'black' and 'white' we would see the prejudice more clearly and remember the sick things that racism caused.

  11. So women who don't believe in the ordination of women don't get ordained - why is anyone arguing about this?

    The argument must be about how scripture is read and interpreted and bringing women into it is a red herring.

  12. True! Thank you, Lesley.

    It is also the case that there are plenty of evangelical women and men who are supportive of women's ministry and it does not follow that liberals read the bible in an imprecise way.

  13. John, according to your definition I'm theologically conservative, and after years of thorough Bible study I reached the conclusion that the ordination of women is God's will.
    But I wonder what you mean by 'God's word written?' Which translations or manuscripts, and which documents? Many misunderstandings have been caused by faulty translation. For instance, in 1 Cor 11 the AV has Paul saying that women must have their heads covered at worship as a sign they are under authority (sorry can't quote precisely, have recently moved & can't find my AV). The Greek says a woman ought to have authority on her head because of the angels. In synagogues men have their head covered as a sign of their authority; women ought to have their heads covered as as sign of their authority. Similarly, in Rom 16:1 Phoebe is described as Diakonon (minster, deacon) of the church at Cenchreae, but many translations describe her as a 'servant' or 'deaconess'. Diakonon can be translated either way but the translators make different choices when it's used of woman than when it's used of a man.
    Then we have in v. 7 Junia who is 'of note among the apostles'; older translations change Junia to Junias because they can't accept Paul would have described a woman in this way.
    I agree with you that the debate for women's ordination has often ducked the serious Bible study, and has thereby done itself no favours.
    Iffy Vicar

  14. Anonymous wrote, "The clue is in the expression 'God's word written'. Once you've made that judgement, all your Biblical study will be carried out in such a way as to arrive at particular conclusions."

    Well, that is just the Anglican view on the Bible, which underlies the Anglican view of the Church. Once you deny that Scripture is 'God's word written', then, of course, you move into a different understanding of not just the Bible, but the Church and its ministry.

    That is what I have observed in the ongoing (we might say 'age old' conflict between Liberals and Conservatives).

    To return to the point of my article, which seems to have been lost, it is this conflict which was not truly resolved (how could it have been) in the debates in General Synod in 1992 and subsequently. The 'fudge' is that the Synod failed to speak clearly one way or the other, and then the institution prejudiced the future development of the Church by selectively ignoring the commitments made in the Act of Synod.

    It was a bad start, and I do not feel things have got better!

    As to women in ministry, of course there are good women, with varying views on this issue, but the fudge factor runs throughout the church and affects both men and women.

    What I see here, incidentally, is a lot of ad hominem comment, beginning with the Ugly views remark onwards, not an actual engagement with argument!

  15. BTW, for what its worth, I have continued a consideration of these issues, which are very complex, here and here, and, again for what it is worth, I do not consider the issue 'closed' either way!

  16. The difficulty here is that the CofE is a broad church and wants to accommodate those of different views. However both sides want to pull up the tares now rather than coexisting until the harvest.
    As Hooker has been quoted, I believe that it was he who put forward the traditional Anglican position of basing things on Scripture Tradition and Reason. If you want to say Sola Scriptura please feel free to do so, but don't tell me that it is the Anglican way.

  17. There is no intention of adhominem comment, John, it is some of your VIEWS that I and others would challenge. I am glad you do not consider the issues closed and are open to debate. I personally think that most commentators on here do engage with the arguments. I think the comments by Iffy vicar indicate how much some women clergy, far from being dismissive of the bible, would like to debate grounded in scripture.

    Thank you for posting the two further links, I think if people want to comment on all of those ideas in detail they might be best advised to visit your blog themselves.

    Alan Crawley's comment anticipated some of my thoughts on how "fudge" - or a broad and accomodating church - depending on your views, is an inherent part of Anglicanism ( blame Elizabeth 1!)
    Lesley raises some interesting ideas about an assumption that certain approaches ( and genders?) are better than others.

  18. Sue, my remark about ad hominem comments was perhaps hasty, but reading that one's views are 'ugly' or 'prejudiced' does not create a sense of being 'heard' in a spirit of engagement.

    However, thank you for posting the links to the other articles. There is much more to this, as I'm sure you realize, than the question about 'precision' on reading Scripture. So far, though, I am quite unsure as to how the Church of England can get itself out of a terrible mess over ministry, and I sometimes doubt it has the ability.

    However, I must reemphasize in closing that the Church of England defines itself by Scripture - yes, read with our 'reason' and with an eye to 'tradition' - but it is 'Scripture alone' which defines what may be taught as necessary to salvation. As our Articles say, the Church is "a witness and a keeper of holy Writ" but it cannot contradict it, without losing the character of a faithful church, by its own definition. That is something to which I believe we must hold, whatever other conclusions we may reach.

  19. Hi John,

    Thank you for your comment. I am sure you appreciate that the "Ugly Views" title was, in part, a pun referencing your own use of the word in your blog title. I did not realise you read this blog and I have now removed it out of common courtesy and am glad you have responded in kind.

    This blog is from a liberal perspective but a range of comment and approach is very welcome.

    You are right that the issues are complex. I posted the whole article in response to a friend who expressed an interest in reading it in entirety to put your remarks in context.

    You say that the Church is in a "terrible mess over ministry and don't know how it can get itself out" - I sincerely wish the answer for us all could be to embrace wholeheartedly the gifts and ministry of women who have so much to offer the church.

    I don't think any of the issues we face can be resolved without an honest look at scripture and the varying ways we approach scripture. My main worry is that that debate will not bring us into unity but perhaps exacerbate the divisions. Perhaps that is one of the reasons the church seems (to me) to be fighting shy of such debate. Perhaps I will post sometime on the biblical arguments from an evangelical but accepting perspective on women's ministry - my only reservation being that so many have done this better than me - Peter Carrel is worth looking at on this as is the re-vise re-form blog on my list.

  20. Sue, you are a silly sausage. Fancy bothering your pretty little head about things that men should be deciding for you. You should know better. It's very good of John that he has taken this burden away from you, before you do yourself or anyone else some damage. As he says, he has 'continued a consideration of these issues, which are very complex, here and here'. Phew, that's a relief.
    I think I ought to add, though, that this silly little woman (me) has also read the articles, and they also say that 'yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything contrary to God’s word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another.'
    Well, I'm probably speaking out of turn here, I know, but it seems to me that when fundamentalists take a great gobbet of the Bible out of context - like slaying whole towns, or stoning witches, or forbidding women to hold ecclesial authority over men, or condemning those whom God has created as homosexuals, then they're expounding small, obscure passages of the Bible in ways that are repugnant to the Gospel of Jesus, who taught none of those things.
    But, as I said, I'm just a silly woman so I probably shouldn't try to offer an opinion at all.

  21. Yes, Poppy, you are speaking out of turn and upsetting the whole order of things. The phrase "silly woman" is tautologous anyhow - and I know because my husband told me. Haven't you got something better to do with your time than reading about these issues and then FORMING AN OPINION? I am sure you must have some knitting to do or some housework?

    I refer you to the video I posted in January - "women know your limits" as a salutary lesson.

    Great to hear from you again by the way!
    (even though you are a silly bint) ;)

  22. I agree with John that we must hold to scripture, and with Poppy that we mustn't interpret one passage of scripture in a way that is repugnant to another. And Jesus chose a woman to be the first witness to his resurrection, even though women weren't legally acceptable as witnesses. That's why Mary Magdalene has the title 'apostle to the apostles'. John, who writes superb Greek, violates Greek grammar in referring to Jesus in the neuter rather than masculine gender. Philip's four daughters were prophets. Deborah led the whole country of Israel. Huldah the prophet was consulted by the king, even though she was contemporary with Isaiah (i.e. there was a man available, God also gifted a woman). Priscilla is given precedence over her husband, suggesting she took the lead in teaching and ministry. I mentioned Phoebe and Junia in a previous post.
    Plenty here to suggest God does use women in ministry, including in roles some think of as masculine. But I think we can also use the argument Peter used in Acts 11:1-18. I know this refers to conversion and baptism, but some of these gentiles were also accepted into ministry. This new gentile church had gentile leaders as far as we know. If God has given gifts of preaching, teaching and leadership to women, who are we to argue?
    Iffy Vicar

  23. Rather a lot of biblical precision here, and from women.
    This can't be right?:)

  24. I am sorry if my comments were off the point that you were trying to make, John.

    I feel the comments about it being complex etc are rather bulldozing others into looking at the Bible as some sort of rule book. I too love the Bible but would describe myself as postmodern. I appreciate the thoughts of evangelicals, but I disagree with the presupposition that we have to investigate the Bible as if it is our only hope of finding the answer and as if hidden in it are rules on issues such as women bishops in 2010.

    I think ethical debates in Christianity need to include the Bible, but motives and results are equally important. I feel that when we start using the Bible as a rulebook we are a step away from fundamentalism and only half a step away from looking very silly indeed and perhaps already looking prejudiced and out of date. I am not sure my Saviour was any of these things.

  25. The problem with John Richardson (sorry, ONE of the problems with JR) is that he sees everything through reformation spectacles. If you won't put the same specs on then he says that you can't see. No amount of scholarship or discussion will persuade him to take them off and put on some anglican ones, or even some neutral, scholarly ones. It's a waste of time debating with him.

  26. Well, John did say he didn't consider the issues closed, so maybe he will comment on some of the above, although there are a lot of points to do justice to them all.

    I may do a blog on different approaches to scripture sometime, if and when I have time to get my head around the topic.

  27. It was all so much better in the good old days:


  28. http://revdlesley.blogspot.com/

    Hope the above link will post live. If not you can all find Lesley's blog under "Worth reading" on the right hand side.

  29. As usual, when people (especally women, who should know better and keep quiet and listen respectfully)take him on, John Richardson picks up his bat and goes home to hs own blog, where he can control the comments. I think that sort of behaviour says it all.

  30. Quite! I would have like to see JR engage with some of the points made, especially given the complaint that nobody was engaging with the arguments!

  31. Debate on equal terms is not his style. He likes to control things, which is why he rarely wanders from his own blog.

  32. Unsurprisingly, he lost interest in argument from the Bible when faced with Bible passages which didn't say what he wanted them to say. I've often met this phenomenon before - one leader of Reform assured me Galatians is all about the necessity of keeping the Law!

    I do believe the BIble is the inspired word of God. However, we have to read it with intelligence and be diligent in understanding its history and social context, and the form of literature of any given excerpt. Only then can we understand the intention and meaning of the author(s). In my experience those who are most eager to assert the Bible's 'authority' are (sadly) rarely prepared to put in this amount of work.
    Iffy Vicar