Sunday, 21 February 2010

Women and bondage!

Following the fuss over the comments of the Rev Angus Mcleay and his curate Mark Oden,I have been reading around some weblogs dealing with the attitude of Reform and the issue of women’s ministry generally.

There has been quite a level of comment on Mark Oden’s sermon, but not many seem to have drawn attention to the disturbing way that he draws a direct parallel between the physical suffering and torture of Jesus and the submission of women to their husbands. Oden dwells in considerable detail on the physical beating and humiliation of Christ,
“the suffering of Christ...tortured, beaten and yet he submitted... it was the father’s will to crush the son. Jesus embraces the pain... he hands his fate over to his father ... wives, in the same way, be submissive to your husbands.”

Now, I have my reservations about this wholehearted interpretation of the cross as a form of penal substitution, but when it has overtones that could be interpreted as suggesting that women’s passive submission to abuse or violence is somehow part of Christian doctrine, I do find it deeply offensive. I also believe that from a simple pastoral perspective, Oden should have thought about the effect of his words upon women who have suffered or are suffering abuse or upon men who are prone to anger or violence.

Of course, Reform would claim that their complementarian approach does not degrade women, that it in fact reveres and respects women, “put your wives on a pedestal” as Oden tells husbands in another sermon. The fact is that even of the most oppressive patriarchal systems use the arguments of reverence and protection to justify control over women.

I do believe that at the heart of Reform lies inveterate misogyny; their reading of Scripture, in particular specific verses, such as 1 Timothy 2:11-12, is skewed to focus on the idea of male headship. They pay only lip service to the radical sweep of Christ’s ministry, his counter cultural approach to women. They fail to look at the cultural context, such as the possibility that some Pauline injunctions are a response to the Artemis-saturated Ephesian culture and the way in which Paul also endorses the fact that women were clearly involved in ministry and leadership in the early church.
John Richardson waded in last week with some comments about how the influx of women into the church is causing it to become more liberal. He claims that women drawn to ordination tend to be “less committed to biblical precision, whilst those of precise views tend to avoid ordination to the priest- hood” - rather a rich claim as I would say Reform is far from “precise” in its biblical exegesis. He then goes on to claim that all these liberal women will influence the composition of Synod, making it harder to for conservatives to get elected. Richardson actually uses the word gerrymandering, saying the Bench of bishops will be “gerrymandered away from traditionalism!”

If in doubt, blame women and shout hysterically that they are taking over - when it is men who should be in control!

10 comments:

  1. Well said Sue.

    Sydney sider

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  2. The conflicting information in the NT is telling, at first Paul says he'd rather that those who are to engage in the ministry of God do not marry, but would rather they did if it would lead them to sin, then in Timothy amongst other things a Bishop should be husband of one. All confusing...............
    And then for good measure, some provinces allow women to reach the deaconry but not the episcopate(the Ugandan province one of them), what argument is given for them reaching the deaconry but not the episcopate?
    A total mess, why doesn't Canterbury settle it once and for all to provide solid guidance, we can't have it both ways. Talk of eating our cake and having it too!

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  3. "Why doesn't Canterbury settle it once and for all" - a good question, Icearc. I suspect the answer is because that would involve them actually having to make a decision?

    Yes, Bo - was Artemis the one who was chaste, divine and a huntress? That's a combination to scare quite a few evangelical men.

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  4. I wrote an eloquent and profound response to this yesterday. Unfortunately the dog jogged my arm and I lost all the text I'd put in! Anyway, well done Sue.

    I know I was going to recommend 'Women, Abuse & the Bible' by Catherine Kroeger & James R Beck; & 'Battered Into Submission' (can't find my copy, can't remember who wrote it). Both books argue that conservative/evangelical interpretations of scriptural teaching on women can create an environment in which domestic abuse becomes acceptable, or at least overlooked.
    I resent the accusation that female priests are 'less precise' in their treatment of the the Bible. I struggled for years with the conflict between my church's teaching on women's place and the gifts of ministry God had so obviously given me. It was that struggle that led to a more thorough knowledge of the Bible than I would have gained otherwise, and a profound respect for it as the inspired word of God. I respect it too much to attempt to solve an argument by quoting a text or two - the Bible's teaching is so much richer and more nuanced than that.
    Iffy Vicar

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  5. Hi and thanks for this.

    The book on conservative/ evangelical interpretations of scripture leading to environments conducive to abuse sounds interesting. It was the first thing I heard in the "sub text" of Oden's sermon when I listened to it (not good for my blood pressure!)

    The "less precise" accusation is a nasty swipe and utter rubbish since there are many evangelical women priests deeply committed to close reading and interpretation of scripture. I may post John Richardson's article next - hope it doesn't wind you up more.

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  6. I find the pedestal thing as bad as the beating thing - it reminds me of the argument that some men can only cope with women as virgins or whores.. If you are on a pedestal you are not loved as a human being and woe betide you if you fall off the pedestal!!

    yuk... :(

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  7. Personally, I would prefer a pedestal to a beating, but, yes, I would rather just be myself and loved and respected anyhow :)

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  8. Well how about this? "Love your wives the way Christ loved the Church". That means be committed to love her the way SHE needs. So if it will make her happy to put her on a pedestal, do that. If it makes her happy to stay home and let her have a career, do that. If it is something totally different than everybody else does, but it will make your wife happy, do that. But love her the way that she needs. It's amazing how freeing the patriarchal sexist old Bible can be if you read it carefully and with an open mind.

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  9. I'm all for that Anonymous. Just as long as when she says she is getting ordained, you support her all the way.

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