Saturday, June 22, 2019
How did I miss this?
First of all, the obvious. Grey and brown copes, miters, and stoles? Really? Well, at least the staff seems to match the drab vesture of these female bishops. Or could it be that the colors really are befitting the celebration of the silver anniversary of the momentous decision to ordain women to the priesthood in the Church of England.
If you will recall, part of the push for women's ordination was the belief that by acting inclusively the Church of England would be renewed, the many disaffected folks would be drawn back into the life of the church, young people would be interested in religion again, and the church would no longer be deemed irrelevant or out of date. In addition to the drumbeat for justice that demands a definition of equality in which there are no distinctions between men and women, the idea was that women in the priesthood and episcopate would breath fresh air into a stale church body. But what has happened.
Church attendance has not rebounded in England but continues in free-fall. Especially among the young, the abandonment of the C of E is profound with only 7% identifying as Anglicans (roughly the same percentage as those who identify as Muslims!). The Church of England continues to be seen as a cultural institution (sort of like the monarchy) and less and less in terms of creed, confession, and faith. Whether the ordination of women has hastened this may be up for debate but it has certainly done nothing to reverse the trend.
The other fruits of women’s ordination are more obvious. It did not take long for the ordination of women to morph into support for gay marriage and transgenderism. It may not have been the intention of those who began the cause to ordain women but it was certainly the stepping stone to the almost wholesale rejection of the ancient church and its Biblical definition of sex, gender, family, and morality. At the very least, the loudest voices for the ordination of women have cried out for the completion of this step in the radical inclusion of nearly every doctrine of the GLBTQ movement. At the same time, the rush to abandon creedal and confessional Christianity has left the Church of England powerless to address its drift from orthodox Christianity. It has become, like much of Western Anglicanism, a doctrineless church except for the non-negotiables of feminism, gay liberation, and the embrace of whatever trend culture seems infatuated with at the moment. Indeed, without the few remaining orthodox voices here and there and the Africans, Anglicanism would be empty of any Biblical and doctrinal orthodoxy.
Far from being the exception, the Church of England has simply followed the pattern of other churches of other theological traditions who have likewise embraced the ordination of women. Whether you are talking about the Church of Sweden or the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America or Canadian denominations, the ordination of women did not stop there. Sooner or later those churches who found justification for ignoring the apostolic tradition of nearly 2000 years and the rejection of the implicit and explicit Biblical expectation of a male only presbyterate and episcopate find it easy to find reasons for ignoring and rejecting other tenets of Christianity. Eventually, there is little discipline left to reign in even the most egregious violations of Christian orthodoxy -- except, of course, those who would presume to challenge the GLBTQ agenda. There seems to be no end to the energy within these church bodies to enforce the new agenda so friendly to everything except Biblical and traditional orthodoxy and morality.
It is for this reason I am so suspicious of those splinter groups who wish to restore the churches that they once knew to a state just prior to the more radical decisions of the last decade or more. The North American Lutheran Church, the Anglican Church in North America, and others like them find it hard to reject the ordination of women. They turn back the clock a bit but do not challenge the basic theological underpinnings that gave rise to the radical departure from doctrine and morality they find so objectionable. I would hope that they will restrain the forces of radicalism but history shows that once a foot is in the door it takes little more than a generation before the door opens wider.