Holy impatience

26 July, 2005 at 10:08 am 12 comments

It sometimes really gets to me just how much time we waste, messing around with our little agonies when we know what needs doing but just haven't the courage to do it. Look at the Anglicans, getting their purple knickers in a twist over the issue of women bishops! Having eventually got round to ordaining women, they're still wanting to avoid taking the final fence of making them bishops. They've spent 10 years living with 2 integrities. And yes, it is important to realise that some of those who oppose women bishops do so with integrity. I take that to mean that they're genuinely convinced that it would be wrong in God's eyes, rather than that they're simply being prejudiced and deliberately resistant to the Spirit. But to be sincerely wrong doesn't make it any less wrong! I spent 2 years in Ian Smith's Special Branch, convinced that what I was doing was right. The fact that I wasn't doing it because I was personally racially prejudiced, or simply enjoyed being a bastard, didn't alter the fact that I was deeply, tragically wrong. Yes, it is important to realise that we are on a journey. It is important – and gratifying! – to note that God is far more comfortable with the time it takes and the detours we make than we feel God ought to be. Yet it is vital that, while trying to take people with us, and "maintain the unity of the body in the bond of peace", we recognise the time when we have actually to make a stand and act upon what we believe to be true. The Anglicans will get there – but at great cost. That cost grows the longer the process. And they will lose people over it. Providing that is a self-selecting process – people leaving because they want to rather than are pushed out – then that's ok. In fact, it's something to rejoice over. Not unlike fell running with a rucksack full of rocks for training: there comes that moment when you've done all the slog you can or will, and you shrug the rucksack off. You feel as though you can run like the wind! Or is it the Wind..?


Entry filed under: faith & spirituality, mission.

Overcast day, overcast soul Blogging with the congregation

12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Tony M  |  29 July, 2005 at 12:03 am

    I agree with the comment about those who believe it would be wrong in the eyes of God.

    The Apostle Paul wrote(1Tim 2:12 NIV)I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man.

    This also rules out women Priests. People can argue, justify & put across their own reasonings all they want, but shouldn’t christian churches follow the Bible’s teachings.
    No wonder so many churches today are in such a mess.

  • 2. Wol  |  29 July, 2005 at 9:22 am

    Of course Christian churches should follow the Bible’s teachings! If the Church ahd done that, we would have recognised that Paul said different things in different cultural contexts. We would also have recognised that the Junia referred to in Rom 15 was a female apostle, and not tried to change her sex by altering the name to a non-existent Junias!

    But then, it’s far more complex, isn’t it? There’s a sense in which the Church quite clearly doesn’t follow the Bible’s teaching -a nd quite properly! So, for example, we are comfortable with nudity, we name our sexual body parts, we think it’s ok to marry non-Jews, we don’t keep the food laws … all of these things are expressly forbidden in the Bible.

    The reason churches today are in such a mess is that they have been unable to make creative changes in line with fundamental shifts in postmodern society. Bewilderment ahs led to fear, rather than to a creative attentiveness to the Spirit. That sort of attentiveness would make it quite clear to anyone with eyes and ears to hear that God is calling women to ministry, blessing them and others through them. So I’m stuck: if God is saying, on the one hand, “Don’t have women ministers!” and on the other, is clearly calling women to ministry, what am I, a mere mortal, to do with a God who so tiresomely breaks his own rules?

    I’ll tell you what I do: I allow the Spirit to raise questions about the traditional readings of the text. That’s when I discover how blind prejudice can make us, and how it cuts us off from the truth and Spirit-life of God.

  • 3. Paul  |  7 August, 2005 at 12:35 am

    All of us, whatever our outlook, interpret the Bible. Conservative ministers I think mislead their congregations by pretending otherwise.

    The Bible is a complex text, written over thousands of years, and by a great number of authors. Conservatives are fond of the words, “responsibility” and “choice.” Well all of us are responsible for those threads of meaning in scripture that we choose to emphasize.

    If God had meant us to think S/he’d have given us brains – and whaddaya know?

  • 4. Wol  |  7 August, 2005 at 3:57 pm

    Thanks for dropping by, Paul! Couldn’t agree with you more. I thinnk that the problem with more conservative interpreters of the Bible is that they force the Bible into their own schema. It goes something like, “If the Bible (or any book!) is to be the Word of God, then it must be infallible, inerrant, unchanging, univocal etc etc. ” The problem then becomes one of how to make the Bible fit the schema. And of course, it lets one off the hook of all the energy, agonising, discerning and sheer faithfulness required of us.

  • 5. leo roberts  |  11 August, 2005 at 9:52 pm

    which raises the questions: can you be wrong for the right reasons? and can you be right for the wrong reasons?

    for example, I believe that the Roman catholic Church will, eventually, see sense and allow married priests (and, sometime in the NEXT millennium, women priests!) However, the likely reasoning behind this will NOT be bible or spiritually based, nor even a recognition that married men, and women, have gifts which they can exercise for the benefit of the Church in ordained ministry but, rather, that the numbers of men offering themselves to the priesthood is falling … the right thing, for the wrong reasons ….

  • 6. Janey  |  12 August, 2005 at 10:32 am

    I’m not sure the URC (or its predecessors) ever made a decision about ordaining women. I think (and I could be completely wrong!!) that the congregational church said women could ‘train’ for ministry, study theology in their colleges etc but never actually made a decision to ordain. I think when the first women finished, they just went out and found churches to serve… and thank God for their courage!! Will the same happen for brave gay and lesbian ministers… I doubt it, there are still many who hold prejudice and believe ‘because the Bible says’ views. And yet still our surprising God calls..

  • 7. Wol  |  12 August, 2005 at 3:13 pm

    I suppose, Leo, that the church is always in the grey areas of precisely what you describe. We’re reliant upon the grace of God to cause things to work together for good, however mixed or wrong the motives and actions are. That seems to me to be part of what the crucifixion is about – it was unreservedly a wrong, tragic, evil and throughly bad thing to have happened. And yet, because God is the God of resurrection, something positive and life-giving could transform that event into salvation. That, of course, does not excuse us from trying to do the right thing for the right motives! It simply encourages me to know that we are at the mercy of such a God, rather than compromised human beings …

  • 8. Wol  |  12 August, 2005 at 3:23 pm

    Janey, I think that the URC did, in fact, make a very conscious decision about the ordination of women. There are two things that automatically disqualifies a potential candidate for ordination in the URC, one of which is any doubt whatsoever about the validity of the ordination of women. It’s one of the reasons I choose to be part of the URC. No URC church is offixcally allowed to refuse to consider calling a minister who is a woman, although the reality is that many do, sadly, but they are very much in the minority and in contravention of the URC theology of ordination. It gives pause for thought to realise that, when a woman’s name comes to the Moderators’ Meeting for possible introduction to a church, the meeting has to consider whether there will be any issue about gender. I have yet to hear of that happening in any case where the minister is a man!

    I am cautiously encouraged by the fact that there are many openly gay clergy in our church who do receive calls, and many URCs that are adopting a conscious policy of being inclusive churches – by which they mean specifically gay-friendly churches.

    What of the future? I look at Leo’s post about the Catholic stance on women and married priests, and my prediction would be that there will be no barriers in 10 years time. I am an optimist. I believe it will be the case, not simply because of pragmatism, but because we will have a worked out theology of ministry that recognises a God who clearly gifts, calls and anoints gay and lesbian Christians for ministry in the Church. That, at least, is my prayer …

  • 9. Janey  |  12 August, 2005 at 5:26 pm

    I stand corrected… although I still think our congregationalist forebears made no policy! I also find it intersting that in the URC equal opportunities policy there is no mention of Sexual orientation…. but we’re not allowed to talk about sex just yet are we!!! It’s my prayer too… that we look at God’s calling rather than who we think should and shouldn’t be called!

  • 10. Lucy Berry  |  17 August, 2005 at 1:42 pm

    So, the Purple Knickers are in a twist.
    But what do you think the free churches’ (Aertex?) littlest, most diverting,and most uncomfy twists are?

  • 11. Wol  |  17 August, 2005 at 2:37 pm

    The twist that grips hardest where it shouldn’t? The question of the ordination of gay people – and the whole issue about the moral status of gay sex. We were in some interesting territory while the debate went on prior to the moratorium (so I’m not actually talking about it, you understand ..): some people were arguing that, even if we decided there was not a problem, the fact that this would pit us against our ecumenical partners means that we ought not to change the status quo. In other words, unity takes priority over truth. Since when??? and why over this issue? Because no one wants to grasp the nettle!

  • 12. Lucy Berry  |  18 August, 2005 at 2:02 pm

    Ok. I’m not talking about “it” either.

    Because ignoring things always makes them go away, doesn’t it?

    How much longer does the comfy moratorium last?

    And are we allowed to do it (discuss it, I mean, of course,) privately behind closed doors
    with other consenting adults?


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