Rev. Blake Johnson on Holy Orders

Blake Johnson contributed to the discussion of women’s ordination over on the Theopolis blog. One point he makes that readers of James Jordan will find familiar is:

The typological representation in marriage is gendered. And so it is in a liturgical context. Genesis doesn’t give us a biological description of male and female, but it does give us a liturgical one. Like marriage, liturgy does not assume androgynous categories of the body, but invests male and female categories with typological significance, rooted in creation and pointing to redemption.

PEAR USA on Women’s Ordination

The Proposed Charter of the new Missionary District says:

Section 3. Men and Women in Ministry

PEARUSA upholds the biblical teaching that both men and women are created in God’s image and called to service in his Kingdom. For this reason, PEARUSA is committed to promoting the ministry of women alongside men, both within and outside the church. At the same time, the Bible also teaches that God created men and women with distinct differences, and has given them different roles within his Kingdom. Within the Anglican Communion there is a diversity of opinion regarding the ordination of women. While the Anglican Province of Rwanda does ordain women as Presbyters, PEARUSA does not, nor does it consecrate women as Bishops, nor does it receive or license women to serve as Presbyters or Bishops.

Technically, AMiA held this same position, although it watered it down over time by creating various sub-jurisdictions and entities. This is a very encouraging step towards rolling back the errors inflicted on the Church in the Seventies.

Women’s Ordination

Lots of pixels are being spilled lately about women’s ordination, an issue of much relevance to the Anglican Communion. Lue-Yee Tsang asks about a Chalcedonian canon here, Alastair Roberts goes in depth here, here and here, and Matt Colvin discusses Junia here.

Interestingly, the Times Literary Supplement has also had a back and forth going on over the subject, originating in the September 23 review of Gary Macy’s book The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination. The review was written by Bernard Hamilton and says:

In this study of the status of women in the Western Church in the period c.400-1200, Gary Macy pays special attention to three groups: the episcopae or episcopiae, the presbyterae and the deaconesses.

There are only two secure references to episcopae (the female form of episcopus/bishop): a tomb inscription dating from c.300-600 commemorates “the venerable woman, episcopa Q”; Canon 14 of the Council of Tours of 567 enacts that “No crowd of women should follow a bishop who does not have an episcopia”; and a mosaic portrait of 817 in the San Zeno chapel at Santa Prassede in Rome is captioned Theodora episcopa, identified in an inscription as the mother of Pope Paschal I (817-24). The status of “Q” and of Theodora remains enigmatic, but Macey argues that the episcopiae mentioned by the Council of Tours were the wives of bishops who, with their husbands, had taken vows of celibacy while continuing to live together. Macey thinks that the same is true of presbyterae (the female form of presbyter): that they were priests’ wives who, with their husbands, had vowed to live together in continence. The evidence about deaconesses is unambiguous. Canon 15 of the Council of Chalcedon states: “A deaconess shall not be ordained until she is forty years old. If, having received the laying-on of hands, and having spent some time in her ministry she then marries, scorning the grace of God, she shall be anathematized together with her husband”. Deaconesses had some limited liturgical functions, but their most important work seems to have been to instruct women in the faith.

Macey points out that in the early medieval West, the term ordinare was used in its classical sense, meaning to institute someone in office, and stresses that in some pontificals it was used to designate a wide variety of ministries.

In addition to doorkeepers, lectors, exorcists, acolytes, subdeacons, deacons and priests, all of whom served the altar, emperors and empresses, kings and queens, abbots, abbesses and deaconesses were also described as ordained.

The ministries exercised by ordained women in the early Middle Ages are unlikely to seem very attractive to the modern proponents of women’s ordination, since there is no evidence that any of those women could celebrate the Eucharist or exercise other priestly functions – with one exception. Abbesses, and abbots who were not in priest’s orders, could hear the confessions of members of their communities. This monastic tradition of spiritual direction survived in the Western Church until the twelfth century, when it was assimilated to the sacrament of penance and reserved to priests. Macey argues that although the ministries that ordained women performed were different from those of the clergy who served the altar, deaconesses, abbesses (and, presumably, queens and empresses) enjoyed parity of status with the ordained male clergy.

After c.1050, the papally led reform movement was concerned to enforce clerical celibacy and to suppress simony in order to free the Church from the control of the lay nobility. This affected women because when clerical marriage was made illegal, clergy wives ceased to exist in the Latin Church. Deaconesses, widely regarded as being identical with abbesses, continued to be ordained, until the revival of the study of Aristotelian logic and of canon law in the Western schools led educated churchmen to develop a precise technical vocabulary: one consequence of this was that the term ordinatio became reserved for the clergy who served the altar, while the rites for instituting abbots and abbesses, deaconesses, kings and queens, emperors and empresses were described as blessings (benedictiones).

Macey argues that this change of name was very important, because ordination then ceased to mean institution in office and came to mean the conferring of spiritual powers. I am not convinced that any significant change occurred, since the ordination rituals had always emphasized that powers were granted to the candidates commensurate with their ministries, and those liturgies did not change significantly in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Indeed, the form for the blessing of an abbess contained in the Rituale Romanum of Clement VIII (1592-1605) directs that the candidate should kneel before the bishop and say: “I [N], of the monastery of [N], who am about to be ordained abbess [ordinanda abbatissa] promise obedience to … “. The content of that rite had not changed: only its name.

Having restricted the use of the term ordination, theologians stated that women could not be ordained, because they had never held the offices described by the new definition of the word. Gary Macey argues that this ruling reflected the widely held view that women were inferior to men, but although some churchmen did hold that opinion, women did not occupy an inferior position in the Church after 1200.

The exponential growth of the cult of the Virgin Mary during the central Middle Ages, which emphasized that a woman had a central role in the divine economy of grace, had practical consequences, such as the foundation of the Order of Fontevrault, made up of double monasteries of monks and nuns, in which authority was vested in the abbess. Moreover, the church authorities recognized the prophetic office of a number of spiritually gifted women, such as Hildegard of Bingen, Elizabeth of Schönau, Bridget of Sweden, Catherine of Siena and Julian of Norwich, who exercised considerable influence. Although women religious no longer had ordained status, they all continued to enjoy a privileged clerical status: they, together with their often considerable estates, were exempt from secular jurisdiction and subject to the church courts alone.

This review prompted several letters to the editor, first one by Gary Macy himself:

Central to the argument of the book is that the definition of ordination changed radically in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, creating a new church organization centred on the priesthood and its power to consecrate the bread and wine. Before that shift, ordination was, as Hamilton points out, the institution of someone in a particular office, not the granting of a personal power. Ordained ministries other than the priesthood, therefore, could and did celebrate sacramental rites, including the Eucharist. Some of these were women. Professor Hamilton reads the book as if the only group capable of celebrating the Eucharist during this period were priests.

This error results in other misrepresentations.

When Hamilton asserts, “there is no evidence that any of these women could celebrate the Eucharist or exercise other priestly functions – with one exception”, he ignores my lengthy discussion of a number of sources that do claim that women served at the altar. From the fourth to the twelfth centuries, a series of laws forbidding bishops to continue to allow women to serve at the altar, hagiographical stories of abbesses who led liturgies, and survival of communion services performed by women suggest that two groups of women led liturgies: women who served with their husbands in the liturgies, and abbesses who performed sacramental functions for communities and for the surrounding villages. Given this evidence, Hamilton is again incorrect when he states that I argue ” that … the ministries that ordained women performed were different from those of the clergy who served at the altar”. They were often the same.

Hamilton rejects the argument that any substantial change in the role of women took place with the changing definition of ordination. His evidence is that the rituals for abbesses did not change. This example strikes to the heart of the argument of the book: that the change in the definition of ordination would necessarily change the meaning of the ritual even if the words remained the same. As I point out, the ritual for the ordination of a woman deacon or an abbess before the twelfth century was a true ordination to a clerical state that allowed them to exercise sacramental functions. The same ritual by the thirteenth century bestowed no ordination at all and did not give them sacramental functions.

Furthermore, the ordination ritual for women deacons was completely removed from the papal pontifical in the thirteenth century and no longer practised.

Finally, Professor Hamilton asserts that “women did not occupy an inferior position in the church after 1200”. He cites a growing devotion to the Virgin, the influence of certain powerful religious women, and the use of clerical courts by women religious. Again, this ignores significant evidence. By the thirteenth century, for example, in law, the testimony of women was disallowed because of their weak minds. In theology, women’s “matter” was incapable of receiving ordination because they were not the direct images of God that men were. In sum, before the thirteenth century religious women could be, and sometimes were, considered the intellectual, ministerial and legal equals of men partly at least because they could be ordained. That equality was impossible by the thirteenth century.

I should add that Gary Macey did not write this book. Gary Macy did. This may be a small point, but it is indicative of the lack of attention to detail prevalent throughout the review.

This was followed by a letter from John Wijngaards, a noted heterodox teacher on the subject:

Sir, – It would not surprise me if many readers of the TLS are left confused by the discussion between Bernard Hamilton, reviewer of The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination, and Gary Macy, its author (Letters, October 21). A wider view might be helpful.

The discussion is not about the East. In the Byzantine Church, part of the Catholic Church until 1054, women were sacramentally ordained deacons, just as the men were. We know the exact ordination rites used. Women deacons instructed catechumens, assisted at baptisms, took communion to the sick, and administered the last rites. Ecclesiastical legislation such as that under Emperor Justinian gave them full clerical status like their male colleagues. Not so in the West.

Apart from some exceptions, massive prejudice based on Roman culture effectively barred women from any ministry. Women could not hold public office. Women were declared intellectually inferior. They were not allowed to enter the sanctuary for fear of polluting its space by menstruation.

They were forbidden to sing in church choirs. These prejudices voiced by the Fathers of the Church and endorsed in local synods entered the Decree of Gratian in 1140 and then became part of the Corpus Iuris Canonici. Until 1916 this Church Law stated that women were not created in the image of God. It also forbade women to touch sacred vessels, read or preach in church or be members of pious associations. To claim that women “did not occupy an inferior position in the Church” as Hamilton does, simply beggars belief.

Gary Macy is a brave man to document the exceptions. Perhaps, here and there, he overstates his case. Evidence seems to indicate, for instance, that the Latin ordination rite for women deacons had already eroded by the eighth century. And abbesses who were ordained Sacerdos Maxima or Sacerdos Magna, while enjoying jurisdiction in the administration of parishes and even in forgiving sins, could not preside over the Eucharist. But that does not disprove the value of his book. While studying women’s involvement in the Western Church, I found that valuable testimonies have often been ignored, dismissed or even maliciously suppressed. The real complex truth needs to be fully uncovered.

And another letter from Bernard Hamilton:

Sir, – I read Gary Macy’s book with great attention, as I would any book which I was reviewing. The conclusions I reached are based on the detailed examples which he cites and I see no reason to modify them. I do not consider that the evidence which Macy produces is strong enough to support the case about the role of women in the early medieval Western Church which he wishes to make. I also consider that his description of the place of women in the Church in the later Middle Ages is highly misleading because it is based on a very selective range of sources.

I do, though, apologize unreservedly to Gary Macy for spelling his name wrongly.

Finally, a letter from R.I. Moore:

Sir, – It’s a bit rich of Bernard Hamilton to accuse Gary Macy of undue selectivity (Letters, October 28). The last paragraph of Hamilton’s review (September 23) offers the foundation of Fontevraud in 1100, housing both women and men, as an example of the improved status he claims the Church offered to women in the high Middle Ages. He might have added that several other of the religious orders that appeared around that time placed men and women on an equal footing, including most spectacularly the Premonstratensians.

But from the 1130s they were the objects of a strong reaction, led by those prominent champions of mariolatry, the Cistercians.

Fontevraud was too well connected to be affected, but elsewhere the women were removed from most of the double houses to ill-endowed “sister” foundations, most of which soon withered away. Many men and women, thinking this contrary to the apostolic ideal of their founders, took voluntarily or involuntarily to the roads, and were from the 1140s demonized as heretics and ruthlessly persecuted. Since theirs are among the valuable testimonies to which John Wijngaards refers that have been “ignored, dismissed or even maliciously suppressed” (Letters, October 28), we know little about them. But there is enough to justify a strong suspicion that they held just the views on women’s capacity to administer the sacraments that Macy suggests, and quite enough to confirm that Macy’s, not Hamilton’s, view of the direction in which the Church’s treatment of women was changing is correct.

Lots to chew on here.

AMiA Fracturing

Well, that didn’t take long. I have been reading the tea leaves about the trajectory of AMiA for a few years now, most recently with the last issue of Wave. Now, Anglican Unscripted reports that AMiA is cracking up over women’s ordination and Bishop Murphy’s apparent desire to rule as he sees fit. The video is below:


Essentially, the report says that there is some discord between the Church of Rwanda and AMiA, and that they are coming to terms of separation. Bishop Murphy wants to support women’s ordination (surprise, surprise) and appoint his own bishops without Rwanda being able to nix his appointments. The AMiA will pull out from Rwandan oversight and is seeking another Primate from another Global South church or Archbishop Kolini or some other option.

The video asks if AMiA all of the sudden doesn’t have an Archbishop sponsoring them what happens to them? They speculate that Chuck Murphy will keep some of them together and maybe they will come under ACNA. They also report discord among the bishops of AMiA. Some orthodox bishops want to leave AMiA and head to ACNA to maintain no women’s ordination.

So, Bishop Murphy can’t seem to stand oversight. If he wants women’s ordination so much, why doesn’t he simply merge into ACNA as it is? Well, that would mean breaking up the fiefdom right? And shame on Archbishop Kolini for supporting such nonsense. I confess I thought that women’s ordination wouldn’t mess up ACNA for another ten years or so, but it appears to be happening already. There is now a crying need for a diocese or two within ACNA that is totally opposed to women’s ordination. Anything less will produce further splits and the end of ACNA.

Past Posts on the Same Subject:

Here, here, here and here.

The Origins of Women’s Ordination in the Episcopal Church

So how did it all begin? Without going into great detail, we can look at the seventies and the illegal ordinations that happened at that time. The heretic James Pike had previously ordained a woman to the diaconate, but the ball really got rolling in 1974.

In the book “Anglican Communion in Crisis”, Miranda Hassett writes:
…women deputies were not accepted by General Convention until 1967. By this time the controversial liberal bishop James Pike had already ordained a woman as a deacon, an ordained role oriented toward service and without all the sacramental duties of the priesthood. With the encouragement of the women’s movement in the larger society, other breakthroughs followed quickly. The General Convention of 1970 accepted female deacons, and the 1976 Convention admitted women to the priesthood, following the unauthorized 1974 ordinations of eleven women as priests. The first Episcopal woman bishop, Barbara Harris, was consecrated in 1989.
In “A Brief History of the Episcopal Church”, David Lynn Holmes writes:
Nevertheless, in the summer of 1974, in Philadelphia’s Church of the Advocate, eleven women deacons were ordained to the priesthood by three Episcopal bishops. Two of the bishops were retired; the third had resigned as bishop of Pennsylvania earlier in the year. Neither the bishops, nor the deacons, nor the parish had authorization for the ordinations. In an emergency session, the House of Bishops declared the ordinations invalid and rebuked the ordainers.” (page 168)
Time magazine has articles on these ordinations here, here and here. And now, a mere three decades later, “conservatives” all over the place accept this practice, foisted upon the church by radicals and heretics, as perfectly fine and normal.

AMiA Embraces Heterodoxy

Whenever a new edition of the Wave reaches my mailbox, I cringe anew with whatever froth from the bottom of the seething ocean of “relevant” evangelicalism will wash up on the AMiA shore. Usually, I almost blog about it, but then think better of it and stop myself. But I can’t this time, I just can’t. And, as a disclaimer, I am an AMiA parishioner and couldn’t be happier about it. But our local churches are a small pocket of sanity and theological depth in a denomination full of pirates.

This month’s Wave trumpets (as always) the forthcoming Winter Conference. Who is coming this year? How about notable Third Wave weirdo Jack Deere, a blast from the Counterfeit Revival past? Is AMiA trying to become the Vineyard? I don’t need to delve into all of his past, but here are some of the troubling facts. Are there not any Anglican scholars that we can get to come to an Anglican conference? Are we so desperate that we have to bring in retreads from the Toronto Blessing  and “emergent” folks – seven years after that fad reached its peak? Don’t we have any church planters who might be called on to talk about how Anglican church planting can work in an urban setting? We really need Jack Deere to talk to us about “ministering in the power of the Spirit”?

Okay, now I have that off my chest. Let me just cool down and…wait! What? Another speaker is the Rev. Cynthia Brust, “Associate Pastor of a new church plant in Mission Viejo, California”! What the Moses? Mrs. Brust is the wife the Rev. Canon Ellis E. Brust and is the Director of Communications for “theAM.” She is probably a great lady, but here we go with warmed over Episcopalianism. Here’s a stick in the eye of all who believe in what the Bible says about ordaining women and what the Church has held for, well forever. But wait, there’s more:

Page 9 talks about the Northwest and tells us: “Other developments include adding Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) priest Kristen Yates of the Anglican Diocese of New England to his (the Rev Aaaron Burt’s) staff in October.” And page 11 has a picture of “Bishop Todd Hunter and the Rev. Aaron Burt ordain(ing) the Rev. Jennifer Roach – the first Anglican Mission clergy to be ordained in the Pacific Northwest.” Wow. What a great first for theAM.

While none of this is surprising, the volume and prominence of the embrace of women’s ordination is totally disheartening and heterodox. I saw this coming with Todd Hunter last year, see here. So theAM is going down the wrong road, WAY down the wrong road, and it is at the behest of Bishops like Hunter and Murphy. I am not a Puritan, and the answer is certainly not in hiving off into “purer” denominations. But the time is really here for orthodox folks to join some kind of diocese or whatever else they want to call it, and to take a firm stand against this foolishness.

Continuing AMiA Confusion

The issue of women’s ordination in the AMiA is old news on this blog. But the latest press release from AMiA (I refuse to call it “theAM”) continues to display the problems that American Anglicans have with this issue. Specifically:

In 2007, the Anglican Mission expanded its structure at the request of Archbishop Kolini by creating the Anglican Mission in the Americas as an umbrella organization which includes the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA), the Anglican Coalition in Canada (ACiC) now under the leadership of Bishop Silas Ng and the Anglican Coalition in America (ACiA). This structure embraces two countries (the U.S. and Canada) as well as two theological positions on the ordination of women to the presbyterate. Both the ACiC and the ACiA ordain women to the priesthood, as does the Province of Rwanda, while the AMiA maintains its policy of ordaining women only to the diaconate. This structure provides a way to maintain the integrity, and honor the consciences, of those with differing positions and policies on women’s ordination, which mirrors the period of reception within Anglican Christianity.

Let’s see, there is:

1. Anglican Mission in America – no women’s ordination

2. Anglican Mission in the Americas – yes to women’s ordination and includes:

—-[1] Anglican Mission in America

—-[2] Anglican Coalition in Canada

—-[3] Anglican Coalition in America

Now there is a “initiative” called  Churches for the Sake of Others (C4SO). Got it? With all those organizations and abbreviations, it’s like a front company being run out of Barbados! Websites exist for AMiA and ACiC. The bottom line to me is that it is one group, but it has created sub-groups in order to allow for the orthodox position on ordaining women (AMiA) and to look generic and not terribly Anglican to west coast hip people (C4SO).

Bishop Hunter is quoted using buzzwords like missional and celebrate when he says:

Bishop Todd explains. “It’s not about ordaining a particular gender or an issue of social justice for me – ordination is not a ‘right’ for anyone. While I recognize and celebrate the differences between genders, I want to raise up human beings gifted and called to Kingdom ministry…I guess you can say I’m an egalitarian of the complementary sort.”

What does that mean? I have no idea. My guess is that it means he is OK with ordaining women.

“I am excited about the potential for women to be part of our church planting movement on the west coast and am already seeing fruit of such ministry in C4SO,” he adds. “This is all about facilitating a missional commitment.”

The Bible and church tradition could not be more clear on this issue.

Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?  (1 Timothy 3:2-5 ESV)

I will continue to press the following beliefs:

1. AMiA, CANA, REC and all the other groups should cease to exist and merge into one body, namely ACNA. Disband all the regional headquarters and websites.

2. Women’s ordination should be totally rejected by all these bodies.

3. A common prayer book and liturgy should be used by all parishes in ACNA.

4. The 39 Articles should be central to ACNA, not just in lip-service, but in testing candidates for holy orders.

ACNA Fail – Part 1

The “conservative” Anglicans in the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) just ordained another woman to be a priest(ess). Perhaps they need to be love-bombed with copies of the forthcoming Why Ministers Must Be Men.

It is not surprising that ACNA is doing this, because it has been clear from before its inception that this is an issue where various member bodies held the innovative and unorthodox position. It is, however, disappointing as it is something that will tear this body apart in the future if it is not addressed and changed.

At bottom, it points out that much of ACNA is simply warmed over 1970’s Episcopalianism minus the gay stuff. Arminian, charismatic, not Reformational, not terribly committed to living the Bible despite words to the contrary, and thus, blown about here and there by the culture. We need to inject more Van Til, Leithart and Jordan into this hybrid of theologies, or it will spin into oblivion.

Ending the Anglican Alphabet Soup

With the creation of the Anglican Church in North America, the time has come to end the various sub-groups which were necessary for the time of trials just passed through. Part of me doesn’t like this much because I think that parts of the AMiA are the best current representation of what a Biblical Church should look like. But it seems to me that every dollar spent on maintaining separate organizational structures is wasted. Why have a separate communications structure for CANA, AMiA, REC, etc? It’s waste of effort and money. And yet we see Bishop Minns saying:

Since Day 1, CANA has been and will continue to be a full participant in the life of the new province, and will continue to maintain our own identity.  We will encourage groups of congregations when they are ready, to establish themselves as free-standing dioceses.  Our goal is to support the work, mission, and ministry of the gospel on this continent and bring our own particular distinctive to that task.

Bishop Murphy has said similar things about AMiA continuing in something of a “Canterbury and York” model. Indeed, as I was writing this I received an e-mail from AMiA where Bishop Murphy says:

As a founding member of both the Common Cause Partnership and the emerging province, we will continue to fully participate in ACNA.  As we have consistently explained, however, we remain a missionary outreach of the Province of the Anglican Church of Rwanda under the authority of Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini.  This allows us to enjoy dual citizenship, a similar relationship to that of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA).

But I think we need to ask whether in ten or twenty years we will need all of these separate groups? It’s great for AMia and CANA to continue missionary efforts, but they should be able to do this as some kind of missionary diocese under ACNA, without needing their own leadership and headquarters. How much of this division is due to leftover animosities between bishops and churches?

I do understand some legitimate reasons for staying apart. As my friend Jim said to me, many folks won’t want to be under a Bishop who approves of women’s ordination, for example. But these issues need to be worked out from within ACNA unless it becomes obvious that it will never change and is un-reformable, which is hardly the case right now at its inception. I think good Anglican in all the bodies that make up ACNA should voice their desire for unity to their leaders and pray for change.