It was bound to happen: The Episcopal Church selects a woman to be its Presiding Bishop and the Anglican world goes into yet another tizzy. Is it her gender? Is it that she is a "liberal"? Is it that she is an oceanographer? Is it that she was "fast-tracked"? (I share the concern that she has little parish experience -- as a pastor, anyway).
I have long been perplexed by the fight over the ordination of women to the clergy -- either the presbyterate (the office of pastor) or the episcopate ( the office of bishop). I have tried to understand the issue from both sides, but I'm frankly incapable of seeing it from more than one.
I don't look at it as a "rights" issue. There is no "right" to be ordained. To claim so is completely to misunderstand the ministry of and to word and sacrament. "Rights" is a secular word and concept which has no place in discourse about ecclessiology.
Instead, I look at it as an issue of ecclessiology (theology of the Church). What, who, why, how, where, when is the Church? What is the point of ministry? On what grounds do we make determiniations as to our life together as the Body of Christ?
Along comes Pontifications, where is posted some reflection on C.S. Lewis' article on the ordination of women. You may read it here. Some of you will get very angry reading this post and the replies. (I got confused and miffed myself a couple of times.) But it seems a place to start.
I confess that I do not read much C.S. Lewis because I frankly don't find him very interesting, insightful, or helpful. That may be my problem. But the excerpts (and even the entire essay) set out no intelligible argument except that "[o]nly by wearing the masculine uniform [i.e., only by being male] can (provisionally, and till the Parousia) represent the Lord to the Church: for we are all, corporately and individually, feminine to Him." Now it may be my involvement in the feminism of the 60s and 70s, but I haven't a clue what that means: God is masculine? Well, Jesus was masculine, but the Christ, the Lord of the Church ... ? We are all "feminine"? Well, receptive makes sense -- but in what sense is that "feminine"? Is it all built on the anatomy of sex? Is that ultimately dispositive? If so, did the natural religions get it right -- only with the name of the deity (and perhaps his number) wrong?
I realize that I stray into sarcasm, but my intention is pure. I don't get the argument. (It's sort of cagey of Lewis to argue that rationality is the opponent of this principle of male-only clergy, isn't it? How do you argue with someone who says that disagreement is precisely proof of his rectitute?)
I mean, if Christ can be present in and as bread and wine, why can he not be "represented" in and through a woman? Does not the argument run perilously close to confirming Mary Daley's adage that if God must be male (at least in His representative), the male is god? I absolutely don't deny that Jesus' maleness is historic fact; I wonder whether it is ontologically dispositive of much else (I think). Certainly, it doesn't seem to matter ontologically for ministry. I am apt to criticize the Church for baptizing the social orders of its days, and I am apt to buy that women's leadership in the Church was problematic from the very beginning because of the possibility of confusion with pagan cults, within many of which women "priestesses" held sway. (There is not reason to adopt that designation -- and in the literature, whenever anyone uses it of women ordained into the Christian ministry, it is a a baldfaced attempt to slant the argument with pejorative terms.) But those seem to be prudential, not ontological or even theological, reasons for decisions in the past; they do not dispose of the issue in the present.
I don't want to get into any shouting matches about woman-haters or radical feminists. But if someone can suggest a good read on this issue -- one that is solid in its Biblical and theological foundations -- I'd be happy to receive it.