Every now and then, I see in the blogosphere some Evangelical radical egalitarian is applauding a church for the fact that it has decided to ordain women. For instance, this recent post by Jeremiah Gibbs complementing and congratulating a mega-church for its position to allow women pastors/elders. I’m not going to say that church is apostate. I honestly don’t know what the doctrines it holds. But Dr. Gibbs also has another post listing all the churches which have female pastors. Or Scot McKnight’s re-posting of Roy Bourgeois’s vent about the Catholic Church excommunicating him for supporting women’s ordination openly as if he’s some new “martyr” in the discussion about women’s ordination.
But this has become a problem for Evangelicals this seeming obsession with women’s ordination. Of course, most of these Evangelicals are dealing with critics of their own position on gender roles such as Wayne Grudem and John Piper and D.A. Carson whose views on gender roles are neither representative of the historical or scriptural evidence to begin with so I can kind of see why they would complement churches like these. Further, it seems that an underlying assumption of the Gospel message for Evangelical Christians these days seems to be pursuing social justice in all areas of life as well so this may be why they see this as “that big” of an issue. But I am not entirely convinced that the issue of women’s ordination can be resolved as a “social justice” issue. It needs to be proven that it is so first before we can make an argument that it is a “social justice” issue. I think the overwhelming evidence points to the issue of women’s ordination being a theological issue. But I could be wrong on that as well. It might not be either a social justice or a theological issue. If not, then congratulating churches for simply ordaining women makes little sense. If it doesn’t matter to Christian orthodoxy, then it doesn’t matter to God whether we ordain a woman or not and therefore, there is no point to congratulating churches who ordain women. God doesn’t care. If it does matter to Christian orthodoxy, then we should excommunicate those who oppose our ideas on the subject.
But what kind of churches should be actually congratulated is what I’m personally more concerned about. I left a comment on Gibbs’s post congratulating the 6,000 person mega-church’s decision reading:
I find it odd how many Evangelical egalitarians think the most important theological position in whether or not a Church ordains women as priests or not. My church does not but it is way more orthodox than any of the churches suggested by the Christians for Biblical Equality. When considering whether a church meets the criteria of a Christian Church or not is whether it agrees with the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creedal faith. Does it believe baptism remits sins? Most Evangelical Christians say no so this already destroys their orthodoxy to begin with. Do they believe that when we take the eucharist we actually consume the body and blood of Jesus? Most Evangelicals also say no destroying their orthodoxy. Do they believe that the new birth is by water baptism as Jesus said it was (John 3:3-5)? If they say no then their orthodoxy is non-existent.
I mean I might be wrong. It may be that having a woman priest is more important than soteriology and any sort of sacramental theology in this world and the Evangelicals may be right. Please correct me as usual if I misunderstand you but certainly coming to agreement on sacramental theology and soteriology is more important to do so before we even begin a discussion on women priests.
A disciple of Christ responded to it (I think) saying:
I often find it odd too that many Evangelicals would use much more energy to fight against women in ministry, a completely biblical notion, than to fight against injustice in the society, another important biblical notion… perhaps there is indeed a connection here?
If soteriology and sacramental theology have any real connection with ministry of the Church, i.e. God’s people doing God’s work according to God’s way for the glory of God, discerning God’s calling for people to do such work becomes paramount both in terms of personal obedience as a disciple of Christ and institutional submission to the will of the Head of the Body. Much is at stake, when (more than) half of the people of God are told not to worry about God’s will, with the other half playing the role of God for them…
Both opponents of women’s ordination and proponents of women’s ordination though see social justice as a key principle of the Gospel. Which is why, I believe, if the Evangelical radical egalitarians want to emphasize this so much, then they need to do like the Catholics have done to supporters of women’s ordination and excommunicate those who don’t support women’s ordination. Which is one thing that I think the opponents of women’s ordination have going for them in this discussion. The other side doesn’t want to go that far–meaning the proponents of women’s ordination don’t see your views on women’s ordination as a big deal after all. But again, it remains to be proven that this is a social justice issue in the first place. I do not consider myself an Evangelical. I do submit women in ministry is Biblical however the radical egalitarian position wants women in all levels of ministry. Most opponents of women’s ordination either don’t want them in the priesthood or don’t want them in any level of the threefold holy orders to begin with. But I will state that the most important mission the Church has been tasked with is bringing salvation to the world, not declaring who should and who should not be ordained. The priest enables the laity to carry out their mission within the Church by strengthening them with the sacraments he administers them.
So when we praise a church or congratulate a church, it should not be on its views of women’s ordination. It should be on its views of proper sacramental theology. The sacraments are what provide salvation and enable the mission of the laity in the Church. If baptism incorporates us into the Church, then it matters whether infants are baptized. If baptism does not incorporate us into the Church, then it does not matter whether infants are baptized. But the Church has taught baptism remits sins and so it does matter what we believe about baptism. If the eucharist is really the body and blood of our Lord, then it does matter that we believe this and receive this in gratitude. If not, then it does not matter, even if we treat it as a snack thus profaning it. If confession really brings us back to our baptismal grace, then it does matter whether we confess or not. It may not matter what gender priest we confess to. Some say it does, some say it doesn’t–but only if we can actually agree on sacramental theology should we have this discussion whether a woman should or should not be a priest.