According to the Evangelical sense of the term. I capitalize the term “Evangelical” here as the term has realistically been hijacked by modern day Evangelicals. For those not familiar with the movement, histories of the movement have been done–it is basically a mixture of movements from the German Piety movement, Puritanism, Methodism, and Anglicanism all put together. Today, it has become a distinct denomination from a collection of denominations with one core tenet–that of Biblicism. Biblicism is the idea that the Bible is the final trump card in theological debate. Hence, radical egalitarians (or the original complementarians as noted by Scot McKnight’s post) are not liberals because they do focus on the centrality of the authority of the Bible. Of course, this idea of the Bible as an absolute authority is no where to be found until modern times in and of itself so…yeah.
He cites Dr. Mimi Haddad, the head of Christians for Biblical Equality. A major problem with Christians for Biblical Equality is that it is fundamentalist in what would be a modern sense of the term used for Christians–that is, it emphasizes doctrines as fundamentals that have never been considered fundamental theological truths in the Church up until the 20th century. Iconodulists would not be fundamentalists in the modern theological/sociological sense of the term as they emphasize as a fundamental theological truth an idea that has been considered an essential in Christianity. I believe that it is essential whether we venerate icons or not. If icons were meant to be venerated, then by not venerating them, we are blaspheming God. Opponents of women’s ordination are not fundamentalists either as it has been determined as an essential ages before that opposing women’s ordination is an essential fundamental truth of Christianity. Take a look at Pope Gelasius or St. John Chrysostom or even St. Epiphanius of Salamis.
It is generally in the sense that proponents of women’s ordination have abandoned key doctrinal values of Christianity that my own fellow High Churchers criticize them for being “liberals”. I do not speak on behalf of Evangelical opponents of women’s ordination. That is something that the interiority of Evangelicalism is going to have to resolve themselves. I speak from outside of Evangelicals looking at what Evangelicals have actually criticized my Church on using their own internal experiences from within Evangelicalism. In other words, mutual misunderstandings seem to crop up in this debate a lot due to other drastic differences (that are of way more importance than the issue of whether or not to ordain a lady) due to the complexities which the Evangelical Church is facing because of its stance on scriptural authority in contrast to the sanctity of the liturgy it seems to me.
Holy Orders is a sacrament of the Christian Church. A sacrament confers grace on the subject elevating him or her to partake in the divine nature in a way unknown of before receiving the sacrament. This is why a strong case can be made for the sacramental nature of the ordination of women deaconesses in the Church. Though obviously not an indisputable case. Therefore, it can be said that the sacrament of Holy Orders is essential to the Christian faith. The eucharist is a sacrifice–this has always been the nature of the eucharist in the Church–the priesthood is sacrificial. To take away the sacramental priesthood in favor of the priesthood of all the baptized has never been considered in High Church settings and never will be considered. Both operate hand-in-hand.
So are proponents of women’s ordination within Evangelicalism liberals? I would have to argue a yes on that. If you’ll note, some of the examples that Mimi Haddad points out of people who had a high devotion to the supreme authority of scripture rejected fundamental Christian truths. Catherine Booth was a member of the Salvation Army. They don’t baptize (Matt. 28:19). I cannot allow myself to be affiliated with a Church that does not baptize. Although she is recognized as a saint in my own Church (people can be mistaken on theology and still end up experiencing deification), to allow myself to be wittingly mistaken on baptism and wittingly support such a conclusion with another Church, I cannot allow myself to be. In that sense, the accusation of liberals against many radical egalitarians needs to be taken quite seriously. It is one thing to be liberal in the “Evangelical” sense of denying the authority of scripture, it is completely another thing when a High Churcher makes that accusation because he doesn’t understand it in terms of the authority of scripture, he understands it in the liturgical traditions of the Church.
Going back to another point made by Haddad in the article, she writes “Bushnell was among the first to reason that male rule is not a biblical ideal”. But many opponents of women’s ordination also argue this. Which is essentially radical egalitarian slander. Dr. McKnight probably should’ve read these posts of mine summing up Nonna Verna Harrison and Met. Kallistos Ware’s positions before he went with Mimi Haddad’s history on this entire issue. Whenever I read something from an Evangelical radical egalitarian commenting on the history of women in the church, I become suspicious because most of it is a foreign history to me.