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Friday, 24 January 2014

The Gospel of the Lord


Commissioning the Twelve Apostles depicted by Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1481.                                                                                                         Wikipedia

The Twelve Apostles

13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. Mark 3:13-19

To suggest that Jesus was a man constrained by the customs of the day ignores the reality that Jesus rose from the dead and that He called to him those whom he desired, consciously choosing the Twelve including the one who betrayed him.

Now, "1,000 years on, girls sing at Canterbury Cathedral" is being trumpeted around the world as if to suggest that the heart of the Anglican communion has finally caught up with the real world: Canterbury is not the first British cathedral to set up a girls' choir, but as the mother church of the 80 million-strong Anglican Communion — one struggling to define the role of women in its ranks — its move has special resonance. It is understandable that the difference between girls singing in the choir and a woman standing at the altar in the person of Christ would be lost on those constructing media reports but for practicing Anglicans who recite the Nicene Creed the difference should be obvious. 

Let us be clear about this. Only a minority in the Anglican Communion is 'struggling to define the role of women in its ranks' and it is a shame that what is undoubtedly a valued opportunity for these girls should be represented as part of 'the struggle'.  In reality it has nothing to do with the role of women in general but the role of a vociferous, power-seeking minority who persuaded others to depart from the centrality of the Gospel and define their own rules to adapt the priesthood to their own liking. I wonder what their response was today to 'The Gospel of the Lord'?

22 comments:

  1. Well one response to "The Gospel of the Lord" is to come at it with a hermeneutic of suspicion. The Gospels can't exactly agree on the names of the apostles that Jesus called with the two lists differing (and many more lists that did not make their may into the eventual canon). We must remember that it took four centuries for the canon to be closed and one can only wonder at the reasons for leaving the names of the female apostles out. So my response would be this - there is evidence (substantial, in fact) that the names of female apostles were deliberately left out of the canon to give the impression that Jesus chose only male disciples. This suited the early church as by that time the role of women laid down by the church was that that present day traditionalists would recognise. I do not believe that it is one that Jesus would recognise nor did he intend. If it wasn't for the fact that he rose again, I think he would be turning in his grave about this.

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  2. Letthekingdomin you have again used a commercial link. Last time you were marked as spam. Next time you will be banned. Please remove the link if you want to be taken seriously.

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  3. Rose again? Now why on earth would you want to believe that? Certainly not if you insist on reading the Gospels through the lens of a negative hermeneutic! Once you admit your 'hermeneutic of suspicion' you can filter out anything that doesn't fit with your preconceived framework - indeed the logical conclusion is to concede the argument to Richard Dawkins and the New Atheism.

    Or perhaps you'd like to join the ranks of those who believe the apocryphal gospels with all their outlandish ideas should have been part of the Canon? In which case we end up with something that resembles paganism and have to retreat from the reason and argument to which Christians from Saint Paul onwards have laid claim.

    Read the Gospels with a positive hermeneutic by all means to discover what riches they still have to unfold to us today, but a negative hermeneutic destroys both their credibility and yours.

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  4. Elsewhere in this blog (a few entries before this one) one contributor appealed to a list of male saints (bar the reference to the theotokos) in praying for one lost soul who continues to blog here, namely me. It’s made me think some more about the place of female saints in our liturgy and prayer. One could almost say that it has prompted me to do a little theology around this concept of Hagiography.

    To those who might well be unfamiliar with the term, hagiography is a word used by Christians with reference to the saints and is defined as “the biography of saints; saints' lives; biography of an idealising or idolising character”. The term comes from the Greek hagios, meaning holy. What struck me the other day (and it had not quite struck me before) was the almost exclusively male-focus of the litany of saints. This is further compounded here (in this entry) by ancient briton’s citation of a Gospe textl that seems only to mentioned the male apostles of Jesus, when clearly, women were also his apostles. For example, Mary Magdalene was clearly amongst the first apostles and the very first evangelist, charged as she was to go and tell the others the Gospel news that Christ was risen. It’s therefore sad that women have been edited out of the Canon and consigned, more often than not, to a footnote in HIStory (note the emphasis).

    In the present day, the call for women priests and indeed Bishops is one I believe aimed at honouring and reclaiming the place of our foresisters in the whole herstory of salvation. Mary Daly (in her book: Gyn Ecology the Metaethics of Radical Feminism) makes the same point and notes that these foresisters were the Great Hags whom the institutionally powerful - but privately impotent - patriarchs found “too threatening for coexistence, and whom historians erased”. Hag is of course an Old English word (meaning harpy/frightening/ugly) and not at all complimentary. So when I read this blog, I am often struck by the way I hear certain women talked about (and sometimes named e.g. “priestess of Radyr”). It leaves me feeling that there is here an underlying sense that the beauty of strong, creative women is deemed “ugly” by misogynistic standards of “beauty” (for which we might replace the shorthand “tradition”). To those of us not fearful of “woman”, these very same people are examples of strength, courage, spiritual beauty and wisdom. So, for example, I admire the strength/wisdom/tenacity of someone like Peggy the Pilot, a person often ridiculed by those who contribute to this blog. I further admire the women priests we have in the Church in Wales because they are quite clearly on a courageous journey of radical being and their lives chime beautifully with the Great Hags of our hidden history within the church.

    It has left me thinking that this call for women to be apostles and Bishops is no innovation, as traditionalists claim – rather I believe it is an uncovering of what has been there all along: Hagography, as Daly calls it. Furthermore, women traveling into leadership within the church are creating Hagocracy, the place where they, alongside men, can truly govern. That excites me. Let the kingdom in

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    1. HAGocracy could excite me no more than BLOKEocracy. You do the case for women in ministry no favours at all by twisting etymology and inventing a private language to support your thinking. I would like to see godly women and men in positions of leadership in the Church. Rewriting the Gospels or the Tradition is not the way to do this. I agree entirely that there is an imperative for the acceptance of women at all levels in the Church, and this has been hindered by essentially secular perceptions of the place of women in society. Your argument is ill-served by seeking to accomplish the diminution of the male by means of rewriting the language.

      The keyword here is 'acceptance', which includes God's acceptance of those with whom you (and I) may not agree.

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    2. "twisting etymology and inventing a private language to support your thinking" - once again, I give up. Next .... (let the kingdom in)

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    3. I agree with Anon, Aber - you would do well to try and understand the article he posted. I found it refreshing. As a woman in ministry I did not see the article as doing my cause ill favour, Quite the opposite, it was insightful to read a new take on an old subject. It's made me want to read what Mary Daly has to say. Rare that that happens. I read below, Anon - let the kingdom in - that you don't intend to make any further postings. It's a shame as over the past few days it has been the one thing that has brought me back here.

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    4. 'Anonymous', obviously my pleas have been to no avail when asking anonymous commentators to identify themselves with a pseudonym in the interest of clarity. The alternative is not to publish anonymous comments.

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    5. Hello Anon, commenting on the other Anon, and assuming you are actually a different Anon! If you have been following the discussion you will be aware that I have been reading these books and articles for a very long time.

      What I understand in them is a sort of mirror image of patriarchy which I associate with the first wave of 70s and 80s feminism. It offers an initially valid critique of power-focused male behaviour and attitudes, yet very soon the argument undermines itself by espousing the same abuses of power and language in aid of the female.

      More recently, a second wave of feminism has offered the insight that – hey – we’re all in this together, so let’s bring what we all have to offer, male and female together, and develop a more wholesome approach to the issues of life.

      This may help to explain why I don’t care whether you are a woman or a man or indeed something in between.

      Let me help you further with a brief commentary on why I don’t find the concept of ‘ministry’ helpful. It limits what God is doing in the Church to a transactional thing – what one person does to another. My understanding of ordination (which will be shared by many readers here who would not accept the ordination of women) is that we are ordained to focus and reflect in a particular way the presence of God in the world and through the Church. This will include transactional activity but goes way beyond that. In particular it does not admit of the power games which underlie the agenda of such as Mary Daly. Why? Because in Christ God has shown us that playing with power is alien to God’s dealings with the world.

      If God’s image is to be fully reflected in God’s Church, we have – all together – to bring to bear what little of God’s image still shines through each of us despite the carapace of sin.

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  5. Hermeneutic of suspicion, not of negativity. There is quite a difference. But you are right, I expect our understanding of the resurrection would probably differ. That said, it is enough for me to proclaim "Christos Anesti" and to believe that He rose for you too. Have a splendid day. Let the kingdom in.

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  6. As an aside, a most insightful positive hermeneutic of Jesus' call of the disciples is given by Ched Myers in his political reading of Mark's Gospel (ref: Ched Myers: Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark's Story of Jesus, Orbis books (that great publishing house of liberation theology), p.g. 164). Ched asks us to appreciate the intensely political character of Jesus' discourse in Mark 3:1-19, a politicisation that would not have been lost on his Palestinian audience. For in choosing his disciples in this way, Jesus is re-enacting a New Sinai; he is repudiating the authority of the hitherto priestly and scribal order and is ushering in a new governance: a "government in exile". In this call of the disciples the precise gender of those called is not the "centrality of the Gospel" ( as insisted in the original blog entry). What is central is that we see here the birth of a community of resistance; a new Sinai, a new order. Hence by constant theological motif "let the kingdom in".

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  7. We are all aware of the varying understanding of the possible place of women in the episcopacy. However it is also clear that both Anonymous...let the kingdom...and Abervicar both aspire to seeing women ordained,but the sentiment in these entries are poles apart. Abervicar is courteous and compassionate,and I read only arrogance in the liberal ( and in some ways extremist) approach of Anonymous,in whom I tend to suspect a mere academic exercise of his mind. Remember,Anon, that the Archbishop wishes to accommodate and make provision for those who cannot accept the Governing Body decision. This must surely mean that the Archbishop has not closed his mind and is conscious of his call to care for all his flock. My view is that I have an understanding of what is true, but my understanding is constrained by my humanity, and that we shall not perceive Truth until consummation.

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  8. "I read only arrogance in the liberal ( and in some ways extremist) approach of Anonymous". Simple soul, I read a lot of theology and it just excites me. The truth is, I would be the first to say that I might well be wrong. In the meantime, let's keep on wrestling with these issues thoughtfully and intelligibly. Remember, theology is faith seeking understanding, and one does not have to wait until consummation for that. Aber and I are poles apart and even he can be dismissive of other people's views (not least my own). I agree, we ought to listen to one another in love and agree to differ. My entries today have been about a theological position that has taken issue with the initial blog's suggestion that a male apostleship is central to the Gospel. I don't believe it is, do you? Let the kingdom in

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    1. Not dismissive - descriptive.

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    2. Aber - I felt dismissed by you. And misunderstood. Let the kingdom in

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    3. Anon... I can see you are' excited' by theology, but your definition" theology is faith seeking understanding" is in error. Some who study theology are not persons 'of faith'.: there are acaedemic theologians who do not profess a faith. Others may have been given faith,but do not aspire to being theologians .

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    4. That's about you and has nothing to do with the argument. If you want to propose theological arguments you must be ready to have them challenged.

      And while we're talking about being dismissive, am I not arguing in favour of those people you want to excommunicate?

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  9. The intial bloig stated: "In reality it has nothing to do with the role of women in general but the role of a vociferous, power-seeking minority who persuaded others to depart from the centrality of the Gospel and define their own rules to adapt the priesthood to their own liking". Thus my article on Hagography was an attempt to question whether women bishops is an adaption of the priesthood into the liking of vociferous feminists or is it, as I believe, a re-discovery of a tradition that has been silenced on the church. Additionally, I then mentioed Ched Myers in order to suggest that the call of the disciples has little to do with their being male, but more to do with the fact that they posited an alternative (and subversive) governance of the church. In that regard, you are right, my views are "extreme" (as you put it) although I would prefer the term "radical". Yours in charity and courtesy, let the kingdom in

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    1. This is mere Revisionism - not reality or Christian doctrine or history.

      Cambrensis

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  10. Cam Ma - your last entry - succinct and accurate,I believe.

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  11. Calling it a day - leave you lot to your closeted little world where any alternative theological viewpoint is rubbished. Any attempt at dialogue I see is futile, sadly. As for citation of scholarly works from a liberation perspective - to dismiss that as revision is offhand and disingenuous. Nevertheless, I wish you all well. I genuinely do. Let the kingdom in. Over and out xx

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    1. Anon - you are free to read whatever you like and to believe whatever you like. But it is not the faith of the Church. Securus judicat orbis terrarum (Augustine of Hippo)

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