The error of women’s ordination has stalked, cursed, and haunted Anglicanism for nearly half a century and no matter where we go or what efforts we make to correct our wrongs, we cannot seem to fully rid ourselves of it. For many conservative Anglicans, women’s ordination is like the relative you cannot stand but have to put up with because no matter what they will be coming to every family gathering. However, I believe that if we follow Scripture faithfully and assent to the Anglican Formularies, then women’s ordination cannot be tolerated; it must instead be rebuked, and every effort must be made to eradicate it from the church before it is too late.
1. The Church is Bound to Scripture
In the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, Article XX says that “it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God’s Word written.” The use of the word “ordain” here seems rather providential, as it was the Anglican Communion’s decision to “ordain” woman as Priests and Bishops, despite the fact that Scripture forbids such a thing, that helped bring about its demise. There is no need to explain at length how Scripture prohibits women from ordained Church leadership, simply quoting a few passages will suffice:
Man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. (1 Cor 11:8‒10)
As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. (1 Cor 14:33‒35)
Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. (1 Tim 2:11‒14)
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife. (1 Tim 3:1‒2)
Of course, egalitarian Biblical scholars will try to overturn these passages by appealing to others that are all vague and have nothing to do with the issue at hand. Article XX condemns this very method, saying “neither may [the church] so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another.” When egalitarian scholars bring up Aquila and Priscilla’s explaining of the “way of God more accurately” to Apollos (Acts 18:26) or the possibility that St Paul might have called a Junia an “apostle” (Rom 16:7), in order to undermine the clear and explicit teachings of these passages above, they are making some parts of Scripture repugnant to others.
Moreover, the claim that these passages are so mysterious that they cannot be understood without the esoteric and sometimes even Gnostic insights of Biblical scholars also undermines the qualities of sufficiency and perspicuity which the Formularies attribute to Scripture:
In holy Scripture is fully contained what we ought to do, and what to eschew… We may learn also in these Books to know God’s will and pleasure, as much as (for this present time) is convenient for us to know… Although many things in the Scripture be spoken in obscure mysteries, yet there is nothing spoken under dark mysteries in one place, but the self-same thing in other places, is spoken more familiarly and plainly, to the capacity both of learned and unlearned. (A Fruitful Exhortation to the reading and knowledge of holy Scripture)
The passages quoted above (1 Cor 11:8‒10, 14:33‒35; 1 Tim 2:11‒14; 3:1‒2) are without question the ones that speak to women in church leadership the most clearly and directly. Therefore, to undermine their meaning being sufficiently known from a plain sense reading, or to use obscure passages to make those clear passages unclear, is to go against the hermeneutic given to us by the Anglican Formularies. Following this Anglican hermeneutic, we must conclude that Scripture forbids women to preach and teach the word in church or to have authority over a congregation. Since these duties are essential parts of a Priest’s vocation, we must as Anglicans who assent to Article XX deem it unlawful for churches to ordain women to the Priesthood.
It must also be said that there is no sense in which the Anglican Formularies themselves could be understood to have an egalitarian reading of Scripture. It is true that the Formularies nowhere explicitly forbid women from being ordained, but this is simply because the idea of that happening was unthinkable to their writers. However, the Ordinal assumes that a “man” is the one being ordained and patriarchal gender roles are taught throughout the Formularies. The BCP’s Solemnization of Matrimony directs the bride to vow to “obey, serve, and honour” her husband, and the Homily of the State of Matrimony says “wives must obey their husband and perform subjection… God hath commanded that ye should acknowledge the authority of the husband and refer to him the honour of obedience.” The Homily goes on to say that a woman must cover her head in church to signify that “she is under obedience of her husband, and to declare her subjection.” It thus seems very implausible that the writers of the Formularies would be happy to know that in the future women would be ordained as Priests and Bishops within the Church some of them died to defend. Some Anglican Divines did, however, speak against the possibility of such a thing happening. The great Anglican Divine, Richard Hooker, made the throwaway comment that “to make women teachers in the house of God were a gross absurdity,” and the Bishop and Martyr John Hooper said “the preaching of the word is not the office of a woman, no more is the ministration of the sacraments.”
While it is clear that the Formularies rule out the possibility of allowing women to become church leaders, one could of course argue (and some have argued) that since they never spoke directly to the issue it must not be an important one. This is to ascribe the quality of sufficiency to something that is not Scripture. The writers of the Formularies were not blessed with the ability to foresee the future, and the Formularies were not inspired to sufficiently touch on all matters of later importance. However, the Ordinal tells us that the Priesthood is so “weighty an office” and so “great a treasure” that an “horrible punishment will ensue” if it is misused (cf. James 3:1) This is because, being “Messengers, Watchmen, and Stewards of the Lord,” a Priest’s office is “appointed for the Salvation of mankind,” and therefore to distort it is a serious offense.
Returning to Scripture, after St Paul tells us that women cannot speak in church (1 Cor 14:34), he says that “what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command” and that it is given so that “everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (1 Cor 14:37‒39). Because the church is called to worship God “in Spirit and truth” (John 4:23), God takes our worship very seriously, and He demands that our worship be conducted in an orderly fashion. This is why Nadab and Abihu’s offering of “strange fire” to the Lord led to Him incinerating them (Lev 10:1‒2). It is precisely because of how God has ordered the sexes (rather than cultural concerns) that women cannot teach in church (1 Tim 2:13; cf. 1 Cor 11:8‒9), and so the ordination of women to a position of authority God forbids them from having is to have worship be led in a disordered way. If God was enraged by the offering of strange fire, or the fact that it was not the Levites who carried the Ark of the Covenant (1 Chron 15:2, 12‒13), He will surely be enraged when people He has forbidden from leadership lead the congregation in offering to Him the remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice in the Eucharist. We must then ask what this means for churches that ordain women, and whether it makes them run the risk of losing their lampstands (Rev 2:5), to answer that question we need to turn to the Homily Concerning the Coming Down of the Holy Ghost.
2. The Marks of a True and False Church
The Homily identifies three marks that define “the true church,” which are “pure and sound doctrine, the Sacraments ministered according to Christ’s holy institution, and the right use of Ecclesiastical discipline.” The error of women’s ordination concerns all three of those marks. To say a woman can be a Priest is to make a doctrinal statement about not just spiritual leadership and the Priesthood, but also the church itself, and the very nature of gender and humanity. To ordain women to preside over and lead Holy Communion, directly affects the administration of the Sacraments. And finally, to allow women to violate God’s commandment that women shall not “teach or have authority over a man” (1 Tim 2:12) is to fail to exercise proper discipline, and to in fact encourage this sin on an institutional level is to fall under God’s condemnation, as we see happen in Isaiah 3:10‒14. Right away then, the Homily’s vision of a true church does not seem to perfectly resemble the churches who ordain women.
The only example the Homily provides of a false church is Rome, which it says is “so far wide from the nature of the true Church, that nothing can be more.” The reason why Rome is labelled as a false church is—it is claimed—because they have not followed the Scriptures in their doctrines, administration of the Sacraments, or discipline, but have “so intermingled their own traditions and inventions, by chopping and changing, by adding and plucking away, that now they may seem to be converted into a new guise.” And what is women’s ordination but the introduction of a man-made—or rather, a feminist-made—tradition and invention into the church? What is it but the chopping and changing of the passages we looked at above? The Homily claims that if a church follows “their own decrees before the express word of God… they are not of Christ,” and what is the ordination of women but the disobeying of God’s explicit commandments in order to follow the decrees of feminism?
The examples of Rome’s errors that the Homily gives are: changing the Lord’s Supper into a sacrifice, robbing the laity of the cup in the Supper, hallowing the baptismal water by adding “oil, salt, spittle, tapers… and other dumb ceremonies,” and failing to excommunicate notorious sinners. It is safe to say that violating Scripture’s explicit commandments and subverting God’s created design of human beings by ordaining women to be Priests is a more serious crime than adding oil to the water used in Baptism. As for the failure to excommunicate, as stated above the church is guilty of this if it ordains women, because a woman preaching in Church and presiding over the Eucharist is an act of disobedience and a crime worthy of excommunication. Robbing the laity of the cup is unacceptable because it undermines the equality of all believers by elevating the clergy to an higher and more privileged caste, but having a woman lead Communion is a similar crime, because it undermines the ordering of the sexes and destroys the distinctions between them. Even Rome making the Eucharist into a propitiatory sacrifice has far more scriptural and patristic basis than the ordination of women, which has no basis at all. Therefore, the crimes which this Homily claims makes Rome forfeit its right to be called a true church are at least on par with, if not lesser than, the ordination of women.
Crucially, the Homily anticipates that Rome will counter these claims by saying “there are divers necessary points not expressed in holy Scripture, which were left to the revelation of the holy Ghost. Who being given to the Church, according to Christ’s promise, hath taught many things from time to time, which the Apostles could not then bear.” We have heard egalitarians make this exact argument time and time again. Some will say that it is a “new movement of the Spirit” to start calling and appointing women to Church leadership. Others will appeal to an hermeneutic which says that since we see Scripture (debatably) become progressively more liberal towards women, we the church are supposed to carry on that progress and thus move beyond what even the NT stipulates. Both of these claims are to say that there are “points not expressed in holy Scripture,” in this case the ordination of women, “which were left to the revelation of the holy Ghost” and which the “Apostles could not then bear.” The Homily says that this very claim is indicative of a false church. It cannot be accepted. The Homily responds to this claim by saying that “the plain words of Christ [teach] us that the proper office of the holy Ghost is not to institute and bring in new ordinances, contrary to his doctrine before taught, but [to] come and declare those things which he had before taught, so that it might be well and truly understood.” What this means is that the NT is the final and complete revelation of the Holy Spirit and does not need to be supplemented or added to for it is totally sufficient for us to come to a full knowledge of God’s will (2 Tim 3:16‒17). The Spirit does, of course, guide the church to accurately interpret Scripture, which is why the entire church only ever ordained men as Priests until the 1970s! Which is to say, the church was unanimous on this issue until the period in history where Western civilization accelerated its collapse due to feminism and the sexual revolution and the church began its widespread descent into heresy.
If a practice can be traced back only to the 1970s then we can safely say it is not Spirit-led or apostolic. In fact, the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church came soon after its General Convention voiced its support for “abortion rights” in 1967. No one interpreted the Bible to allow women in church leadership until the feminist movement. The truth of the matter is that women’s ordination was not first introduced because biblically faithful Christians came to realise that Scripture taught it; rather, it was simply the result of the church’s general surrender to the Satanic evil that is second-wave feminism. The fact that the ordination of women was influenced by a movement which has led to the systematic murder of 63,000,000 babies in the USA alone—the worst holocaust in human history—is a good reason on its own to condemn churches that do it.
It does indeed appear that if we follow the principles laid down by the Homily we have been looking at, that churches who ordain women are at great risk of becoming heretical sects. It is not simply that ordaining women is an error, or a misguided mistake; rather it is a sin. Sin, quite simply, is disobeying God’s commandments, and what could be clearer than: “in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent… they are not permitted to speak” (1 Cor 14:34), or, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man” (1 Tim 2:12)? In few other places is the NT so explicit. In fact, ordaining women is very akin to the paradigmatic sin in the Garden of Eden. The serpent, sounding a lot like egalitarian biblical scholars asks: “did God really say…?” (Gen 3:1) and thus encourages Eve to grasp what is not hers to take, just like how some churches encourage women to reach for positions which God has forbidden them from having. The reason why GAFCON was formed, and churches like the ACNA founded, was because it was understood that a church which openly blesses sin cannot be tolerated, but why does this implicate only sexuality issues, and not ordaining women? In fact, I would argue that the two issues—women’s ordination and sexuality—are closely linked, with one leading straight to the other. This is one of many reasons why women’s ordination has led to the spiritual sickness of the modern Anglican church.
3. Diagnosing the Church
As we have already seen, the Bible condemns women in church leadership more explicitly than just about any other issue you could care to mention. However, once the church sneaks in an hermeneutic that can twist and distort explicit commandments so that they say the complete opposite of what they are plainly saying then that hermeneutic will spread throughout the rest of Scripture like a virus and will infect everything, even the passages condemning sins like homosexuality (Lev 18:22; Rom 1:26‒27; 1 Tim 1:10). Eventually, any and every passage that goes against our sinful inclinations and the moral norms of the evil world will be able to be bent to our will. Once a church allows itself to stand above Scripture, it is doomed to fall. The only solution to the problems we see with liberalism in the church is to return to Scripture in obedience and submission. As I have argued before, it is Scripture which is the norm and the church which is normed, but often it seems that the standard by which something is judged to be liberal/heretical or conservative/orthodox is not Scripture—or even our Formularies—but simply what is culturally accepted. Because women’s ordination has been commonplace and accepted for a long enough period of time, it has become normalized and so is thought to be within the bounds of orthodoxy. It no longer offends us, as it once would have, to see a woman wearing a clerical collar and preaching behind a pulpit, because we now see it so often. The only way to prevent the same thing happening to our attitude about sexuality is to have our standard be the immutable Word of God, not the ever-changing whims of man.
The other reason why women’s ordination leads to heresies regarding sexuality is that sexuality is completely hinged on gender, and once God’s created design in gender is ignored and subverted, then what we say about sex will automatically be affected. Scripture clearly differentiates women and men when it says woman was made “for man” (1 Cor 11:9) and to be man’s “helper” (Gen 2:18): That “man is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man” (1 Cor 11:3): That women are supposed to “submit” to their husbands, who are their “head[s]” (1 Cor 11:3; Eph 5:22; Col 3:18; Tit 2:5; 1 Pet 3:1): That women are “the weaker vessel” (1 Pet 3:7): And that women are designed especially to be homemakers (Prov 31:10‒31 ; 1 Tim 5:14 ; Tit 2:4‒5). Once the differences between the sexes are destroyed and women are permitted not only to speak in church but also preach the sermon, lead the liturgy, and preside over the Eucharist, then essentially the church is saying that there is no difference between a man and a woman. If there is no difference in role or purpose, then there is no difference in design or nature, and thus, androgyny ensues; but if men and women are basically the same, then why must a marriage only be between a man and a woman? If women can take on masculine roles in the church, then why cannot men take on feminine roles within a marriage? Do not think that these are hypothetical arguments, they are in fact the very same arguments made by the homosexual lobby within the church. Women’s ordination has long been effectively used by liberals against conservatives, and yet many conservatives still think that it is not a major issue. To oppose same-sex blessings, but not oppose women’s ordination, is to try and escape the 2000s by going back in time to the 1990s. You cannot avoid the inevitable.
It is widely known that women Priests are overwhelmingly progressive, and this has been the case from the start. The first women to be ordained as Priests in the Episcopal Church, the ‘Philadelphia Eleven,’ were all known progressives and feminists. Perhaps the most prominent of them, Carter Heyward, openly denied theism and the Deity of our Lord, saying that God is simply “our power in mutual relation,” and “the shape of God is justice.” The Bishop who led their ordination, Daniel Corrigan, was also an advocate for the ordination of homosexuals. The first female Bishop in the Anglican Communion, Barbara Harris, was famous for her radically progressive theology. The first female Bishop of Australia, Kay Goldsworthy, created controversy earlier last year when she paved the way for the ordination of people openly in same-sex relationships. The first female Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, is outspoken about a woman’s so-called “right” to murder their own babies in the womb. And the first female Anglican Primate, Jefferts Schori, is so villainous and diabolically evil that she would be better suited acting as a Disney antagonist than a Bishop.
In 1977 the Anglican Church of my country, New Zealand, started ordaining women to the Priesthood. That same year, as a direct result of ordaining women, the Prayer Book Commission decided to use “inclusive” language in all of the new liturgies they were writing and started to remove gendered language. Masculine pronouns were no longer to be used of God, and even the title “Father” was to be used as sparingly as possible. The Trinitarian blessing was changed to “Creator, Redeemer, and Giver of Life,” and the new version of the Lord’s Prayer was addressed to “Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver… Father and Mother of us all.” The Commission said, with triumph, “not a single masculine pronoun referring to the Deity remains now in the text of the Psalms!” It should not be surprising then that the Church went on to allow the ordination of people openly in same-sex relationships, and the blessing of those relationships, nor should it be surprising that female clergy were at the forefront of this development.
We Anglicans have seen this time and time again: once a church starts ordaining women, it is only a matter of time before it starts teaching critical race theory, blessing same-sex marriages, and denying core tenets of the Christian faith. Once women are appointed to lead churches, it is only a matter of time before someone like Nadia Bolz-Weber finds herself behind a pulpit, and from there, it is inevitable that the church will collapse. Is it really just a coincidence that the only Western Province remaining in the Anglican Communion that shows no signs of buckling on the homosexuality issue—the Australian Province of New South Wales—also happens to be the only one to not ordain women? Is it just a coincidence that stalwarts of orthodoxy like the Anglican Church of Nigeria, also do not ordain women? Turning to the ACNA, is it any surprise that C4SO, who have caused a lot of trouble recently due to their wokeness, ordain women? or that their most outspokenly Marxist and progressive member of clergy, Emily McGowin, is a woman? or that the Diocese of Pittsburgh, which has a reputation for its liberal impulse, also ordains women?
The fact of the matter is that churches who ordain women always move in a more liberal direction. There are many reasons why this is the case. We have already shown how women’s ordination logically leads to hermeneutical and theological liberalism, but there are other reasons why female clergy always come hand in hand with progressivism. One reason is that the kind of women who aspire to those positions are simply more inclined to progressive thinking. Another reason is that when a church is led by women, it becomes effeminate. It is no wonder that mainline churches in the West who ordain women all have the well-known problem of a deficit in male attendance. In the Anglican Church of New Zealand, which has a very large proportion of women Priests, it is far from surprising that women make up almost 70% of its (rapidly declining) church attendance. The absurd lie that women in church leadership would attract more men has been proven to be utterly false. Call it sexism, or call it God’s glorious design of the genders being infused into our hearts, but men simply do not want to be led by a woman. Once a church becomes effeminate, it will then inevitably fall under the pressure of the evil world we live in, because effeminacy cannot fight. Only a masculine church, led by men and attended by men, can “wage the good warfare” (1 Tim 1:18) and win. This is not to say that women are not integral to the church, as they most certainly are, but their roles are to nurture the church, not lead it, and to maintain the Christian home, supporting the men who go out to war and raising up the next generation of troops to carry on the mission. Women are helpers, not leaders, but both of those roles are just as important and just as glorious as each other. However, an army that disobeys the direct orders of its General, and appoints unqualified people to its most important positions, stands no chance of winning the battle.
When the church started to idolize the evil world, and wanted to be part of the feminist club, she in turn became a feminist herself, and now stands under God’s furious wrath as a result. Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us if we do not abide in Him and follow His commandments then we will be cut off from the Vine (John 15:6), and He warns the church in Thyatira to stop following “that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet” before it is too late (Rev 2:20). However, it is not the church in Thyatira I see us most resembling, but rather the church in Laodicea:
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. (Rev 3:15‒17)
Many Anglican churches think that because they split from the mainstream church over heretical teachings regarding sexuality, they are faithful. They believe they are “rich” in obedience, and do not need to be disciplined. However, when it comes to a key issue that helped lead to all the heresies which have arisen these past few decades, they are lukewarm. Some truly believe that women can and should become leaders—these people are “cold,” and are the cause of the problem. However, what is worse is that there are many people in churches that ordain women who know the Bible forbids this but who keep quiet about it, either because they do not want to offend anyone and hurt their reputation, or because they actually do not think the issue matters. These people are “lukewarm,” and are exacerbating the problem. It is time for us who know better to become “hot,” and to fight for what is true. As I explained at length in the last two articles I wrote for The North American Anglican, the church stands under the authority of the sufficient and perspicuous Scriptures, and if a church starts to disobey these Scriptures, it must be rebuked, and if it persists, it must be rejected. May God give us the courage to stand up for the truth, the humility to recognize our failings, and the resolve to correct them in a spirit of repentance.
- First, that verse may just as easily be translated to say Junia is “well known by the Apostles”; second, a case could be made that this name’s spelling is a scribal error and should be rendered as the male name Junias (as in the ESV’s footnote); third, the word “apostle” does not necessarily refer to the rank of Apostle held by St Peter and St Paul, as the word has a wider linguistic usage, literally meaning “messenger,” as we see St. Paul use it of Epaphroditus for instance (Phil 2:25); fourth, if St. Paul did mean “Apostle” in the usual sense, he could simply have meant that Junia/s was a witness of Christ’s resurrection. To my mind, the first option is by far the most likely. ↑
- Irenaeus tells us that a distinguishing feature of the Gnostics was their claim that Scripture is ambiguous and cannot be understood without additional knowledge. Biblical scholars often reject the plain sense reading of passages like 1 Timothy 2:12 by appealing to obscure extra-biblical history, so that they may defend their views which border on androgynism, which is another Gnostic heresy. ↑
- Richard Hooker, Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Polity, Book V, Chapter LXII. ↑
- John Hooper, An answer unto my Lord of Winchester’s book, cover page. ↑
- Carter Heyward, Touching Our Strength: The Erotic as Power and the Love of God (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1989), 188, 22. ↑
- Geoffrey M.R. Haworth, He Taonga Tongarewa/A Highly-prized and Precious Gift: A history of a New Zealand Prayer Book (Auckland: the Anglican Church in Aoteroea, New Zealand, and Polynesia, 2018), 48. ↑
- The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia, A New Zealand Prayer Book/He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa (Auckland: The Anglican Church in Aoteroea, New Zealand, and Polynesia, 2020), 181. ↑
- Haworth, He Taonga Tongarewa, 56. ↑
- NCLS Research, The 2001 NZ Church Life Survey, Attender Demographics. ↑