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. ↑
January 27, 2023 @ 1:11 pm Bryce Lowe
Dear Mr. Devereaux,
Thank you for writing this article and putting so much effort into citing and arguing your point. I find myself agreeing with many of your conclusions, but I am disturbed by the way you argue your case. I don’t think you’ll agree with my critique, but hopefully some readers of this post will see that not all Anglicans use the same aggressive, caustic language when dealing with this topic.
I want humbly suggest that there are good ways to argue against women’s ordination and bad ways. Good ways (among other things) are pastoral in tone, specific in scope, and unifying in aim. Bad arguments do more damage than good. Your rhetoric is extremely alienating to people who even agree with you, especially as you work in topics about male headship, gender roles, head coverings, patriarchy, silence in church, and homemaking. Regardless of what I think on any of these topics, it’s obvious that these topics are hugely controverted today by many people who love the Scriptures and the Formularies but disagree on the best way to apply these standards to the ridiculously complex world. Here are two instances where I think your language is remarkably uncharitable and ungentle:
In your section “The Church is Bound to Scripture,” it seems like you divide people between those who respect the supremacy of the Bible (and are therefore complementarian, therefore patriarchal, therefore against women’s ordination, therefore good) and those who mock the Bible (and are therefore egalitarians, therefore liberals, therefor pro women’s ordination, therefore evil). This is poor logic. This problem is not always divided along lines of Biblical authority or liberalism versus conservatism (although it may be), and much detail (not to mention godly compassion and Christlike pastoral care) is lost when we make sweeping remarks to damn one side and vindicate another.
In your section “The Marks of a True and False Church,” you argue that because women’s ordination came from the same movement that enabled mass abortions, the former should be suspect. This is equivocation and, again, poor logic. I suppose we also should be suspect of abolitionist movements that arose from Enlightenment philosophies since the Enlightenment also gave birth to deism and modernism.
I am one reader, and I don’t pretend that I understand this issue all the way. Most of the words above are offered as a challenge against the tone of this piece and the confidence with which you rendered judgement against your opponents.
Bryce T. Lowe
January 27, 2023 @ 1:13 pm Bryce Lowe
I apologize; I just realized I misspelled your name in my opening line. My mistake!
January 28, 2023 @ 12:53 am River Devereux
Thank you for your comment and charitable pushback. I’ll comment on two things:
1. You mention that the tone of this article is ‘aggressive and caustic,’ and certainly I would not deny that this piece does have sharp edge to it. However, over the course of a few weeks I edited the piece several times and eventually settled at its current form happily. Why? Because I feel that it’s tone – however aggressive – is justified. You are correct in saying that it is not pastoral, or even unifying, but it is not intended to be those things. You may well be correct that it would not bring an egalitarian over to our side, but it is not intended to do this. What this article is intended for is breathing fire into the complementarian camp, to animate them into action and intolerance. Furthermore, the article is a sharp rebuke at the practice of WO. Throughout the Scriptures, whether it be in the Prophets, or in the Psalms, or in the Epistles of St Paul, or from the mouth of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are shown examples of righteous fury at those who teach error to God’s people. This manner of speech is certainly out of vogue amongst the Christian Church today, which remains obsessed with being “winsome,” but I happen to think that we could do with a lot more essays and videos with a more ‘caustic’ tone, because the problems we are dealing with deserve it. For me, this issue isn’t the sort of thing we should approach with a mild-tempered academic interest – which often becomes ‘lukewarm’ – but with anger, because what is happening is wrong. Dead wrong.
2. You say this piece makes an illogical equivocation by associating WO with abortion. First of all, it is of course correct that not every advocate of WO or every woman ‘priest’ is pro-abortion. However, it is also true that TEC accepted WO *after* its synod supported abortion, and many of the most vocal proponents of WO in the Anglican Communion are pro-abortion, some of whom I mentioned in the article. Furthermore, I do believe that as Christians we should not look at ideas and teachings in isolation from the mouths they come from. Christians simply cannot listen to people who advocated and protested for the mass murder of babies. We cannot take on board the ‘good’ things they said and simply reject the mass murder of babies part. They must be rejected wholesale. Now, if it can be proven – and it believe it can but I did not have the space to do it in this article – that the advocacy and acceptance of WO was largely and directly inspired by 2nd wave feminists, then that automatically makes the whole thing morally suspect. This is without question not how secular logic works, which teaches us that we must approach ideas in isolation and dispassionately and open-mindedly weigh their merits. In Christianity, we approach everything *morally*.
P.S. All good about my surname, that is its most common spelling, it’s very rare to find my surname spelt the way it is for me.
January 27, 2023 @ 2:20 pm PWH
Dear Mr. Devereux,
I appreciate your article. I agree with the points you are making and the Scriptural basis for them. I am a (single) lay woman, by the way.
I also agree with Mr. Lowe’s comment, above, that your tone is going to be off-putting even to many who agree with you, as also your lumping some groups in with others as a form of guilt by association.
Many people, including some women who have been ordained as Episcopal priests (and one of those who subsequently left the priesthood, having come to the conclusion that she did not belong there), have pointed out the connection between homosexual practice, or sympathy to it, and sympathy towards women’s ordination. One might wish that the connection was not there, but it undeniably is, in the Methodist churches as well as in churches of the Anglican Communion. You cannot emphasise this point strongly enough.
I would like to point out a verse that many people tend to ignore in this context, which is I Corinthians 11:5 (that women should not be praying or prophesying with uncovered heads). This is not to advocate for or against women wearing head coverings, but to point out that women were “speaking” in the churches that Paul was overseeing, and thus one would have to deduce that his comments in I Corinthians 14:33-35 do not refer to women speaking as a part of the worship service. His addition that they should ask their husbands at home seems to indicate that the “keeping silence” he was commanding referred to women disrupting the public worship by talking or whispering or asking enlightenment of their husbands at inappropriate times.
As you point out, however, nothing could be clearer than I Timothy 2:11-14, where it is said, “I suffer not a woman to teach, or to take authority over a man”. That cannot be got round by saying it must have been Paul’s personal opinion, and (some people say) he must have hated women anyway.
By all means, keep up the good work, but also pray that the Lord will give you grace to exercise your gift of exhortation in a graceful way.
Paula W Heyes
January 28, 2023 @ 1:15 am River Devereux
Thank you for your comment.
I would just like to clarify that I did not quote 1 Cor 14:33-35 with the intention or understanding that it prohibits women from talking in any way, shape, or form during the liturgy. I believe in that passage St Paul is specifically prohibiting women from publicly interpreting prophesies/tongues to the congregation, not from not speaking altogether.
March 10, 2023 @ 12:55 pm Rev K Campbell
Your tone is perfect
January 27, 2023 @ 3:22 pm Bob Taylor
Mr Devereux, I’m exultant that such a great thing as your article can still come out of Anglicanism. Thank you!
January 28, 2023 @ 1:15 am River Devereux
Thank you brother!
January 27, 2023 @ 7:34 pm D. Bnonn Tennant
Mr. Devereux, thank you for this excellent article, and for the manly tone in which it is written. You have ably followed the pattern laid down by God\’s own words, in speaking with a force proportional to the danger, slipping neither into anxious ranting, nor people-pleasing prattling. This piece is a model of how to fear God rather than man; would that all Anglicans could follow the same example.
January 28, 2023 @ 1:18 am River Devereux
Thank you very much, your encouragement means a lot. I do indeed think that a failure to respond to grievous error with a certain sharpness is an effeminate trait which is unable to fight and win, and is in fact the result – at least to some degree – of the feminising effect WO has had on the church.
January 27, 2023 @ 10:14 pm TWS
This article is dripping with contempt. Is this what passes as virtue in Anglicanism?
January 27, 2023 @ 10:36 pm Bob Taylor
I’d like to think that all Christians would be dripping with contempt for the Devil and all of his works and all of his ways. Anglicanism has toleranced itself to death.
January 28, 2023 @ 1:20 am River Devereux
Do you not think righteous anger at heresy is virtuous? Being always agreeable and dispassionate is not a Christian virtue, the Prophets, the Apostles, and especially our Lord show us that sometimes contempt for error is what is required.
January 28, 2023 @ 11:27 am Bob Taylor
Exactly. Our Lord could be “temperamental” with those who profaned His Father’s house.
January 27, 2023 @ 11:20 pm Marissa
I am embarrassed for @NorthAmAnglican. Imagine striving for “high theological scholarship” & publishing an article that opens with: “There is no need to explain at length how Scripture prohibits women from ordained Church leadership, simply quoting a few passages will suffice…”
I couldn’t have gotten away with that in a high school Bible class let alone in a post about a subject scholars, theologians & faithful Christians have thoughtfully considered & come to different conclusions about. Indeed the ACNA bishops’ have specifically stated that they “acknowledge that there are differing principles of ecclesiology and hermeneutics that are acceptable within Anglicanism that may lead to divergent conclusions regarding women’s ordination to the priesthood.”
Besides that, I can’t take any article seriously that conflates historical-practice-of-Anglican-ordination-to-the-priesthood with NT instructions to the church. Make your argument on historical grounds w/formularies if you want, but declaring that your interpretation is authoritatively “what Scripture says” doesn’t make it so.
Like any Christian woman, I’m very familiar with the article’s arguments about what I can and cannot do or say in church & handwringing about women doing too much. I expect it from certain theological camps. What never fails to surprise me about the Anglicans arguing this, however, is that they often deny women ordination while “permitting” women to speak, teach, preach, & lead in various ways. That inconsistency constantly reminds me that prohibitions in ACNA about women being *ordained to the priesthood* can’t be said to be primarily about biblical faithfulness.
This is underscored by the fact that ordination as a concept is defined more by tradition & historic church practice than the biblical texts themselves. I understand NAA to hold a stance on male-only ordination so in some sense this article is unsurprising. Perhaps some readers are happy to prioritize historical precedent for their position on ordination, but please name it as such rather than conflating that w/biblical scholarship. Brothers and sisters, if you want to actively prohibit the vocations of half the church and work against fellow priests (in the priesthood of all believers sense) on the basis of historical precedent alone: own it.
For those interested in exploring the verses River quoted, I have found Philip Payne’s exegetical work in this area to be a great help: Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters https://a.co/d/33JRb4H
January 28, 2023 @ 1:27 am River Devereux
There is a lot to engage with here, but I thank you for your comment in any case. Even if we strongly disagree – which we do – it is still dignifying to have someone take the time to write out a comment as detailed as yours.
I would say first of all that it was not the intention of this article to provide a Biblical case against women in church leadership (I have already done this on my YouTube channel and blog if you are interested) but rather to animate complementarians to action and get them out of their lukewarm attitude. Secondly, I do not agree with you that there is a disconnect between the Bible and Tradition when it comes to ordination, but, my issue isn\’t really against \’ordination\’ per se, but moreso against what the ordination is *towards*, which is, being a teacher and authority figure over a congregation, which is indeed prohibited by Scripture, despite however much Philip Payne tries to wriggle out of those \’problematic\’ texts.
January 28, 2023 @ 11:59 am Marissa
Thanks for replying, River.
Re: your comment reply – Your stated thesis & the title of the article indicate to readers like me you intend to make a case against WO. To be frank, why would you assume people who read this are following you on youtube or your blog? From my perspective, you have not made your case within the article itself, which is necessary if you want to be taken seriously – just jumped straight into conclusions based on unfounded assertions. You are free to do this, of course, and I’m glad that you named here that your intent is to rally some complementarians to action. In that sense, it is clear you are preaching to the choir and that, as you indicate in your comment, – you intend to tackle more than just ordination. Taking you conclusions to their logical end would mean head coverings for women in church, no women speaking/reading the lessons, determining when a boy becomes a “man” such that women could no longer teach Sunday school classes, etc. I know there are such churches, even within the Anglican tradition, but I would like it if you would name that up front rather than conflating issue of women’s ordination with that kind of hard complementarianism.
Separate from that, let me say up front: I am not interested here in engaging a discussion about women in the church and why complementarianism, in particular, can at best to be claimed “an” interpretation – certainly not “the” interpretation – primarily because there are theologians who have devoted their life to this work and can do it much better than I can; besides, it sounds like you’ve likely already read widely. What I, as someone who accepted complementarianism for many years, would like to say to you, my brother in Christ, is this: What if you’re wrong?
I know and respect people who do not support WO. In fact, someone I greatly admire will often say: “Look, I’ve searched the Scriptures, and as best I can tell they speak against it. Am I convinced 100%? No. Maybe 60/40. But I have to remain faithful to my convictions.” Do I, as a woman, like that he’s untroubled by his 40% uncertainty? No. Do I disagree with him? Yes. Can I respect his stance? Absolutely yes.
I will say this as gently as I know how: your stance here does not carry even a hint of the humility necessary to approach such a tender and contentious discussion. The fact that you have implied any person who comes to a conclusion different than yours must be a heretic, a caricature of a dehumanized-progressive-Jezebel, and the harbinger of all the social ills you don’t like is so distressing. In ACNA, a theological task force took FIVE years to throughly discuss & prayerfully consider how to navigate this & released a statement in 2017 that indicated faithful Christians could come to different conclusions on this. Do you think, given that, there is at least the possibility that those who come to a different conclusion than you aren’t your enemies?
Additionally, I’d like to address your troublesome use of Scripture & speaking for God. It is no small thing to claim that God is “enraged” about something and publish that. I am astonished that you so easily took the account of “strange fire” and without any kind of qualification applied it to women’s ordination. I see from your biography you are working on a theology degree, so surely you must know this is not a good hermeneutic, and you do this in various ways throughout your piece. I mostly want to draw it to your attention here, because I think sometimes those of us who engage online can lose perspective & think that the talking points we hear or ways of engaging can remain unexamined.
Finally, I’d like to address the casual way in which you name people and sum them up as problems. Some of the names I’m unfamiliar with, but those within ACNA particularly stood out to me. It has become a favorite thing online to imply “we all know how C4SO is” or to talk about people being “woke.” You have done that with ACNA dioceses and specifically with Rev. Emily McGowin, your sister in Christ, and ordained clergy in good standing in her diocese. I strongly object to that on principle and call you to account for it here.
And, while I’m at it, I’d like it if the people, particularly the men on track to church leadership, who spent this much energy poring over the Scriptures about women, would give as much or more attention to the verses directed at those taking the office they themselves aspire to hold. The pastoral epistles have much to say about contentious and malicious speech, stirring up trouble, useless & endless controversies, etc. I am not saying all debate falls into this category or even that this article is wholly that. I am saying that I think we have become so accustomed to dehumanizing those we disagree with that we can’t even recognize we have normalized malice & contention.
Thanks for reading. M
January 28, 2023 @ 2:41 pm River Devereux
The title of this article shows that it is specifically about how WO cannot be tolerated, not whether it should or shouldn’t be practiced. I also think you have overstated and exaggerated considerably the tone of this article.
As for the ‘strange fire’ example, I stand by my bringing it up. That event shows us just how seriously God takes rightly ordered worship, and if the NT shows us how to rightly order worship, it is thus appropriate to say – based on that illustration – that going against the NT’s commandments would not be tolerated by God.
I do not agree that this article contentiously or maliciously stirs up useless controversy (I acknowledge that you seemed to suggest that I wasn’t ‘wholly’ doing this either). Reading St Paul’s letters, we see that he himself could often be very sharp and scathing in his criticisms of those who teach error. This is an issue of great importance and large consequence, and sometimes it is appropriate for one’s tone to match the weight of the subject. Would I use such language in a debate about proper vestments or some other unimportant issue? Absolutely not. But this issue is not unimportant.
The question ‘what if you’re wrong’ is a strange one, as it could apply to literally anything. What if you’re wrong about Christianity? What if you’re wrong about Anglicanism? I could also throw it back to you, what if you’re wrong about WO? It would seem that if the NT indeed does prohibit WO then the consequences for practicing it are far more grave than what they would be if the NT allowed it and we prevented it.
Lastly, a comment on your own words. I am not saying that this is necessarily your intention, but your own attitude, tone, and comments come across as controlling and manipulative, and I and many others have personally experienced this sort of thing many times, sometimes in a tyrannical way to silence our voice. Tone-policing is a very common leftist tactic used to silence conservative voices. You said I do “not carry even a hint of the humility necessary,” you asked “what if you’re wrong,” and you shone light on someone who is only “60/40” on this issue as an example to follow. What this really means, then, is that when I and people who share my views talk about this issue we have to be “humble” (which in context can only mean we have to be “nice” and be ever open to the possibility of being wrong), we have to doubt ourselves, and we have to not be convinced about this but only hold to it with 60% assurance, and if we aren’t like this, then we are being contentious. I’ve seen this time and time again. The way you have come across to me, it seems like you are very much sure of your opinion, and why not be? Good on you! But why can’t I be given the same freedom? You haven’t exactly been very nice or humble in this conversation, and that’s also fine. It has been my experience that those who dare to publicly express their opposition to WO we have been met with the fiercest anger. I have been called a bigot, a misogynist, a woman-hater, people have said I must be an abusive husband, that I shouldn’t be married, etc, and now here you are suggesting I shouldn’t be in any sort of leadership position. However, when we speak, all of a sudden we have to be “humble” and open to being wrong. If you disagree with me, that is fine, if you want to debate with me, go ahead, but please don’t tone-police me, and please don’t try to take away my right to have assurance.
Anyway, I’m happy to keep dialoguing with you on this issue.
January 30, 2023 @ 1:48 pm Fr. Nathan R. Hale
Thank you, Marissa for the kind yet direct invitation –here and in your other comments–to reconsider our posture on this. I’m grateful for your Christlike example of charity and the practical help in understanding how others approach the texts under discussion.
February 1, 2023 @ 5:11 pm Marissa
Thank you Fr. Nathan.
February 1, 2023 @ 2:18 am Canon Shannon Ramey
Thank you for this bit of observation: “What never fails to surprise me about the Anglicans arguing this, however, is that they often deny women ordination while “permitting” women to speak, teach, preach, & lead in various ways. That inconsistency constantly reminds me that prohibitions in ACNA about women being *ordained to the priesthood* can’t be said to be primarily about biblical faithfulness.”
It may not have been your intention but you have highlighted why I believe churches such as the LCMS will have women’s ordination within a decade: the faithful are accustomed to seeing women in the chancel. They are often doing everything but presiding over the service. Most people don’t think about these things much as long as the service remains comfortable – plodding incremental change is seldom resisted.
January 28, 2023 @ 3:05 am Andrea
‘Sweet child of mine’ I love you unconditionally no matter what crap you come out with ❤️
January 28, 2023 @ 5:35 am Mack
Welcome to the team
January 28, 2023 @ 12:29 pm Columba Silouan
Practically speaking, the ACNA’s current approach to WO is the best an Anglican denomination (besides the G3 Anglicans can do in this fallen, contentious culture of North America. It’s a better approach than ECUSA took back in the 1970’s when the Diocese of Colorado took the Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church temple away, turning it into The Church nightclub. That was a dictatorial move over both WO and the change from the 1928 Prayerbook to the 1979.
At least the ACNA provides a firm place for those opposed to WO to stand in The Reformed Episcopal Church and The Missionary Diocese of All Saints.
And there is space for the Traditional Language 2019 BCP as well.
The ACNA will not ordain women as Bishops province-wide.
I’m against WO as well, but being Western Rite Orthodox and a member of Saint Marks Antiochian Orthodox Church (yes, Saint Mark’s survived the Episcopal purge), I can treat those I disagree with as Icons of Christ, even in their errant state, because they are still human beings created in His Image in spite of their theological errors.
My wife attends an ACNA parish in The International Diocese which has a woman priest. I don’t Commune there, still being Orthodox, bur I accept her blessing in the Communion line because she is an Icon of Christ and I like her personally, even though I disagree with this practice.
Using force pertaining to this issue never has worked in the past for either side, and won’t work now.
At least the ACNA won’t confiscate the church buildings of either faction and each faction can live and worship in peace and pool valuable resources.
God is good, and the lover of mankind, and while disappointed with our compromises with The World, I don’t believe he is “furious.” That would imply fallen, human passions, which our God does not have.
Those who believe and feel as strongly as Fr. Devereux should live and serve in the REC or the MDOAS. I don’t believe the ACNA is going to change beyond where it is currently.
Or River can always join the LCMS, or Antiochian or ROCOR Orthodoxy.
The point is that there are peaceful places for these convictions, and places where they just don’t fit. I would counsel River to find such a place.
Blessings in Christ,
January 30, 2023 @ 11:14 am Chris Bailey
He would find a welcome home in the G3 rather than Orthodoxy, LCMS or ROCOR.
January 28, 2023 @ 2:44 pm Columba Silouan
That was definitely a “Jeremiad” article. There is a place for those, if not taken too far.
As Christians, we should be careful not to adapt too much the style of Conservative Talk Radio. I love Jesse Kelly, and his show on The Premiere Radio Network, for example, but his presentation, while totally appropriate in that context, is less so in this religious context in The North American Anglican.
Same goes for The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show. All three of these radio hosts are personally Christians, but different rules do and should apply over there than apply over here, IMO.
River Devereux’s presentation would have fit right in on these shows, but should be toned down a tad here where the reading audience is composed largely of overt Brothers and Sisters in Christ.
Maybe just a tad, but just a tad, nevertheless.
Blessings in Christ
January 28, 2023 @ 5:05 pm Jonjonz, mhfm
“Toned down”? Is that a tone police command, then?
January 28, 2023 @ 3:02 pm Columba Silouan
One final observation: River is from New Zealand so there are a number of cultural things going on here, most likely. During the Covid lockdowns, New Zealand and Australia were both more authoritarian and arbitrary than even some of the worst places in the U.S. I think these countries have been less tolerant of most conservative viewpoints as well, whether secular or religious.
This might create more heat in River’s style than he is aware of.
Just a possible explanation for his polemical style here in this forum.
January 28, 2023 @ 6:08 pm River Devereux
Thank you for your comment. I have already responded to some of what you have said from other commentators but I will add that the situation here in NZ has undoubtedly impacted my presentation and mindset. Over here conservativism is actively silenced and even persecuted and the mainline Protestant churches have almost entirely folded on WO, with every single Anglican Bishop in NZ practicing it and those who dare to oppose it being ostracized.
January 29, 2023 @ 1:14 am Ryan
January 28, 2023 @ 4:37 pm Marissa
This might be a duplicate comment, but I am attempting to reply to your last comment to me, River, but I seem unable to post it in the thread so will try here:
Thanks for the reply and invitation to dialogue, River.
I had to reread my comments to see where I policed or even addressed your tone, since I hear you saying you received my replies as such. Maybe you’d like to shed light on that, because I don’t see it.
I’m happy to clarify: I don’t object to your article because of its tone. I object primarily because you, in my opinion, have mishandled Scripture to make authoritative claims that you don’t support. I also object – as a matter of Christian character – to your personal attacks on clergy/dioceses in good standing as, presumably, a way to stir up your like-minded audience. And I object to NAA publishing this while claiming to offer Anglican readers a forum for “high-level theological engagement.”
I’m fine with you asking me “What if I’m wrong?” about my personal stance on women’s ordination or any theological stance. I could be wrong. I have been wrong about plenty of things that I once felt very certain about. I believe we all – today’s Christians and throughout the history of the church – have the capacity to be little heretics despite our best efforts. Because of that, it will always shape the way in which I engage any issue. For instance, if I chose to debate with you, holding my own capacity for error in mind would mean I would not suggest you are under “God’s furious wrath” for thinking differently. Basically, I would not conflate my understanding with speaking for God. In my opinion, that’s a fair request for Christian dialogue, even for people who feel very certain they are right and especially about issues that have a history of people coming to different conclusions. I invite you to consider engaging that way not to pressure you into some kind of faux-niceness but because I think we are called to humility – as well as kindness and gentleness – and, FWIW, in my experience dogmatic certainty is pretty soul-crushing in the long haul.
You write: “It would seem that if the NT indeed does prohibit WO then the consequences for practicing it are far more grave than what they would be if the NT allowed it and we prevented it.” I disagree on several counts. Firstly, this starting point that God is primarily defined as hard and eager to mete out grave consequences should we err but a little reminds me of Jesus’ parable about the manager who hid his talent out of fear and a distorted perception of God’s character. So I think that’s a suboptimal starting point to argue from, but setting that aside, as I mentioned before, I don’t believe the NT speaks to ordination as we practice it, let alone that it forewarns of grave consequences should a woman partake of that. I understand that people apply the verses on women not leading/teaching and a view of the created order as justification for male-only ordained ministry. However, even from that point of view, preaching grave consequences for women’s ordination as you do here and throughout your article is not specifically *biblically* supportable, especially in light of what we do have in Acts and the epistles: evidence of women colaboring with Paul in notable ways. You are making sociological and cultural and historical and personal-experience arguments, which you are obviously free to do at whatever level of certainty you like – it’s just a wildly different thing than saying “God says this…”
And, yes! Of course you are entitled to your opinion and to express it however you like. What I don’t think you can expect, though, is to do so in such a public and arguably offensive manner (indeed it seems you intended it to be such for rhetorical purposes) and then not receive pushback or have people object to it.
I hear you saying you have had interactions online where you’ve been injured and called these hurtful names. I believe you. That’s awful, and I wish it wasn’t the norm. I’d like it if you could take my responses for what they are. FWIW I don’t think anyone who objects to your argument is implying those things about you. I’m not. You are a complete stranger to me, though I believe you to be a brother in Christ and have attempted to address you respectfully as such. It’s important to me to state directly that I did not and would not suggest you shouldn’t be in leadership. (Though, if you’ll allow it and I hope it’s not a comment-derail to state it, but the irony is not lost on me how you understandably disliked the thought of a stranger weighing in on your capacity for leadership while writing an article on the capacity of half the church – I hope you’ll find a little glimmer of humor in it as I do).
What I am doing by referencing those qualifications for leadership is asking the men who so thoroughly concern themselves with whether women are qualified to lead based on their sex is also to examine just as passionately the character qualities clearly outlined for leaders in the epistles. You might even apply your metric. Is the church in grave error if we tolerate male leaders who are abusive, malicious, contentious, etc? In your mind, is that as serious of a threat as tolerating ordained women? I’ve probably read thousands of pages written by men about whether women are qualified to lead while hearing silence from those same men when male pastors/leaders continue to lead or be restored to leadership while obviously disqualified. I won’t go down that rabbit trail here, but it is a genuine request for those seeking to engage on discussions of leadership qualifications in the church that they please broaden their incisive lens. And if asking Christians to adhere to those standards regarding quarreling and contentious speech is tone-policing, that is something to take to the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, right?
January 28, 2023 @ 7:01 pm River Devereux
Hello again Marissa,
Thank you for your explanations and added clarity. I’ll just respond to one thing this time, you said:
“[I’m] asking the men who so thoroughly concern themselves with whether women are qualified to lead based on their sex… to examine just as passionately the character qualities clearly outlined for leaders in the epistles. You might even apply your metric. Is the church in grave error if we tolerate male leaders who are abusive, malicious, contentious, etc? In your mind, is that as serious of a threat as tolerating ordained women?”
This raises a good question. First of all, the Church is indeed in error if she persistently ordains unqualified men to ministry, but it is more of an error of discernment. When it comes to women, we are not saying they/you are “unqualified” for ministry (it may well be that many women priests are better preachers and teachers than many male ones) but rather they/you are *ontologically* prohibited from it. Just to use an example off the top of my head, it’s one kind of error to elect a President who is morally/intellectually unqualified (this is an error of discernment) but it is quite another kind of error to elect a President who is not even a citizen of the nation and does not even live there, for instance. Our complaint is not that women *should not* be Priests, but rather that they *cannot* be Priests. It is not that you lack the skills required for the job, but rather that God in His word has restricted you based purely off your ontology (1 Tim 2:12), just like how He has restricted me from ever being able to give birth.
To ordain a woman is thus not to fail to properly discern someone’s character and qualifications, but rather to appoint someone to an extremely important position who is ontologically prohibited from being able to even have that position at all. So yes, I would say ordaining women is worse than ordaining unqualified men, though the latter remains an issue that should be addressed. Speaking of which, the Church would also do well to ordain more men who actually have backbone and are not effeminate.
January 28, 2023 @ 11:41 pm Marissa
Thanks, River. That is an awful lot to hang on 1 Timothy 2:12. I disagree with you entirely. Leadership roles in the church is what is up for debate – it is very much an issue of qualifications, what Paul meant by “I do not permit” & consideration of the entire narrative of Scripture.
Ontologically speaking, Jesus alone fulfills the role of Priest, and the rest of us belong to the priesthood of all believers, male and female together. Together we bear the image of God & fulfill the priestly office initiated in the garden. That is the reality as taught in the Scriptures, and I fully reject your analogy that implies a daughter has less belonging as citizen of the kingdom than a son.
January 30, 2023 @ 12:19 am Connor Perry
The office of presbyter, or deacon for that matter, is not to be conflated with the priesthood of all believers. As the word “hieraches” is used to denote that concept in 1 Peter 2:5. It is clear from the NT that only some men are presbyters and some men are deacons and those offices are neither interchangeable nor common to all. If you wish to deny this, very well, but it should be noted that you’d adopt an extreme understanding of church polity that was invented rather late in the history of the Christian church—and it is an understanding no Anglican, Presbyterian, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, or even Baptist would accept.
Furthermore, to imply a difference in specific authority is a denial of full citizenship in the Kingdom of God is erroneous and contradicts Paul’s own statements on headship. Is a baker less or more of a citizen than a governor, if they are both Christian? And yet it may not be lawful for the baker to become a governor, nor right for the governor to become a baker. A differentiation in calling does not equal a differentiation in salvation or the value God places on your work.
The claim that is made is that women are never called to such an office as presbyter, and that the role of presbyter is a male-only office.
For further reading on the development of church offices I’d suggest Burtchaell’s “From Synagogue to Church.”
January 31, 2023 @ 1:18 am Marissa Burt
Thanks for replying.
I disagree with you that “It is clear from the NT that only some men are presbyters and some men are deacons and those offices are neither interchangeable nor common to all.” I’m also unconvinced by an appeal to tradition. These are the kind of claims that of course you are free to make – River takes a similar approach when he states that quoting various Scriptures is sufficient argument – but it is not really a convincing theological or biblical argument. Additionally, as I’ve mentioned upthread, this announcing of certainty ignores the fact that serious and faithful theologians, scholars, and students of Scripture come to different conclusions than you do. Indeed, we have a unanimous statement from ACNA bishops who, after a five year theological taskforce, stated that women’s ordination is, in fact, “tolerated” in our province. I would think that for the readers of NAA, if the bishops who hold your male-only view on ordination are willing to tolerate women’s ordination, you might ask them why and/or how to help you do so.
To clarify re: citizenship. I agree with you that a differentiation in calling does not equal a differentiation in salvation/value of vocation. In my comment, I was referencing River’s analogy re: citizenship in a previous comment to me. He writes as an example of why he believes women to be ontologically disqualified from the priesthood: “Just to use an example off the top of my head, it’s one kind of error to elect a President who is morally/intellectually unqualified (this is an error of discernment) but it is quite another kind of error to elect a President who is not even a citizen of the nation and does not even live there, for instance.” I understand he was using this as an analogy, but I strongly object to the citizenship language b/c of the inference.
I do not believe there is sufficient biblical support to say that “women are never called to such an office as presbyter, and that the role of presbyter is a male-only office.”
I agree with you that the offices of presbyter & deacon should not be conflated with the priesthood of all believers. In my opinion, neither should the offices of presbyter & deacon, especially as narrowly defined as what is practiced in the Anglican tradition over the past 400 years, be conflated with Paul’s instructions on women keeping silence in church.
As you can imagine, I, like all women who love the Lord and seek to obey Him, have studied these verses at length and come to my own conclusions. As I hope is clear in the earlier comments to River – my intent in commenting here is not to debate WO but to address what I see to be a misuse of Scripture, an ideological treatise dressed up as a theological argument, and call River to account for his casual attack on ACNA dioceses and clergy in good standing.
Thanks for the book recommendation. M
January 28, 2023 @ 5:49 pm Bryce Lowe
One theme I have picked up on in this comment section is the idea that harsh or aggressive language is warranted in this conversation. The idea is that considerations of tone are leftist, woke, effeminate, weak, and compromising, whereas the language used in this article is manly, Jeremiad, straight-shooting, and Pauline. After all, if the OT prophets used harsh language and Paul was occasionally biting, why should we be afraid to do likewise, especially if Paul told us to imitate him?
While I am generally opposed to proof-texting which rips verses out of context and waves them around, I submit this survey of New Testament imperatives which specifically deal with the tone in which Christian ought to engage Christian. Note that the overwhelming majority are from Paul:
1 Cor 13:4 “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up”
Gal 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
Eph 4:1-3 “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Eph 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
Col 3:12-13 “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”
1 Thes 5:12-14 ” And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.”
Notice in Timothy the constant tension between Paul’s charge for Timothy (as a Bishop) to rebuke strongly (2 Tim 4:2) but also that a Bishop should be gentle and patient (1 Tim 3:2-3) and not given to contentious argument (2 Tim 2:24 “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient”)
James 3:17-18 “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”
It is an extremely dangerous thing for any man to consider himself in a like position to Paul and the Prophets and thus allowed to be sharp-tongued, divisive, and ungentle, especially given the overwhelming NT imperatives against the uncharitable use of the tongue. The majority NT directives about inter-Christian discourse commands gentleness and kindness, with possible exceptions being given to Presbyters and Bishops for their work at banishing “strange doctrine.” I argue that harsh and aggressive language–especially within in the church–is most unbecoming a follower of the one who said of himself that he is “gentle and lowly at heart.”
Bryce T. Lowe
January 28, 2023 @ 6:41 pm River Devereux
Almost all of the proof-texts you have supplied speak to interpersonal conflicts, where indeed we should forgive one another with patience and gentleness, and they do not speak to how to respond to errors that have crept into the Church. Surveying Paul’s strong rebukes to the Corinthians and his livid and incensed rhetoric in his letter to the Galatians, the scathing remarks in Jesus’ letters to the seven churches in Revelation, the harshness of James’ rebukes in his letter, and a vast amount of our Lord’s own speech, such as the ‘woes’ or his speeches in John 7 & 8, show us that sharp words are indeed an acceptable and even standard way of responding to error and false teaching.
January 29, 2023 @ 3:11 pm Seth Williamson
River, fantastic work as always. It’s about time we just say what we mean without apology. If the best the other side can do is call you mean then I think you’ve hit it out of the park. God bless you!
January 29, 2023 @ 3:19 pm Bob Taylor
One earlier comment summed up his work as “crap,” which is no one’s idea of argument, let alone exegesis. It was a splendid article, wasn’t it? It’s shocking and deeply gratifying to see Truth proclaimed without apology, especially when it is Truth which strikes directly at the neural system of the current, loathsome Zeitgeist.
January 29, 2023 @ 3:41 pm River Devereux
Thank you Fr. Seth! Indeed, there is too much work to be done, and the clock is ticking too quickly, for us to waste time having to apologize for everything.
January 30, 2023 @ 2:35 pm Fr Daniel Logan
Keep speaking truth. Never stop. We must obey God rather than men.
With you in Christ,
February 1, 2023 @ 11:51 pm River Devereux
Thank you Fr. Daniel, and Amen.
January 30, 2023 @ 3:29 pm Elijah Holland
God bless you, Father River. Always been a huge admirer in your work, and as an inquirer into the Anglican church, you’ve taught me more than just about anyone short of my priest. Thank you.
February 1, 2023 @ 11:51 pm River Devereux
Thank you Elijah, your comment was very encouraging to me, God bless you.
February 1, 2023 @ 9:23 am Fr. John
Ironic that there is an icon at the top of this article, no?
It is of course true that the Church has never ordained women to the priesthood or episcopate. It is, of course, true that we find evidence for the masculine character of these orders in the scriptures. It is simply not true that there is no feminine authority in the Church, that the scriptures and traditions of the Church do not permit women to exercise this authority, or that women are universally subordinated to men. All of this is reformed tosh. The real historical connection between women’s ordination and the catastrophic assaults on the dignity of human life is not one of cause and effect.
The catholic traditionalist position, quite simply, is that the ministerial orders of bishop, priest, and deacon are sacrificial and masculine in character, and that it is fitting that men only be ordained to them. Protestant “traditionalism” sets scripture against scripture, for by denying the sacrificial character of the ministerial priesthood (distinguished from the common priesthood of all believers), “leadership” emerges as the issue at hand, and quite frankly the scriptures show women leading in many, many instances. Thus Protestant traditionalism tends toward real misogyny.
The Church thrives when women and men lead as women and men. The Protestant Reformation’s assaults on Church order and authority undermined the ministries of women in the Church. Even the Anglican Formularies, based on a positivistic concept of ecclesial law, are not a standard to which we can consistently appeal here. We need women leaders in the Church. As S. Paul shows again and again, women are fellow laborers for the Gospel with men. Assertion of the traditional position on ordination without a traditional understanding of what ordination is is mere wind. Our Lady and S. Hilda, pray for us.
February 1, 2023 @ 11:55 pm River Devereux
Hi Fr. John,
First of all, I do not and never have opposed religious images (as I have stated over and over again), I have icons in my own home and as the banner for my blog and YouTube channel. I only oppose the veneration of them.
Secondly, I do not claim that “women are universally subordinated to men.” Women are called to submit only to their husbands, not to men generally, though they are of a lower rank to men in the offices of the Church.
Thirdly, where do we see women “lead” men in the NT?
February 2, 2023 @ 9:45 am Fr. John
Perhaps this is redundant – I had typed a reply but it does not seem to be showing up. Disregard this if I am so!
First, it is a joke.
Second, Christian ministry is not about rank or power. As a priest I do not “outrank” my parishioners, men or women. Many of them are more advanced than I in the life of holiness and friendship with Jesus. There are contexts when I, quite appropriately, follow the direction of women ministry leaders in my parish. The ministerial priesthood is not about leadership and power; it is not directly analogous to rank in a military or office in a business organization. It is the cure of souls and the offering of the sacrifice of the Mass which sets the ministerial priesthood apart from the common priesthood of all believers. Essential to the Church, yes. Uniquely entrusted with a certain kind of authority, yes. More powerful, no.
Third, Our Lady’s instruction is the best sermon every preached. “Do whatever he tells you.” Plus all the evidence cited by other commenters above.
Finally, my main contention with you is that you are not a catholic and are not defending the catholic priesthood as such. You are asserting leadership and authority as uniquely male offices in the church, but this is not uniformly the case. Traditional ordination without the priesthood understood as such opens us to the very real denigration of women.
March 3, 2023 @ 2:14 am Rhonda C. Merr
Whoever and wherever you are, thank you for saying so well what I intuitively sensed but could not find words for.
February 11, 2023 @ 8:26 am Randal
\”My son, do not take lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him. For whom the Lord loves, He chastens, and He scourges every son whom He receives.\” Thank you, Mr. Devereux, and thank you, heavenly Father, for your faithfulness.
February 14, 2023 @ 4:35 pm John E. Taylor
Thank you, Mr. Devereux. Women’s ordination is not something gentlemen should politely disagree over tea.
I Kings 13 concludes that Jeroboam’s anointing whomever he would (including himself) to the priesthood was the sin for which his line was cut off.
As Ahijah puts it so elegantly in the next chapter:
“…therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone.
” (1 Kings 14:10 KJV)
So let’s all get the lace out of our pants, stop this effeminate whining that masquerades as “love”, and fight! Christ’s church depends on it.
February 21, 2023 @ 8:29 pm River Devereux
Amen! And thank you for bringing up that passage from Kings, it is very apt and I’m now kicking myself for not mentioning it in the article.
March 3, 2023 @ 2:27 am Rhonda C. Merrick
I don’t wear head coverings of various types primarily to show my submission to my husband of 27 years. I wear them because it is the honor and glory of women to image the Church as the Bride of Christ in this way; and because of the angels.