Sydney’s synod is up and running.
As you’d expect with a solidly conservative diocese like Sydney there’s nothing much of contention going on, except for one item – an attempt by the local Movement for the Ordination of Women (MOW) to put women’s ordination to the presbytery back on the agenda. Sydney is one of those places where they take the Bible seriously and so woman are ordained only to the diaconate but no further. That being said, there is an incredibly massive range of women’s work and work by women going on here.
The push by MOW has resulted in a large number of articles being written in response by a number of sources.
One critical point debated with great fervour at the end of the last century was the role of men and women in the family and in Christian fellowship. Men and women are equal in Christ. Are their roles interchangeable, in the human family and the church family? Let the whole of scripture speak for itself. The answer is clear: the ministry of women is encouraged; the eldership of women in the congregation is denied. By obeying scripture at this point we have been blessed, not least in some truly remarkable ministries by women, but also in the encouragement it gives to men to take up their specific responsibilities. We are seeing many men and women offering for biblical ministry and to model family life.
I fully accept that it is the right of members to see whether Synod is prepared to reopen this subject. I believe that those who wish to do so are men and women of integrity. But I cannot offer any support to the proposal. I am unpersuaded by arguments that this is all a power play by men to keep women out; I am even less persuaded by allegations of injustice and inequity; experience has shown me that what starts as a plea for diversity finishes as a means of exclusion and division; I am concerned that some of the central arguments in favour would lead to changing our position on human sexuality. What I cannot change is the Bible and our commitment to be ruled by God through his word. To me, the Biblical teaching on this matter is clear, and following it will lead – is leading – to blessing for us all. Discarding it may make us more popular with the secular world; it will not help our Mission.
The last word, however, goes to his brother, Philip Jensen the Dean of Sydney Cathedral. Recently he wrote on the issue. After pointing out that ordaining women to the priesthood/prebyterate leads to the Church dividing, Bible-believers being excluded, homosexuality being accepted, the Church declining and candidates for ordination declining, he sums up:
There is no practical reason for reintroducing a change in the diocesan policy. There are lots of practical reasons against such a change.
However the decision about women’s ordination should not be based on pragmatic outcomes but biblical teaching. Our Synod has always made its decision on this issue on the basis of the Bible’s clear teaching. There have been no new discoveries about the Bible or theology that would indicate any reason to change our opinion or the opinion of our predecessors on this issue.
At the climax of the ordination of presbyters the bishop places a bible into the hands of the ordinand and says “Take thou authority to preach the Word of God …”. In the Bible God says “I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man…”. (1 Tim 2:12). We have little option but to follow God’s command on this matter.
The public media do not understand this way of thinking. They never will. We must not be bullied by public debate conducted by people who do not come to church and have no intention of ever coming. Church people need to make the decision based upon the word of God. The Church is to speak God’s message to the world rather than have the world speak its message to the church.
The debate is next Tuesday evening. I’m going to try and get along.