Saturday, May 20, 2017

Unpleasant History the ACNA Holy Orders Task Force Left Out

I have followed Archbishop Foley Beach’s admonition to read all of the Holy Orders Task Force report before commenting.  In full disclosure, I skimmed a bit, but I did work through the whole thing.  So now I have my Commenting License.

To me what most stands out about the report is that it contains one long history lesson.  But what stands out almost as much and is more important is what history is neglected in the report. 

Jesus taught you shall know a tree by its fruit.  A fair corollary is that a tree will grow and produce fruit in line with its roots.   By those standards, women’s ordination, at least in the West and U. S., is problematic.

The roots of women’s ordination in the United States for the most part implanted in mainline denominations now wracked by apostasy.  Perhaps the problem was more to do with the soil than with the roots, but continuing… The roots of women’s ordination in the Anglican Church in North America are, for the most part, in The Episcopal Church of the 1970’s – not the best background.  (Yes, not every ACNA diocese that ordains women has its roots in The Episcopal Church.  Hence I said “for the most part.”)  In large part, WO was baggage carried into ACNA from The Episcopal Church.

As for its fruit, women’s ordination in the West has gone hand in hand with apostasy and preaching “another gospel,” the social gospel.  Now I grant that the argument could be made that connecting WO with apostasy is a post hoc argument.  In the Global South and in ACNA, there are orthodox jurisdictions that ordain women.   But I do have to say that I have noticed, to my alarm, social gospel tendencies from ACNA dioceses that ordain women.

But accurate or mistaken, there is the perception among many Anglicans, including this one, that the fruit of women’s ordination has been tried and wanting.  The theologies of the first women bishops in the Church of England are examples of that.  The marginalization of those who oppose or do not fully recognize women’s orders in the Church of England (See the Philip North affair.) and in The Episcopal Church is another.

Yet the Task Force report barely addressed this concern about the roots and fruit of women’s ordination. I do not know why, do not have any privy information, and do not think speculating why would be edifying.  I do know and concede that addressing the recent roots and fruit of women’s ordination in the West is not at all easy to do in a tactful manner that does not inflame divisions.  Heck, I am trying hard here to be polite, but it would not surprise me if this post upsets some people.

Nonetheless, this concern should have been fully addressed in the report.  The report went through a lot of history.  But unpleasant aspects of the history of women’s ordination in the West were not sufficiently addressed.  If ACNA will continue ordaining women to the priesthood, then we should be told why that is not rooted in The Episcopal Church of the 1970’s, or that such roots are not a besetting problem.  And we should be told why ACNA will not go down the primrose path of apostasy and the social gospel as have other Western jurisdictions that ordain women.  Going down the path of women’s ordination while assuming it will have entirely different results would be a dangerous assumption indeed.

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