Maltby, Women Bishops and the Twisting of Words

Judith Maltby, the Chaplain of Corpus Christi College in Oxford, has written a piece for the Guardian’s Comment is Free section on their web. In it she unfortunately demonstrates a lack of real engagement with the theological objections of those who oppose women’s ordination and consecration and indeed shows how she simply won’t engage with the reality of what people actually say, instead choosing to judge upon what she believes they mean.

Here’s the text with my comments interspersed:

When I was ordained a deacon in 1992, a few months before the historic vote on women priests, I was like most people shortly to be ordained: overly anxious and overly serious. Added to that I had recently finished my doctorate on an aspect of the English Reformation. This meant, unlike most Anglican ordinands, I had actually read the 39 Articles to which one must assent before being ordained in the Church of England. I had scruples. I told my diocesan bishop that although most of the thirty-nine were fine, one or two were a real problem. Article 37 for example, endorses capital punishment, a position I find incompatible with the Christian gospel – a fact that seems to have been overlooked (or has it?) by those who wish to impose the Articles as a touchstone of orthodoxy and morality on the whole of the Anglican Communion. I received from my bishop just the right response for the occasion: he told me that by ‘assent’, I was saying ‘Yes bishop, those are the 39 Articles’. His pastoral, intelligent and humane response to my somewhat precious scrupling carried me through the day.

For one who has completed a doctorate on the 39 Articles, Maltby shows an extraordinary laxity of approach to the actual text of those Articles. Here is the original text of Article 37 :

The King’s Majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England, and other his Dominions, unto whom the chief Government of all Estates of this Realm, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign Jurisdiction. Where we attribute to the King’s Majesty the chief government, by which Titles we understand the minds of some slanderous folks to be offended; we give not our Princes the ministering either of God’s Word, or of the Sacraments, the which thing the Injunctions also lately set forth by Elizabeth our Queen do most plainly testify; but that only prerogative, which we see to have been given always to all godly Princes in holy Scriptures by God himself; that is, that they should rule all estates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evil-doers.

The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England.

The Laws of the Realm may punish Christian men with death, for heinous and grievous offences.

It is lawful for Christian men, at the commandment of the Magistrate, to wear weapons, and serve in the wars.

Notice the exact wording of that article. "The Laws of the Realm *may* punish men with death…" For those who are familiar with leading worship, we get very used to the difference between "may" and "shall". The "may" here indicates that such a position is not a command upon Christians but rather an understanding that some may come to the conclusion that capital punishment is in certain circumstances justifiable. And yes, Maltby is writing for a secular audience, but note how she doesn’t at any time attempt to justify her position on the subject from Scripture. Rather she uses it as an example of her willful dissemblance at her ordination when asked to assent to and affirm the 39 Articles, a perjury that she seems to implicate the Diocesan bishop as being complicit with.

Imagine folks if I had taken that attitude upon ordination to the first five articles?

The draft legislation to consecrate women as bishops published on Mondayand the supporting documentation makes a great deal of Anglicanism‘s gift for holding together diverse, at times, contradictory points of conviction in a wider context of pastoral common sense. Often derided by others for this as the fudge producers extraordinaire of Christianity, we Anglicans tend to make a virtue of it and if it makes us less prone to witch-hunts and the gleeful doctrinal purges of the purity police, I’m all for it. Human beings, let alone God, are rather complicated.

Anglicans disagree about more things than I could live long enough to enumerate: how is Christ present in the Eucharist, if at all; does Baptism make people regenerate or does it anticipate later conversion; what does it actually mean to say that the Bible is the Word of God; is the death of Jesus redemptive because he took punishment which should have been ours or through his death, God shows the profundity of the divine identification and commitment to the human race; is ordination ontological or merely the authorizing an individual to perform a set of ecclesiastical functions ndash; oh and can women, as well as men, be priests and bishops? Yes we disagree about that too as well as not agreeing just what a priest or bishop actually is in the first place. I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the things over which Anglicans differ.

I just want to comment at this point that though Maltby seems to lay out here a position that Anglicanism allows itself to be open a number of different theological interpretations, only two paragraphs previously she has presented a position on capital punishment that indicates that in her mind it is *not* acceptable to disagree with the position that capital punishment is ungodly. It appears that less than half way through her essay she is already wrapping herself up in a web of authoritarian confusion.

In the midst of all this merry muddle, what we have never done as a church until the Act of Synod in 1993, is to deal with differing convictions by setting up a class of bishop to give pastoral care to one group based solely on their views on one issue. The draft legislation carries on this idea with its proposal of ‘complementary’ bishops to serve the minority in the church unhappy about women bishops. Not only would these bishops be men, they would have to be men untainted by sacramental association with women clergy – please understand: just being a bloke isn’t good enough, the bloke must be pure. I get angry emails from time to time for describing this as a theology of taint, but I honestly can’t think of a more candid description for this position.

What Maltby neglects to tell her readers at this point however is that that votes in 1993 introduced women priests on the understanding that the doctrinal discernment in this area was not yet complete and that the Church of England, as part of the wider catholic church, was in a period of reception as regards this innovation. That meant that the Act of Synod and accompanying documentation explicitly acknowledged that those who objected to the ordination of women on theological grounds did so (and still do so) with integrity and as fully participating members (and clergy) of the Church. There was therefore absolutely no "theology of taint" intended by the provisions for discenting parishes and furthermore, the Synod understood the necessity for such provision.

And it’s worth pointing out here of course that there are plenty of us opposed to women’s ordination who have no issue with male bishops who have ordained women. We have, after all, read Article 26:

Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the Ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ’s, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their Ministry, both in hearing the Word of God, and in receiving the Sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ’s ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God’s gifts diminished from such as by faith, and rightly, do receive the Sacraments ministered unto them; which be effectual, because of Christ’s institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.

Nevertheless, it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that inquiry be made of evil Ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally, being found guilty, by just judgment be deposed.

On with Maltby:

The point is this: I have a very ‘high’ view of the Eucharist – if my bishop does not share this view, by the reasoning that gives us complementary bishops, I should be entitled to a bishop who agrees with me for surely Eucharistic theology is as important as disputes over ordination. But no. From disagreements over the Eucharist, the Bible, even the theological meaning of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we Anglicans feel no need to haul in a complementary bishop.

Not even in the slightest. The Anglican position on the Eucharist from the Articles can be easily seen:

The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another, but rather it is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ’s death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.

Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.

The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper, is Faith.

The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.

It’s very clear that if you believe in transubstantiation and yet assent to the 39 Articles you are perjuring yourself, pure and simple. In the same way, to take a Zwinglian view (that the elements are only ever bread and wine and do not in any sense becomes tools by which we receive from Christ in the Eucharist) is also proscribed by the first paragraph of the Article. So the Anglican position is actually rather clear – what happens at the Lord’s Table is neither simply a memorial nor the magical transformation of the elements into Christ himself, but some other mystery somewhere between these two rejected heresies. Many priests like myself are more than happy with such a position, and for those who believe that doctrine cannot be expressed in such a manner (the denial of what is not true rather than the explicit affirmation of what is true), then they need to take another read of the Athanasian Creed.

So back to Maltby. It’s very clear that the Anglican Church has settled its mind as to what occurs on the Lord’s Table, but furthermore, it has also decided that no provision needs to be made for those who might afterall believe something slightly different to their Bishop in this regard (for example my Bishop might take a position more akin to Calvin, I one more akin to Cranmer or Hooker). It has however decided that since the final discernment as to whether it is correct to ordain women has not been made, it is perfectly acceptable to make provision in this regard for those who object to the 1993 innovations.

It is therefore simply incorrect for Maltby to argue that "if my bishop does not share this view, by the reasoning that gives us complementary bishops, I should be entitled to a bishop who agrees with me". The Articles show very clearly that on the matter of the economics of the Eucharists there are incorrect interpretations and there are correct interpretations (or to be more precise, there are interpretations that are not incorrect). On the matter of women’s ordination however the Synod has clearly argued that there is no one valid correct interpretation (we are in a period of reception) and that therefore allowance can and should be made for those who object to the innovation.

On to the killer paragraph:

Why is that? One is left with the sad conclusion that the draft legislation and its code of practice isn’t really trying to deal with genuine theological difference – the Church of England has that in abundance – it is trying to deal with women. I don’t blame the hard working members of the drafting group for this – this reflects state of the Church of England. Women are the problem, not a gift, which needs a solution. The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘complementary’ as ‘completing and perfecting’. What, I wonder, could possibly be ‘incomplete’ about a woman in episcopal orders (answers on a post card, please)? Maude Royden, the first Anglican woman to preach in the Church of England in 1919, sparking enormous controversy at the time (as it still would in Sydney), once remarked ironically ‘I was born a woman and I can’t get over it’. The Church of England, it would appear, bereft of any irony, cannot get over it either.

Maltby’s argument descends to the usual position of those who object to the objectors – that they are afterall just misogynists and the provisions being made for them pander to such prejudice. And really, one cannot fail to see why she should resort to such a response, because she doesn’t use Scripture in her argument and the procedural / ecclesiastical objections she raises are simply incorrect. The only way therefore to argue against those who have genuine theological and ecclesiastical objections to women’s ordination and consecration is to allege that our objections are not afterall theological but stem from prejudice. If we can be portrayed as prejudiced and bigotted against a certain group then it becomes much easier to demonise us and dismiss our arguments, not on the basis of good Bible study or reasoned ecclesiology but simply because our viewpoint is not acceptable in the enlightened 21st Century.

Prejudice is, afterall, a bad thing.

One more thought. Back in 2003, whilst studying at Wycliffe Hall in Oxford in preparation for ordination, I was asked whether I would be prepared to act as a link point to the Christian Union in Corpus Christi college. The idea of the link was that I would be someone with a bit more experience and wisdom (?) than the undergraduates running the college CU, someone to pray with and perhaps run ideas past, not to run the CU for them but someone just to refer to for advice and counsel. As a matter of courtesy I emailed the chaplain of the college and asked whether she would be comfortable with the arrangement. The chaplain responded and quite bluntly refused me any permission to act in any pastoral manner with the undergraduates in question. I offered to meet with her so she could get to know me and perhaps realise that I wasn’t the chapel burning, icon smashing, authority ignoring puritan thug that she seemed to believe I was (I didn’t of course use that language – I suggested a nice cup of tea to get to know each other). She refused. I believe the lady in question is still in position.

Prejudice, as I’ve said before, is a bad thing.

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  • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

    Hi Ryan,

    I’m not sure either how a celibate relationship which prevents you from entering into the two states of life that Scripture commends (uncommitted singleness or marriage to someone of the other sex) can be correct.

    Would love to know more about this Bishop who came out after retiring. Had he been partnered? More info!!!!

  • sound

    Jill – for clarity – I actually don’t mean anything by the term ‘obviously gay’ because it is not my term. You are attrributing to me things I have quoted from Damian Thompson.

    But the point remains – you will still find that most of our obviously gay bishops are Anglo Catholics and actually opposed to the ordination of women – the subject of this thread –  so I’m puzzled by your ‘logic’.   

  • ryan

     
     Derek Rawcliffe, Bishop of Glasgow 1981-1991, who came out in 1995.  Don’t know much else about him, alas.

  • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

    Of course, silly me.

    To be honest, Rawcliffe is a complicated case. An anthropologist (which explains the amount of time he spent in Melanesia),  there is some debate as to what effect living in that environment for a long time may have had upon his western moral sensitivities.

  • Jill

    I am not at all surprised that ‘obviously gay’ bishops and clergy are mostly Anglo Catholic.  Perhaps it is the dressing-up, or the ‘theatricals’ of the High Mass that they go for!  Or perhaps the current crop of bishops have been harvested from St Stephen’s House, Oxford, which was reputed to have as many as 90% of gay students in the 1960s and 70s (who called each other by girls’ names) until David Hope (he of the ‘grey area’) reined in the excesses when he was made principal.  You can read about the shenanigans at St Stephen’s House in this article by William Oddie: 

     
    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3724/is_199612/ai_n8755266

     
    But that doesn’t answer your question.  I would say that most Anglo Catholics are opposed to the ordination of women.  If proper provision is not made for them, they will leave the Church of England for other pastures, no doubt about that.  This will leave the door wide open for not only WO but all sorts of other innovations in the C of E.

  • Moot

    Hi Peter+

    I’m a bit late jumping on this discussion, but thought perhaps I could add something to your thesis about males being made for “final authority.”  Would anyone object if I talked about my experience?  Hehehe..

    My Mom and I differ on this issue.  She supports WO and I do not.  We have an implicit agreement not to discuss the issue, as it presents difficulties for both of us in keeping the Fifth Commandment. 

    I remember one conversation with her where she was talking about her attraction to Roman Catholicism  (Please, I’m not making a dig on the RCC).   She concluded the conversation by saying that her father would “roll over in his grave,” if she converted to Roman Catholicism. 

    Now, Mom knows that people don’t really roll over in their graves, and she knows that her father most certainly isn’t the same man he was on earth, being part of that great cloud of witnesses.  What I find interesting is that, even passed away, her father is still the final authority.  It’s all the more amazing that she takes her father’s role for granted, even while consciously embracing pro-WO arguments, more or less on egalitarian grounds.   No, she’s not a silly woman by any measure.  She’s just a bit inconsistent on this point (as we all are, at times). 

    Men are created to be the final authorities and final protectors.  Bearing these burdens isn’t the same as ‘lording it over’ everyone else;  it’s just living up to the Burdon we were created to bear.  For men to opt out of bearing it recapitulates the first misogynist (Adam) standing by as Eve was being tempted by the Serpent  (c.f., Gen 3:6), as well as many other tales of spineless misogyny in the Scriptures. 

    ..my 2 cents.  :)

  • sound

    Jill, you are still completely missing the point. 
    Your ‘logic’ earlier on was that once we allowed women’s ordiantion we opened the door to homosexual clergy. Demonstrably that logic is wrong – because most of the homosexaul clergy we already have are vehemently opposed to the ordination of women. And that was certainly the case at St Stephen’s House.. And Mirfield. And Chichester.  Many many gay students, many many opposed to the ordination of women.  I suspect you need to re-think your argument on that one…   
    (Chichester is now closed of course….the other two still use girls names  for some male students) 

  • Sarah

    Moot,

    Are you trying to use the example of your mother’s respect for her father’s memory as evidence of the created status of male authority? And are you saying that men allowing women to make mistakes is an example of misogyny? I dread to consider the implications of what you’re saying; it might lead to controlling women’s moral and intellectual agency in the name of philogyny.

  • Jill

    I’m not sure what you’re getting at, sound.  I think you are trying to confuse the issue.  My contention is that women are more comfortable than men with homosexuality, and it will therefore be easier for openly practising homosexuals to be consecrated as bishops once we have women bishops.  I don’t think for one moment that ALL ordained practising homosexuals will be swimming the Tiber!

    I agree with Moot that the father is usually the final authority, however strong the mother may be!  I have just been re-reading an article by Robbie Low entitled ‘The Truth about Men’ – it mentions a Swiss study on the likelihood of children of churchgoers continuing churchgoing once they are grown.   It is interesting to note that ‘if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper.   If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers.  If a father goes but irregularly to church, regardless of his wife’s devotion, between a half and two-thirds of their offspring will find themselves coming to church regularly or occasionally.  A non-practising mother (with a regular father) will see a minimum of two thirds of her children ending up at church.  A non-practising father (faithful mother) will see two-thirds of his children never darken the church door. If his wife is similarly negligent that figure will rise to 80 per cent!’

    I find that highly significant.  He goes on to say ‘ Emasculated liturgy, gender-free Bibles and a fatherless flock are increasingly on offer.  In response to this, decline has, unsurprisingly, accelerated.  To minister to a fatherless society the Church of England, in its unwisdom, has produced its own single-parent family parish model in the woman priest.  The idea of this politically contrived iconic destruction and biblically disobedient initiative was that it would make the Church relevant to the society in which it ministered.’
     

    I believe in our broken society we need a strong male presence in the Church, for people who do not get it anywhere else.  Anyhow, the article is well worth reading.
     

    http://trushare.com/83APR02/AP02LOW.htm

  • Moot

    Hi Sarah,
    |
    RE:   “Are you trying to use the example of your mother’s respect for her father’s memory as evidence of the created status of male authority?”
    |
    Actually no.  My point was not that she was respecting her father’s memory, but rather that she looks up her father (even in death) as her protector
    |
    RE:  “And are you saying that men allowing women to make mistakes is an example of misogyny?”
    |
    Hmm, that’s quite a loaded statement. 
    |
    Let’s take it to a level that both of us can relate to.  I have authority over a 34-month-old child.  My child likes to climb, much like I and her mother did at that age.  At the same time, she does not have an understanding of the physical world, and does not understand that carpeted floors are softer than tiled supermarket floors. 
    |
    So, how do I keep my child safe from injury?   If I forbid my child to climb on anything ever, then she may grow up to be afraid of her own shadow, or worse, to be attracted to the sort of domineering men who you and I both despise.  On the other hand, if I turned my back while my child was trying to defy the laws of physics on a shopping cart, when I truly knew that she was going to fall and seriously hurt herself, then chances are that my child would injure herself, and I’d be in a lot of hot water as a parent  (and justly so). 
    |
    The thing is, it’s okay with me if she is climbing and falls on a softer surface, gets dinged up a little bit, cries and then forgets about it.   That kind of mistake doesn’t maim, and retains her sense of autonomy.  The kind of mistake I won’t tolerate is one that she won’t forget about quickly;  That kind of mistake demands her sense of autonomy take the hit. 
    |
    As my child ages, perhaps she might strike up a friendship with someone involved in a cult.  If this happens, I’ll need to revisit the dilemma of whether autonomy is more expedient to sacrifice than safety.  I won’t however be able to turn my back on the dilemma itself, in homage to an inauthentic egalitarian ethic which applies only to men. 
    |
    RE:  ” I dread to consider the implications of what you’re saying; it might lead to controlling women’s moral and intellectual agency in the name of philogyny.”
    |
    Well, I’m not endorsing the old-school patriarchal model, where the man is the lord of his castle, in charge of the peon men, women, and children under his charge.  I am however endorsing the new-school patriarchal model (modeled on Christ), where the male lays down his life if necessary, or (worse yet!)  suffers criticism for protecting those who he has been called to protect. 

  • Sarah

    Moot, surely even you can see that comparing the moral autonomy of a helpless and intellectually unformed infant with that of an adult woman is somewhat insulting. What you’re basically saying is that men have been given that protective role because they know better than women: in other words, that they are superior in understanding and in virtue in the same way that a good parent is more advanced than their child.
    “My point was not that she was respecting her father’s memory, but rather that she looks up her father (even in death) as her protector. ”

    Well, you could put either construction on your mother’s reluctance to convert. Her fear that her father would ‘roll over in his grave’ if she went over to Rome is hardly a continued affirmation of his protective authority over her. Rather, it might reflect the fact that she still respects his opinion, loves him and wouldn’t want to cause him offence in life or in death. One can respect and love a person without being under their authority!

    As for the distinction you make between old-school lordship and New Testament patriarchy: the former was founded on the principle of the inferiority of female nature, and if you are advocating for a model of Christian gender relations based on the same principle, I don’t see how they need be different. 

    And finally: “Let’s take it to a level that both of us can relate to.” Thanks for bringing it down to my level – I appreciate that!

  • Moot

    RE:  “Moot, surely even you can see that comparing the moral autonomy of a helpless and intellectually unformed infant with that of an adult woman is somewhat insulting.”

    The infant in this case is a child, and is not helpless and intellectually uninformed.  “Surely even you” (a pejorative phrase if there ever was one, btw) can see that the adjectives you use to describe my child are somewhat insulting?

    And you’ve patently missed the point.  If you are a parent, then you understand the dilemma.  I assert that the dilemma is the same for a man and the household he serves.  If you are a parent, then you understand the dilemma;  though you may reject my assertion. 

    RE:  “Rather, it might reflect the fact that she still respects his opinion, loves him and wouldn’t want to cause him offence in life or in death. One can respect and love a person without being under their authority!”

    Odd.  You tend to think in terms of insult and offense.  Actually, being somewhat of an authority on my own Mom, I can’t agree that she is afraid of either insulting or offending her father.  I’d be open to entertaining other suggestions if you have them, however. 

    RE:  “Thanks for bringing it down to my level – I appreciate that!”

    Who said ‘down’?  If you are a parent, then we would be on the same level.  Thanks for putting words in my mouth – I appreciate that!  ;)

  • Sarah

    Hi Moot. I apologise for my original bad-tempered and somewhat humourless reply to yours – it probably deserved the response you gave it.

    However, I’m still deeply troubled by the parallel you draw between the parent-child/man-woman relationship. Culturally, we have a notion of childhood as a wholly separate condition in terms of legal, political, financial and professional responsibility. Where a woman has the full rights and agency of an adult, how specifically do you see the limitations on the full expression of that adulthood on the basis of sexual difference? Can a man forbid a woman to spend the money she has earned on things which he sees as harmful or unworthy? Does he have the God-given authority to curtail her freedom of movement if she shows a fondness for alcohol? Is he within his sphere of authority to monitor what she reads, or the sites she browses on the internet? When she proves successful in her professional life, can he set a ceiling on her ambitions to stop her transgressing the safety of her subject state? I can see how he might do all these things in the name of fulfilling his duty of ‘protection’. These are limits one might legitimately impose on a child. Not to mention the disturbing aspects of the application of your principle within marriage, I wonder how it would work in a situation where you have a female executive – but presumably such a person would not exist in an ideal Christian world?

    Also, you didn’t answer my observation that you seem to be saying that men know what is right better than women, which makes them intellectual and moral superiors.

    As for your mother, of course you’re better able to comment on her private motives than I am. But best of all, she can speak for herself, and I wonder what she would say if you suggested to her that she still saw her father as her final authority.

  • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

    Part of the problem in this debate is that we make assumptions about what people believe behind what they are saying. Take for example Sarah’s sentence:

    Also, you didn’t answer my observation that you seem to be saying that men know what is right better than women, which makes them intellectual and moral superiors.

    This observation comes from a perspective that views male headship as implying that men are somehow more suited to the role of leadership than women. However, in all my experience of those who advocate male headship I have only once come across an example of someone who based their justification for male headship in this reasoning. The vast majority of those who support the notion of ultimate male headship do so from a basis of believing that men and women are intellectually and morally equal, yet despite this, God has called men to exercise headship.

    How would such a model of headship work out? Well for example, take a large church staff team headed by a man. A bad model would be where the man believes that somehow he is superior to everybody else in the team and therefore makes decisions without reference to them, or that given the nature of his position he will receive special revelation to do the job. A good model would be where the man in charge elicits, and listens to carefully, contributions from all members of his team before coming to a final decision, a decision he makes not because he is intellectually or morally superior to his colleagues but simply because of the position he is in.

    And considering this good model, we see that ultimately the argument for having a man as head is not sociological or psychodynamic (perceived intellect or morality) but theological.

    Let’s look at some of the examples Sarah raises in her reply to Moot to see how this spins out:

    Can a man forbid a woman to spend the money she has earned on things which he sees as harmful or unworthy?

    I don’t know about your own marriages folks, but Gayle and I have a joint bank account. At the moment I am the main breadwinner, but before Reuben was born that was Gayle’s privilege (ah, those heady days of DINKS). The question then of “her money” never arises. It is all our money, regardless of who owns it.
    So the real question is, should the husband have the final say over an item of expenditure? Well, if I can be personal for the moment, Gayle bought something yesterday at Asda that I thought was completely pointless and a waste of money, but did I enforce my husbandly rights and forbid her? Absolutely not, because I know that what I don’t get pleasure out of she does (in this case a bar of so called “nougat” which was really just a lump of sugar). If I was operating on the basis of what I thought was right I could have said “no”, but because I am instructed to love my wife as Christ loves the Church, I know that she will value some things entirely differently than I do (even down to a silly example of a candy bar). At the same time, I have coveted an even larger widescreen TV than we currently have for a long time, yet Gayle is absolutely adamant that we don’t need one. Do I go ahead and buy one anyway, seeing as it’s my money going into the bank account at the moment? Of course not, because I think my wife actually is right, despite my longings for the latest in technology.

    Would you expect me as a conservative pastor to chastise a husband in my congregation who felt he could control his wife’s spending but at the same time buy whatever he wanted? Absolutely.

    Does he have the God-given authority to curtail her freedom of movement if she shows a fondness for alcohol?

    Are we implying here that the wife is a drunk or an alcoholic? What do you mean by curtailing freedom of movement? I have to be honest, if my wife (who is tee-total) suddenly started drinking I would remove all alcohol from the house, sit her down and tell her that she had a problem. I would expect her to do the same for me and this has far less to do with headship and more to do with mutual care.

    Would you expect me as a conservative pastor to chastise a husband in my congregation who felt he could control his wife’s drinking but at the same time go out to the pub whenever he wanted? Absolutely.

    Is he within his sphere of authority to monitor what she reads, or the sites she browses on the internet?

    Let me tell you how it works in this house. Gayle can sit down at my PC at any time and go through my browsing history – she can do this because since I used to (a long time back) have a porn problem I want to make myself totally accountable for my web use. I can do the same at hers (though Gayle has never had an issue at looking at that kind of stuff). We use the same paypal account, have the same credit card statements and both have online access to all our bank accounts and share portfolio. I trust my wife because I love her and because we have made our lives as open to each other as possible. It would be misogynistic to insist that I could view her private activity without her being able to view mine, don’t you think?

    Would you expect me as a conservative pastor to chastise a husband in my congregation who felt he could control his wife’s browsing but at the same time surf whereever he wanted without any accountability? Absolutely.

    When she proves successful in her professional life, can he set a ceiling on her ambitions to stop her transgressing the safety of her subject state?

    In my house I’m the one who wants to make sure that Gayle continues her professional career whilst she is the one wanting to stay at home looking after Gayle. If we could find appropriate child care then I’m sure at some point she would find a way of going back to work and probably rise well above me in terms of professional achievement (as she is well above me in formal academic achievement). Why would a husband who loves his wife as Christ loves the church want to cap his wife’s achievements? Does Christ want to cap the gifts and fruit of the church? Of course, if Gayle wanted to go back to work full time, leaving Reuben in nursery from 7 in the morning till after 6 at night then I would want to discuss with her whether that was best for Reuben. Would you expect me not to?

    Would you expect me as a conservative pastor to chastise a husband in my congregation who felt he could control his wife’s career but at the same time work all the hours he wanted leaving her at home to bring up the kids and do all the domestics? Absolutely.

    Do you see what I’m saying? If we assume misogyny in the hearts of husbands we get misogynistic interpretations. If we assume a husband loving his wife as Christ loves the church, we get completely opposite outcomes. It would be helpful therefore for the debate if those who reject the notion of male headship would recognise that those who do support it do so for theological reasons alone, not out of any basis of misogynistic assumptions,and that such theological reasons actually work often to the benefit of, not the detriment of a marriage.

  • Moot

    RE:  “I apologise for my original bad-tempered and somewhat humourless reply to yours – it probably deserved the response you gave it.”

    No apology necessary.  The bad-tempered and humourless (your words) as well as the negative aspects of my response are irrelevant, anyhow. 

    RE:  “However, I’m still deeply troubled by the parallel you draw between the parent-child/man-woman relationship.”

    Unfortunate.  I however remain untroubled by discussing one instance of a server / served , protector / protected, elder / lesser relationships, with another instance of them. 

    RE:   “Also, you didn’t answer my observation that you seem to be saying that men know what is right better than women, which makes them intellectual and moral superiors.”

    I’m not sure how to say this, so I’ll just say it:
    1)  Everything between the words, “you” and “that” is false.  I have actually addressed your concerns.  You took insult at the parallelism, and by focusing on the imagined slight, have missed the answer entirely. 
    2)  Also, everything after the word “that” is false, and here again you are putting words in my mouth.  The authority of my calling as parent does not hinge upon knowledge. 

    RE:  “As for your mother, of course you’re better able to comment on her private motives than I am. But best of all, she can speak for herself, and I wonder what she would say if you suggested to her that she still saw her father as her final authority.”

    Heh.  Nice evasion.  I assured you that her actions are not motivated by an unwillingness to offend, gave you an opportunity to postulate something better, and -now- it’s my responsibility to elicit an answer from her that is more suitable to your sensibilities? 

    As for the exercise of asking her, it’s completely pointless.  The reason it’s pointless is that her decision is based on something that is completely out of synch with her (sometimes) egalitarian worldview.  It’s instinctive.  Asking her if she still falls under the headship of her father would be (given her worldview) akin to asking a man if he still beats his wife. 

    So again, if Mom is not afraid of her father literally rolling over in his grave, and she’s not worried about offending him, why does she cite a dead person as the basis for her decision? 

    Do tell.  :)

  • Pingback: Is Male Headship Misogynist?

  • Moot

    Hi Peter+,

    RE:  “It would be helpful therefore for the debate if those who reject the notion of male headship would recognise that those who do support it do so for theological reasons alone, not out of any basis of misogynistic assumptions…”

    I disagree… slightly.  I say this because I believe that men are naturally misogynistic.  Adam was with Eve when she was tempted – rather than doing the difficult thing and dealing with the serpant, he used Eve as his guinea-pig.  Abraham, fearing Pharoah, lied about his relationship to Sarah.  Later, he capitulated to Sarah’s wish to impregnate Hagar, then threw up his hands when that situation blew up in everyone’s face.  David allowed Tamar to remain desolate rather than throwing his arms around her and comforting her. 

    These aren’t strong men who hate women.  These are weak men who hate them.  In every instance, they omit their duties as head of household and the women suffer the consequences. 

    Frankly, I’d rather be like Adam, or Abraham, or David.  Leave my family’s spiritual and financial health to chance, or better yet, to my wife.  Who needs that grief anyhow?  Best to turn on the TV, and tune out. 

    But someday, somehow, that mild-mannered misogyny would destroy them.  My wife and daughter would be less ‘themselves’ with me letting things to chance all the time, than with me leaning over the plate for them once in a while. 

    My headship is modeled on Christ.  For those who think that’s awful for the women in my life, they aren’t paying close attention to what Christ had to do for his bride, and subsequently did do. 

    Trust me..  Weak men are misogynists. 

  • Sarah

    “The bad-tempered and humourless (your words) as well as the negative aspects of my response are irrelevant, anyhow. ”

    I can’t agree with this. For me the spirit in which debate is conducted is as important, if not more, than the content of that debate. For that reason, and you will read this as a victory for your argument, or intellectual cowardice, or something else (but that doesn’t trouble me greatly), I’m not going to post any more on this thread because I’m in danger of getting tangled in a sterile and ill-humoured discussion which I doubt will move either of us on very far. We have both made our points, and while both of us may feel that we have not been truly listened to, there is little to be gained from repeating ourselves endlessly (it certainly won’t interest other readers!).

    Peter, thanks for your breakdown of how headship works in practice in your case. It is good to know that it has such benign implications at a personal level. But in my previous point I was not talking about the doctrine of headship in general: I was responding specifically and directly to Moot’s analogy between the parent’s responsibility to the child and the man’s responsibility to the woman.

  • Moot

    RE:  “For that reason, and you will read this as a victory for your argument, or intellectual cowardice, or something else..”

    Well, it sure as heck isn’t a victory.  So, it must be ‘something else.’ 

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