The Anglican news service just ran a story. The headline is, "Archbishop of Canterbury celebrates 25 years of women's ordination in the Church of England."
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior cleric in the Church of England, and is the head of the Anglican worldwide communion. The issue of the ordination of women, though 25 years old in Great Britain is still controversial in the Anglican communion, and it has spawned additional and even deeper controversy.
25 Year Anniversary
"A service has been held in the chapel of Lambeth Palace, the official London residents of the archbishops of Canterbury to celebrate 25 years of the ordination of women in the Church of England. The then-bishop of Bristol, Barry Rogerson, ordained 32 women in Bristol Cathedral on the 12th of March 1994 in the first of many ordinations that year.”
A message from Bishop Barry was read to more than 80 female priests who were invited to the March 1st service. The guests included many women who were among the first to be ordained in 1994 as well as some of the people who were active in the campaign for the ordination of women. They are celebrating this decision. And they “know not what they do.”
The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby is quoted as saying, "Many of those here today have been pioneers as they work out what it means to be an ordained woman in the Church of England, not just for themselves and to their communities, but for the whole body of Christ. Today," said, the archbishop, "Let us bear witness to those who paved the way in 1994 as well as upholding those whose way into ministry has been opened up since."
Notice these words. “Upholding those whose way into ministry has been opened up since."
It was in 1994 that the Church of England first ordained women to serve as priests. That means that it was only in the very late 20th century that any woman was ever ordained to the priesthood or the ministry in the Church of England.
What does that tell us? It tells us that throughout almost 2,000 years of Christian experience, the Christian Church, wherever it was found in every name, and every organization, every single one of those churches understood that the Scripture excludes women from serving as ordained clergy, or as ministers. But all of that began to change with the feminist revolutions of the 20th century. Denomination by denomination, church by church, many of the liberal denominations, starting with the most liberal—and then moving to others—eventually came to terms with feminism and began to ordain women. The issue has been agitated by liberal-minded individuals within Adventism for almost 30-years.
So why are we talking about this now? It is because this particular story about the Church of England, illustrates that it will never end with the ordination of women.
Current controversies in the Church of England are not over women serving as priests, or even serving as bishops. The issue now is whether or not openly gay, LGBTQ persons should also be considered on equal ground to serve as priests and ministers within the Church of England. And here's where intelligent Christians need to understand that these issues are never fully separable. They're not really separate issues. Let me put this quite bluntly. If you look at the arguments for the ordination of women to the ministry, you are looking at arguments that require circumventing very clear teachings of Scripture.
Hermeneutics is the method whereby a text is to be interpreted. What we are seeing among liberal denominations in general, and liberal Adventists in particular is the fact that they have found a way to say,
“Well that may be what the text says, but in our contemporary context it means something else. We have found a way to get around that text.
We'll find a way to get around the apostle Paul, we'll find a way to get around the pastoral epistles. We'll find a way to get around the actuality of the gospels, we will find a way to say there's actually a hidden message within the New Testament, or we're going to make the argument “We're just going to call ourselves red letter Christians.”
Now, that is a direct assault upon the integrity, the authority, and the divine inspiration of Scripture, because we are not given merely the so-called red letters as God's word. We are given the entire Bible, Old and New testaments together as the infallible Word of God. In order to believe that women should serve as pastors, as those with teaching authority in the church, you have to decide to invalidate the authority of some very, very clear texts of Scripture.
Now, here's the point. Once you do that you can't stop there. That's why the normalization of the entire LGBTQ spectrum within the church, including ordination in liberal churches, has become inevitable. If you apply that hermeneutic to the question of ordaining women, then you're going to have to apply that same hermeneutic (if consistent) to the question of sexual orientation. There is no way around it.
If you can find a way around the clear teachings of Scripture when it comes to questions of being male and female, then you will charged with inconsistency if you do not find the same way around Scriptures that deal with questions of human sexuality and the definition of marriage. What we're looking at here is the fact that one compromise does lead to another. Sometimes we're told “That's a slippery slope argument.”
But in this case you're looking at a mere quarter century. You're not just looking at a slippery slope, you're looking at a very short slide. From the top to the bottom, it's just twenty-five years. Let’s consider the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Just about two years ago, back in 2017, the very same archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby was asked by journalists, Alastair Campbell, if he believed that homosexual sex was sinful. The archbishop responded,
"You know very well that is a question I can't give a straight answer to. Sorry, badly phrased there. I should have thought that one through."
When he was pressed to give an answer, the archbishop said,
"Because I don't do blanket condemnation and I haven't got a good answer to the question, I'll be really honest about that. I know I haven't got a good answer to the question. Inherently within myself, the things that seem to me to be absolutely central are around faithfulness, stability and relationships and loving relationships."
Let’s be honest here. With that statement, the archbishop of Canterbury conceded defeat on the issue of biblical sexuality.
First of all, what kind of religious leader says that he doesn't have an answer to the question as to whether something as basic as homosexual relationships and homosexual sex are sinful?
The archbishop said, "That is a question I can't give a straight answer to." He did understand the absurdity of not giving an answer on that basis, so he said, "Sorry, badly phrased there. I should have thought that one through.” But he doesn't think it through. He never gives an answer.
Second observation, if you can't give a straight answer to that question, how in the world do you speak truth? Do you offer the Gospel or do you give pastoral advice to people within your church who come and ask you the question? If you can't give an answer, who will?
Third, if you can't give an answer and Scripture does give a clear answer, then at least be honest that you are not living or teaching in accordance with Scripture.
Lastly, understand that if you have found a way to celebrate getting around Scripture on the question of the ordination of women, then you're going to have to quickly find your way around clear teachings of Scripture about homosexuality.
Church by Church, liberal denomination by denomination, the game is being played out right before our eyes. Are we a people of the Book, or a people of moral surrender?