January 24, 2012

Monstruous Regiment Redivivus

Andrew Brown writes in the Guardian concerning the various schemes proposed to answer the famous riddle, When is a bishop not a bishop? with the obvious answer, When the bishop is a woman! Above all, it seems, the beliefs of some must be protected at all costs, even if it means creating structures of virtual non-episcopacy within the episcopate. Those who do not accept either the reality or even the possibility of women in orders of any kind (except possibly the diaconate — and definitely not the episcopate) must be insulated from any challenge to those beliefs. The schemes themselves may not go far enough to please the most fervently opposed, who do not wish a woman bishop even to delegate authority to a “safe” male bishop, since the very act of delegation offers a tip of the biretta in acknowledgement of her office.

I am reminded about houses divided against themselves. I see the irony of simultaneously arguing on one hand that gays can't be bishops because they can not serve as a focus for unity, and on the other hand that a scheme should be enforced whereby women ought to serve in precisely that unfocused, double-vision office of divided disloyalties. And I marvel at the extent to which some think it is salutary to believe impossible things before breakfast, as the White Queen suggested, or would have done, if women were allowed to function in such a capacity.*

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG
*The first blast of the trumpet against the monstruous regiment of women, by John Knox, was directed against female monarchs.

10 comments:

Christopher said...

And not just any female monarch but the Supreme Governor of th Church of England.

Brother David said...

There are just so many folks in the whole realm of creation who suffer cranial rectal inversions! It is sad.

http://edge.ebaumsworld.com/picture/blacksheep101/headupass.jpg

JCF said...

simultaneously arguing on one hand that gays can't be bishops because they can not serve as a focus for unity, and on the other hand that a scheme should be enforced whereby women ought to serve in precisely

Touche', Tobias!

Of course, the Romanizing view would avoid the above hypocrisy, by denying the latter clause's possibility to exist. [If only those demanding bishops-who-are-women-not-be-bishops would Romanize. There's the door to the Ordinariate. Vaya con Dios!]

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thanks all. Christopher, Mr Knox had to contend with the first Elizabeth, and doubt he'd fare any better under the second...

David, naughty. But, yes.

JCF, I have no problem with those who wish to maintain a view that women cannot be ordained, though I think their position rests on fundamentally shakey premises and a defective anthropology. The problem is one of church polity, though -- once a church makes a decision concerning who may be ordained, which is in part a decision about specific office and authority (or at the least, faculty), it becomes a sort of autoimmune ailment to continue to maintain opposition to a central element of the structure within the structure. It is more, not less, problematical than holding diverging opinions on the nature of the Eucharist, in part because it isn't at a high theological level, but about the day to day working of the church. Imagine a business where employees were free to disregard their supervisors. (supervisor = episkopos, literally...). If it is impossible for one to accept the discipline of a body to which one belongs, then by all means one should sever ones relationship with it. Worst case: what would happen if the Archbishop of Canterbury or York were a woman? And how do they reconcile all of this with the incumbent Supreme Governor, as Christopher so helpfully notes?

Jesse said...

I think you're quite right, Tobias, that the question of women's ordination is fundamentally about anthropology. I've just listened to a fascinating lecture by the Eastern Orthodox priest and theologian John Behr (audiio here: http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/svsvoices/women_disciples_of_the_lord_part_one handout here: http://www.svots.edu/sites/default/files/male_and_female_quotes_2011.pdf) in which he says that just as Christology was the defining question for the early Church, anthropology is the defining question for the 21st-century Church (and as he observes, the two questions are intimately linked).

His conclusions are very interesting indeed. He argues that sexual difference functions as a kind of "education" for humanity: our sexual attraction to, and desire for, another leads us to the sacrificial self-offering without which it is impossible to become a true human being, i.e. reaching a point of being able to say "Be it unto me according to thy word" (completing the divine fiat that is conspicuously absent from the creation of human beings in Genesis).

Lecturing, as he was, to an Orthodox seminary audience, he didn't make explicit the obvious corollary that could be drawn from his remarks, namely that human sexual differentiation, while not "merely biological", is primarily a pointer to the true nature of human existence and relationships, not a divinely instituted limitation on existence and relationships.

I see that some have attacked this lecture for sounding like it was given by an Episcopalian :)

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thanks, Jesse, for pointing me to this. I look forward to listening to it later this week.

One issue that strikes me, however, is the extent to which the Incarnation effectively "undoes" (rather than recapitulating or completing) the Genesis beginning. Thus, Mary's "fiat" is not made to a male person -- a human husband -- but to the Divine who is beyond such categories. And Jesus' self-offering is similarly not to a "woman" but to the Church -- which while it may be personified as female, is not female in any bodily sense. This all begins to sound a bit too much like hieros gamos rather than Christian anthropology, which must, I think, take its starting point in Christ as "True Man" in his individuality-in-relationship with all others, not just those of a surmised "opposite" sex!

Jesse said...

In a word, yes. And that's exactly what Behr gets at. (I had to limit my summary...) For him, the relationship between the sexes is a kind of "educational provision" leading to the true humanity, which is accomplished in Christ's fiat in Gethsemane.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thanks again. I look forward to listening to the talk. I took a look at the "handout" and found the final quotes from Maximus most interesting along those lines...

Grandmère Mimi said...

When I read Andrew Brown's article and the foreword to 'The Illustrative Daft Code of Practice' (Oops!) by the two archbishops, Canterbury and York, I thought of a house divided, too. Their scheme makes no sense. They'll twist themselves like pretzels and still not achieve the desired results.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

The Archbishops seem unable to distinguish between compromise and abdication; also that you cannot compromise on basic structures of authority itself: one part of the body cannot say to another, I have no need of you -- or I don't recognize you as part of the body. It's the same problem with the Ang Cov. You can't have a double standard on elements essential to the very being of the institution -- which the episcopate is in an episcopal church.