NAIROBI: GAFCON and Women's Ordination
By David W. Virtue in Nairobi
October 30, 2013
Delegates to a mini-conference held at GAFCON in Nairobi at All Saints' cathedral this week upheld the role of women's ministry, but refused to be drawn into the ongoing theological battle over the ordination of women to the priesthood - a battle that has pitted Anglo-Catholics and some evangelicals who believe such ordinations are biblically, theologically and historically unacceptable against other evangelicals and liberals who accept the validity of such ordinations.
It was the decisive issue that saw the walkout of four priests in 1977 who later became bishops and formed the backbone of what became the Continuing Church movement.
Today, all Global North provinces recognize the full orders of women to the priesthood with the provinces of TEC, Canada, NZ, Australia, Wales, Ireland, Scotland and India also allowing women priests to be ordained as bishops. The Church of England is currently weighing the issue and is expected to pass legislation allowing for such ordinations in 2014.
All the African Anglican provinces ordain women to the priesthood with the notable exceptions being Nigeria (evangelical) and Central Africa (Anglo-Catholic). Some African provinces have ordained women, more out of pragmatic necessity than theological reflection. The Province of South East Asia ordains women as chaplains but not to the priesthood. Women can be found as missionaries, church planters, and preachers, but sacramental functions are performed by bishops in those parishes.
In North America, The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) ordain women to the priesthood (the latter does not ordain women to the Episcopacy) though there is deep internal conflict among a number of member churches affiliated with ACNA (some say a majority) that would like to see a moratorium placed on the future ordination of women to the priesthood to keep the movement from splintering down the road. Time will tell.
In Nairobi, A GAFCON communique affirmed the ministries and leadership of women, and their call to the task of evangelism, making disciples, and building strong families, churches and communities. GAFCON 2013 upholds the Bible's teaching that men and women are equally made in the image of God, called to be his people in the body of Christ, exercising different gifts. WE RECOGNIZE THAT WE HAVE DIFFERENT VIEWS OVER THE ROLES OF MEN AND WOMEN IN CHURCH LEADERSHIP.
The statement went on to say that it grieves that in many places, women and children are marginalized through poverty, lack of education, HIV/AIDS, the mistreatment of widows and orphans, and polygamy. Furthermore, they suffer domestic violence against women and children and call upon the church to demonstrate respect for women, for marginalized women and children around the world, and uphold the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.
The draft sent by the women's mini-conference said, "This conference affirms the ministries and leadership of women, and their call to the task of evangelism, making disciples, and building strong families, churches and communities."
The first draft of the statement diluted it slightly by saying, "This conference affirms the ministries of women and their vital contribution to leadership: their call to the task of evangelism...."
The final draft ditched all leadership of women: "We affirm the ministries of women and their vital contribution to the life of the church: their call to the task of evangelism..."
The progression was seen by some as a downgrade from:
1. Affirm the leadership of women...to
2. Affirm the vital contribution of women to leadership...to
3. Affirm the vital contribution of women to the life of the church...
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