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Women Bishops?

Women Bishops?
Bishop Keith Ackerman responds to the Church of England's General Synod

June 17, 2013

While there are many emotions that have been expressed regarding the vote of the General Synod, it is essential that emotion not be a determining factor in assessing the vote. The ordination of women is a novelty, and it continues to be the minority position of the Anglican Communion and her Ecumenical partners, the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. From a purely sociological perspective, the ordination and consecration of women seems to be both logical and reasonable. Indeed, many attempted innovations in the history of Christianity have been both logical and reasonable.

In usual debate, the burden of proof is always placed on the one who seeks to change that which has been. Modern culture seems to have reversed this principle, and all too often the burden of proof is placed on those who seek to maintain that which has been. Christianity is a Religion of revelation, and for the Christian it means that we serve a King, and we function not in a democracy, but rather in a Theocracy. In creation, God reveals and makes manifest an order that is complementary. The matter of "equality" is not diminished in the reality of complementarity - indeed, it is enhanced.

The Church has for two thousand years found herself functioning in this complementarity, expressed and realized in the Incarnation, and made manifestly clear in the root metaphor and true expression of the complementarity of Christ and His Church: Christ the Bridegroom and the Church, His bride. For two thousand years the Church has had to deal with the question of how she is to function within the world that was created by the Father. That is, is it the role of the Church to shape the culture or is it the duty of the culture to shape the Church? Inasmuch as this cannot always be clearly delineated, the Church is always in a mode of discernment, but she does so through the lens of the Holy Scriptures and Holy Tradition. Well-meaning and well educated people in every generation have debated issues that have had a profound influence on both Church and Culture. Discernment, however, must not be forced, nor must it degenerate into a political system that may well serve the culture on many matters, but does not always reflect that which God has already revealed.

The laity of the General Synod deserve great admiration for speaking out, as painful as that may be. While many may well believe that both traditionalists and non-traditionalists have both lost, due to the vote, may it be possible that God is intervening, and asking that more foundational questions need to be addressed, and that merely addressing symptoms of foundational shifts is not appropriate? What do we mean by God? What do we mean by Church? What do we mean when we say that Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour? What do we mean by Ministry? What do we mean by Priesthood and Episcopate and Diaconate? What is the difference between revelation and evolution in discerning God's will? Perhaps all of us have been given another opportunity to reflect on God's will for His Church - the Church for which Jesus Christ shed His blood, rose from the dead, and for whom He Ascended into Heaven. Twelve years - five years - mere seconds.

The Church of England is not a national denomination. She is, for many, the Mother Church, the home of the See of Canterbury, and a part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church throughout the world. The Church of England bears a mighty responsibility, and now has the opportunity to model restraint and charity for all concerned, and zeal for the extension of the Kingdom of Christ throughout the world, undeterred by conflict that destroys, and committed to conflict that can build bridges.

The Rt. Rev. Keith Ackerman is the former Episcopal Bishop of Quincy. He was deposed by Katharine Jefferts Schori when he removed himself and his diocese from TEC. This article is taken from the May-June, 2013 edition of Forward in Christ magazine and reposted with permission

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