28 November 2009

One Father

Rowan Williams asks whether, "when so much agreement has been firmly established in first order matters about the identity and mission of the Church, it is really justifiable to treat other issues as equally vital for its health and integity". And: "In what way does the prohibition against ordaining women so enhance the life of communion, reinforcing the essential character of filial and communal holiness as set out in Scripture and tradition and ecumenical agreement, that its breach would compromise the purposes of the Church as so defined?" Behind this surely lurks a question which, if we are honest, many of us sometimes have worried about: " How do we present to the world a gloomy prohibition against Women Clergy as being positive Good News?"

The answer is in Rowan's own summary of the new consensual ecclesiology: "God is eternally a life of three-fold communion; and if human persons are to be reconciled to God and restored to the capacity for which they were made, they must be included in that life of communion. The incarnation of God the Son recreates in human persons the possibility of filial relation with the Father ... etc". The Church images and embodies that divine life of communion in which the Father stands as as the principal of unity because he is the pege theotetos or its arche, the Source of Godhead. The Father, as S Paul writes in Ephesians, is the One from whom all patria, Fatherhood, comes, and in the ekklesia the Bishop is the typos tou Patros [Ignatius Trallians 3:1; Smyrnaeans 8:1; Magnesians 3; 6:1], the 'minted' sacramental reproduction of the One Father. This preoccupation with Fatherhood presumably goes back to the Incarnate Word who used the Aramaic term Abba, and who is reported in John 17 as having prayed that the Holy Father would keep his disciples so that they all might be one. The description, in I Timothy 3, of the episkopos as the paterfamilias of God's Assembly is also significant.

If sacraments as efficacious signs bear a natural resemblance to what they signify (compare the formulation of Hugh of S Victor: that there is an analogy between the visible and invisible elements), it is difficult to see how a woman can image or deliver the Fatherhood of God unless one empties that notion of signi-ficant content. (It is wise to recall that the New Testament does not see God the Father as the Mother of the hypostatically united Word. It suggests that his Mother was a Palestinian Girl called Mary. Nor do its semantics allow that, rather than a Father, he possessed a single undifferentiated 'Parent'.)

It seems to me wholly subversive of an ecclesiology which derives from the Communio of the Trinity to place in a cathedra episcopalis a person who cannot be seen as the typos of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ*. In other words, a woman-bishop subverts the Patri-archal life of the Church as an expression of that very life in the communion of the Blessed Trinity which Rowan seeks to establish. Prescinding from Scholastic categories of 'valid' and 'invalid' (not that the scholastic formulation causes me any anxieties), this is what it really means when we say that a woman 'cannot' be a bishop.

Putting it demotically, Women Bishops bugger up the Trinity and they bugger up sacramental signification.

Or if they don't (after all, I am not infallible), they are de facto able to focus and articulate neither the unity of the local church, nor its integration by the person of its 'bishop' into the mia Katholike, for as long as de facto there are people who share my misapprehensions. This must be what it really means when Rowan concedes that we are still in an open period of discernment and reception. And given the importance of the episcopal ministry (and its dependant ministries) in structuring the Christian Assembly in Trinitarian communio, the structured and structural doubt implicit in Discernment and Reception disqualifies the innovation from possibility.



I recall reading that in New Zealand, in ordinations, 'bishop' Penny was addressed as "Right Reverend Mother in God". Is that correct? Does anyone know of Anglican Provinces which have had the courage of their feminist convictions to address women bishops as 'Father in God'? Or bishops of either gender as 'Parent in God'?


Cherub said...

Dear Father Hunwicke

Why do you persist in calling the Archbishop of Canterbury "Rowan"? It seems to me to be so discourteous, like calling the Pope "Joseph"! All your points are so well made, but it seems to me, at any rate, to show a lack of respct for the man and his position. Can you please explain why you do this?

Fr John Hunwicke said...

He is commonly known, and with very considerable affection, as Rowan. If I wanted to be offensive, I would call him Williams. But I did so far take on board your point as to introduce a slightly enhanced degree of formality in this matter. (I don't want to make an issue of this; but just as RCs say "Benedict our Pope" , so many Anglicans say "Rowan our Archbishop". And you haven't rebuked me for sometimes calling the Holy Father Benedict.)

Unknown said...

Hi Father,

This is how I understand the question of women ministry in the Church. I know many Orthodox and Catholic, specially Eastern Catholic have a very similar understanding...

Man was made in the image of God. This should mean that since God is a Trinity, then Man should be one too. And this seem to be implied in Genesis. For male and female with a potential for a third person. But this was on the 6th day... Once the day of 'rest' come, and they rest in God who is love, then we get "Father, child, and mother' similtaneously. A Trinity.

Since the words used by our Lord are 'relationship' word, I think it is good to use it as referance, both to understand the unity (no Fatherhood without Sonship and vice versa) and the parallel in Man. 'Holy Spirit' must be seen as a relationship name too but only applicable to the divine realm. For the three persons have always existed in relationship with each other, meaning perfect unity in them.

This is not so for creatures who belong to the realm of time. So for us the relationship name for the third person is 'mother'. I find it interesting that women have very special and significant signs of time embeded in them. Not only the montly clock, but also the nine months, etc. Time is a general mark of all creatures. And it is from woman that we can say that we all take our human nature, at least this is what Jesus seem to show us with Mary. For he took his humanity from Mary.

So I think the third person in God or Man, has something to do with the nature of the realm they belong too; they personify it. Holy Spirit for the divine nature. Women for Creation. Now with this understanding, I think the ministry of woman in the Church is to magnify the Lord like Mary. Here the Lord is primirly the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who reveals God to humanity from the beginning, first through prophets. He reveals the hiden Word of God.
In Man, woman reveal also the hiden seed of man and show what is it as she grow it in her and manifest it in the world.
Mary when she perfectly IMAGED God (Holy Spirit - who had overshadowed her) she was given to manifest the Word of God (naturally invisible) in flesh.

While not all women will do this. I think my realisation is that women are called to image the Holy Spirit. His life-giving, comnforting grace. The Holy Spirit have revealed the Word through prophets and slowly shaped the faith of believers. Mothers shape us in their womb. As we grow up they also participate in shaping our soul. I think this is their ministry. With and by the Holy Spirit, shaping us gracefully into the stature of Christ.

Priests on the other hand, they deliver what they have been given. "There is only one Father" means there is only one Seed (Jesus used this word often referring to the Word of God) to be transmitted uncorrupted. When St Paul was speaking about the Eucharist, he said " I deliver unto you what I have also received...". Jesus died to restore us to our uncorrupt nature and even rise us beyond. Men must sacrifice to keep the human seed pure and undefiled.
Women must sacrifice to keep the 'temple'(womb) pure and undefiled.
We call the Church Mother because of the power of the Holy Spirit in the institution. Because of this, one saint said: "He does not have God for his Father who does not have the Church for his Mother".

I think this ministry of the women in the Church need to be clearly discovered and lived out. May be we would have lot less wars, abortions, abuse to kids, etc.. in the Church. The Holy women in the New Testament can teach us how to promote women ministry in the Church.
Priests are ministes of the Lamb , how can women be more ministers of the 'Bride', Church and the Holy Spirit?

God bless

AndrewWS said...


I know a delightful young lady priestess who is doing her first curacy in a High Church parish that had never had a priestess before. Her parishioners address her and refer to her as Father, and she takes evident delight in this.

Cherub said...

Dear Father

I certainly do not want to be thought of as rebuking you. It was the use of the name "Rowan Williams", or "Rowan" that I find overly familiar and lacking respect. If you said "Rowan our Archbishop" or "His Grace" it would match "His Holiness" and "Pope Benedict". The difference between the two is, of course, that the Pope is our Holy Father and Head of the Church on earth. Benedict is the name he took for this office upon his election. Anyway for this man who does not live in the UK and is not part of the in-group who are on first name terms with His Grace, it is socially uncomfortable. But in saying that from a different cultural ethos I do not mean to crticise you personally. And your Blog is oustandingly informative, entertaining, and one that I asm glad to have discovered.

Anonymous said...

The church in Corinth was in a mess & if you look closely you will see that the disorder came from pagan religious influence where women were dominant.

The same is happening today. Women are just like Eve, usurping the role of Adam & failing to carry out the role that was given to them. (see 1 Timothy 2:8-15) Its worth reading all of the Epistle.

Chapter 3 clearly lays down the rules of Pastors & Deacons.

2Corinthians 11:1 Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.

2COR 11:2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

2COR 11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

2COR 11:4 For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.

Steve said...

"So God created man
in his own image,
in the image of God
he created him;
male and female
he created them."

Anonymous said...



You quoted a verse, now READ the rest of the BOOK.

Using your method of teaching, I can state, "THERE IS NO GOD" but if I continue into the CONTEXT, I will see, that THE FOOL IN HIS HEART SAYS, THERE IS NO GOD.

Now go back & look at Genesis 3:16 & then continue to read the rest of the Bible.