Readers, it seems, have reacted variously to the photograph of the happy episcopal couple (see No Comment below). The picture prompts, however, a serious consideration. Is there a logical and necessary connection between women’s ordination (and consecration) and gay marriage? And if so, what is it?
It is, of course, an observable fact that women clergy, by and large, are gay friendly, and that numbers of women bishops have advocated the acceptance of same -sex ‘marriage’. But is there anything in the arguments made for the ordination of women which leads necessarily to support for the ordination of practicing homosexuals and gay marriage? Though the proposition was hotly denied in the lengthy and heated campaign in the Anglican Communion, I think there is.
We can discount, to begin with, all arguments for women’s ordination which claim to be based on scriptural evidence or Christian history.
There is no evidence that Jesus himself deviated in any significant way from the mores of his contemporaries in his attitudes to women. Certainly he entertained no programme for gender equality. The Apostle Paul was no social revolutionary, in this or anything else. Mary Magdalen was not the first to see the risen Lord and was not commissioned by him to proclaim the resurrection. The Junias mentioned in passing in the final paragraph of the Letter to the Romans, was not with any degree of certainty either a woman or an apostle. The evidence for women ministers of any kind among orthodox Christians in the first two centuries is sparse and doubtful. The frescoes in the Catacomb of Priscilla do not represent a concelebration by women priests. The mother of Pope Pascal I was not a bishop. ’Pope Joan’ was a prurient monkish fabrication, later adapted for use by Protestant propagandists.
All these speculations (and more) simply continue the popular nineteenth century parlour game whereby Jesus was claimed to be almost anything from a primitive socialist to an upholder of Art-for-Art’s-Sake. All stub their toe on the rock of anachronism. Thoughts which were commonplace in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were simply unthinkable in the first.
There being no historical or scriptural arguments we must look elsewhere.
The strong suits of the supporters of women’s ordination are ‘equality’ and ‘inclusion’. These can be made to seem a mere matter of good manners – ‘fairness’ and ‘fair play’. But ‘equality’, especially, is a far more serious matter. With it we are more in the territory of Benedict Spinoza than of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Christianity, it is evident from the best part of two millennia of doctrinal development, is a religion of hierarchy (‘Our Father who art in heaven’) and particularity (‘How odd of God to choose the Jews’). Radical egalitarianism is opposed to both. The post-Christian theologian, Daphne Hampson puts it nicely:
‘…I am not a Christian because I do not believe that there could be this particularity. I do not believe, whatever I may mean by God, that it could be said of God that God could be differently related to one age or people than God is related to all ages and people…Thus I do not, for example, think that there could be a human person (which Christians must proclaim) who stood in a different relationship to God than do other human beings.’
So, no Incarnation. And, by inference, no distinctive or defining roles which might be attributed either to Nature or to God (deus sive natura, as Spinoza would have it). Not only, then, does the doctrine of equality require women’s ordination. It demolishes at a stroke all roles and functions in social life. True a number of inconvenient biological issues remain; but advancing techniques of surgery and hormonal treatment can be relied upon to bring the actual into line with the ideal.
Thus, not only do the arguments in favour of women’s ordination lead directly to the support of same-sex marriage; they attack Christianity at the most basic level. They render the image patterns and presuppositions upon which the religion is founded, untenable and incomprehensible. Once the Equality Doctrine is grasped in all its rigour, no longer can there be talk, among intelligent people, of a Creator God who disposes all things according to his will, and who enters the world be has made to redeem it and to unite it once more to himself. In the new doctrine, man ceases to be a divine creation, unique to himself, and becomes a self-defining entity, equivalent to every other.