Church of England: No to Female Bishops
Many are wrongly framing the controversy in the Church of England as liberal (pro-women) vs conservative (anti-women) or Bible (anti-women) vs culture (pro-women). In fact, the Scriptures themselves have far more to say in favor of women than many realize. And cultures have tended to hold women back, while Christians have often been the ones elevating them based on the Bible.
Many conservatives, who believe Christianity to be a revealed religion, based on the fully inspired Scriptures, support women in leadership on biblical grounds. We simply consider EVERY relevant passage, not just one. Christians were the first to elevate women. It got them in trouble with the pagans (contrary to popular opinion). Paul himself wrote strongly about our equality before God. Whatever the often controversial Timothy and Corinthian passages are referring to, they don’t trump everything else the Scriptures say. Most of the energy behind hindering women from using their spiritual gifts in leadership is based around giving a single passage the first and last word in the debate. Good interpretation has to be in context and in light of all the New Testament says. I respect people on all sides of the issue. But a lot of people don’t seem to know all the evidence.
Here are just a few key passages for biblical conservatives who support female leaders…
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29 NIV)
“ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. (Acts 2:17, 18 NIV)
Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. (Acts 21:8, 9 NIV)
This passage implies mutually held appreciation for female servant-leaders between Paul and the Roman believers:
Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia. Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. (Romans 16:3-7 NIV)
More passages not making value-distinctions between the important leadership contributions of women and men in the early church…
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. (1 Peter 4:10 NIV)
Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. (Colossians 4:15 ESV)
All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. (Acts 1:14 ESV)
Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. (Romans 16:15 ESV)
I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Philippians 4:2, 3 ESV)
At the very least these passages indicate Paul saw women as equally valuable, not only theologically, but as partners in ministry. If women prophesied in the early church, they clearly were teaching and also therefore not always silent in church. The question of the meaning of “have authority over” in the Timothy passage becomes a focal point. But in light of all Paul and Peter wrote there’s plenty of room to support leadership based on spiritual giftedness rather than gender. And it seems in certain regions Paul operated with culturally-conditioned methods based on needs and human resources.
Regardless of your conclusion, please make your decision based on more than one New Testament passage… And let’s not falsely label each other as biblical vs cultural.