09 May 2007

Egalitarianism and Ecumenism

About a week ago, I blogged about an internationally known Christian mission which wrote to me as a Methodist minister asking to recommend to them local business men who might potentially want to join in their work. It's since been confirmed to me by a female clergy colleague that this group does not admit women to membership although member's wives are allowed and encouraged to participate in the society's work.

Since becoming a minister this past September, I've become aware that there are a number of Christian groups that are eager to be in contact with "Revd P G*****" provided that the "P" stands for something like Paul or Philip and not Pam or Paula. One group sent me an invitation to hear an American Christian speaker who I love; but it became clear that the offer to support clergy in the challenges of doing God's work didn't apply to female clergy.

Yes, it hurts. But I honestly believe that complimentarianism and male-headship are wrong; I honestly believe that it is as wrong as saying that God doesn't want non-white people to be ministers.

So how does an egalitarian, female minister engage with these sorts of Christians in terms of ecumenism? I know that many of my egaliatarian colleagues would say to ignore them but I do not believe this is right either. The question is rather like 'How do you work with a group of people who would prefer to ignore you?'


samlcarr said...

Pam, I guess you really are on the cutting edge though I had been under the impression that things were a bit better in England.

There is a mighty battle going on in the U.S. where too slowly change is taking place. there has been a particularly lively discussion on 'women in ministry' on Scot McKnight's jesuscreed.org and i do hope and pray that such discussions will both offer encouragement and will help to change perspectives on what the bible really does say about the equality of all before our Lord.

Sandalstraps said...

Great question, and I have absolutely no answer. I'm one of those who'd say not to work with them, but perhaps that comes from a lack of creativity.

I don't think that you can partner with someone who denies your essential nature. To work with them, you first have to find some creative way to get them to acknowledge the value and legitimacy of your ministry.

Sorry I don't have anything helpful to say.

Well... Perhaps I do have one helpful comment to offer, by way of encouragement.

My church is pastored by a woman. Obviously the Roman Catholic church is opposed to the ordination of women. Yet we have a very good relationship, a partnership of sorts, with a local Catholic congregation. In fact, on May 20, we are having a service recognizing our ecumenical connection with both a Catholic and an Episcopal church, with our respective bishops presiding over the service.

I don't know about the dialogue between our clergy on the subject of who should be allowd to be clergy, but I do know that they work together on local issues. So what I said earlier is by no means absolute.

PamBG said...

The Catholic church in the town in which I live has been great. Our Churches Together association did prayers in different churches for The Week of Christian Unity in January with the "wrong" minister in the church. I got to lead prayers in the Roman Catholic church. I volunteered to the priest that I would not wear my clerical collar if he preferred and he said "Absolutely not! We don't want a pale shadow of a Methodist minister! You do as you would normally do."

Personally, I've had very little problems with the Roman Catholics. Many Roman Catholic priests here in the UK - as well as many lay people - seem to be in favour of a change in the rules. Their ban on women being priests is not based on ideas about ontological gender roles.

The biggest opponents are the independent evangelical churches who seem to take quite a hard line on women and they support male headship. Many are theologically equivalent to conservative Presbyterians in the US.

PamBG said...

samlcarr, thanks for the link to Scot McKinght's blog.

crystal said...

Though I'm a Catholic, I think women should be allowed to be preists, and a number of other Catholics think so too, including many priests.

Maybe the division between people who do and do not accept women in this role is not so much between non-Catholics and Catholics, as between liberals and conservatives?

It's hard to come to a meeting of the minds with people who don't think you have one :-)