Priestesses in the Church?

Recently, someone gave me a copy of C. S. Lewis’ article “Priestesses in the Church?” This was originally published August 14, 1948 under the title “Notes on the Way”.

If C. S. Lewis were alive today, I wonder what he would have written since the head of his church, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the archbishop’s predecessor support the ordination of women to the Anglican priesthood. It will happen.

One has to be impressed by a church leader who is not afraid of ‘the conservatives” and their utterances against women. These utterances in many instances border on the irrational and absurd.

One has to wonder if some religious leaders be they Anglican, Adventist, Catholic, Mormon, Southern Baptist, etc., are not enrobed in misogyny. Misogyny: “an extreme dislike of females, frequently based upon unhappy experience or upbringing” THE FREE DICTIONARY. Other definitions characterize this as “hatred of women”.

In Greek misogyny is misogunia (μισογυνία). Saint Paul of the New Testament has been accused of being misogynous, but other passages in his writings do not support this view. Perhaps these churchmen should focus more on these passages and less on the ones in his writings which seem to be advocating suppression of the women in the church.

I have observed over the years that men tend to find in religious texts whatever supports their own positions, especially in regards to women. One’s prejudices tend to win out over honest hermeneutic principles.

Women are not a threat to the church or to its unity. They are a refreshing glass of spring water in contrast the whited sepulchres of a male hierarchy lost in its own blind arrogance and spiritual pride.

In many religious communities women are the majority. It seems that men are desperate creatures in these religious communities. Spiritual arrogance is alive and well in 2014.

To be clear here I do not believe C. S. Lewis was misogynous. The point of his article was to show how the men in his church have failed to meet their obligations and women were standing in the foyer waiting to show the church what they could do with the priesthood.

It is painful, being a man, to have to assert the privilege, or the burden, which Christianity lays upon my own sex. I am crushingly aware how inadequate most of us are, in our actual and historical individualities, to fill the place prepared for us. But it is an old saying in the army that you salute the uniform not the wearer. Only one wearing the masculine uniform can (provisionally, and till the Parousia) represent the Lord to the Church: for we are all, corporately and individually, feminine to Him. We men may often make very bad priests. That is because we are insufficiently masculine. It is no cure to call in those who are not masculine at all. A given man may make a very bad husband; you cannot mend matters by trying to reverse the roles. He may make a bad male partner in a dance. The cure for that is that men should more diligently attend dance classes; not that the ballroom should henceforth ignore distinctions of sex and treat all dancers as neuter. That would, of course, be eminently sensible, civilized, and enlightened, but once more, “not near so much like a Ball”.”

C. S. Lewis was a traditionalist in his belief about the roles of men and women in the church. Keep in mind that this was 1948. The wounds of the Second World War were still fresh on the British psyche and physical landscape.

Meanwhile across the pond, the American women who had filled the jobs for the men who went to war may have returned to their domestic chores as the men replaced them in the workforce, but the liberation which came from doing a “man’s” job, was passed down by these women to their daughters: that a woman could do any job that a man could do.

Male hierarchies down through the centuries have proven to be devastating to this planet traversing the cosmos. Untold misery and calamity have been released by old men looking at geopolitical maps without considering the cost to the innocents—men, women and children just seeking to live in peace.

C. S. Lewis wrote at the beginning of his article:

To take such a revolutionary step at this present moment, to cut ourselves off from the Christian past and to widen the divisions between ourselves and other Churches by establishing an order of priestesses in our midst would be an almost wanton degree of imprudence. And the Church of England herself would be torn in shreds by the operation…”

“At the present time” was 1948. In 2014 it ceases to be “a revolutionary step”. Sixty-six years later a number of churches have embraced women’s ordination because it is the right thing to do.

To leave no doubt I fully support the ordination of women as priestesses, clerics, elders, apostles, pastors, ministers, bishops, or whatever term you is employed to classify a person set aside for ministry. Where do you stand on the issue and why?

G. D. Williams © 2014


POST 558

I believe that males and females have distinctive gifts, and both sets of gifts are indispensable for truly human existence. I am sure that the church has lost something valuable in denying ordination to women for so long. There is something uniquely valuable that women and men bring to the ordained ministry, and it has been distorted and defective as long as women have been debarred. Somehow men have been less human for this loss.”Bishop Desmond Tutu

A few words from Tony Campolo:

Women have the same privileges and opportunities as men, given the New Testament. Relegating women to second-class citizenship was abolished when Jesus died on the cross. As it says in Galatians 3:28, “In Christ now there is neither bond nor free, Scythian nor Barbarian, male nor female; all are one in Christ Jesus.”

“As far as women being in the pulpit, in the Book of Acts, you will find that Philip had three daughters who were preachers. The apostle Paul in the Book of Romans, the last chapter, the seventh verse, alludes to two people, Andronicus and Junia. Junia is a woman. And then, he refers to them as “fellow apostles,” which in the life of the early church was the highest position attainable in leadership and in preaching.

“When they translated the NIV, the men changed the name Junia to Junias. [Editor’s note: Read more about the centuries-old Junia/Junias debate.] They made it into a male name. When fundamentalists start changing the Bible to agree with their theology, they have to ask themselves some serious questions.

“When the Holy Spirit falls upon the church on the day of Pentecost, Peter says, “This is what was spoken of by the prophet Joel when he said, ‘The day will come when the Holy Spirit comes upon His people, God’s people, and young men”—and then it says—“and young women shall prophesy, (i.e., shall preach).” There is a gift of the Holy Spirit that is given to both men and women in the New Testament. This is what makes the New Testament a New Testament rather than the Old Testament, in which women did not have such privileges.”