Friday, 15 December 2006
And Joe sod pottage
On December 13 Pastor Generalissimo Joseph Tkach wrote:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The Worldwide Church of God has now completed the doctrinal study on the topic of ordaining women to the office of elder. As an introduction to the completed study, we have prepared a video presentation, which you can access by clicking on this link: www.wcg.org/women.htm The final chapter of the study is attached to this e-mail update, and will appear in the new issue of Together, which will be mailed today.
Which in most churches would be good news, proof that the community of believers was moving ahead into the twentieth century, and might eventually meet up with the rest of us in the twenty-first.
Yes, I'm definitely of the view that the priesthood of all believers means ALL believers, not half the believers. No exceptions. The trouble with the splits and splinters is that most have absolutely no concept of the priesthood of all believers: it's too dangerous to promote in a rigid, totalitarian sect. Even WCG fudges the issue by using the watered-down substitute “ministry of all believers.” Priesthood means responsibility, and that responsibility is on each and every one of us, not a ministerial elite.
Regardless, within the next fifty years I'd predict that there'll be a woman in the office of Archbishop of Canterbury and women ordained to the Catholic priesthood. The sexism that has been institutionalised in the historic Christian denominations can't survive any more than the tolerance of slavery survived the nineteenth century.
So here comes the Tkach church to climb on board the bandwagon. But wait just a minute...
Why would any decent, sensitive, self-respecting woman want to buy into the WCG concept of leadership? Leadership without accountability. Leadership without representation. Leadership that preens and postures as “Episcopal” when it's no such thing.
We know why so many blokes wanted to be ordained. Status. Not many cared for the genuinely pastoral side of ministry, few pursued theological enquiry beyond the stale crumbs offered at Ambassador College. But to stand above the common herd on a stage, strutting behind a lectern and having the sheep hang on every word; that can be quite a trip.
The new, downsized WCG may be a little different, but last I heard Joe Jr. hadn't tendered his resignation and announced a new policy where the church (the people or the local congregations) could choose its own president. Joe is President for Life, a bit like Robert Mugabe.
Last I heard the church's board was still largely a rubber stamp body made up of appointees. No prizes for guessing who appoints them.
And now women are eligible to be inducted into the old boys club? I suppose a few will be tempted to snuggle up to the offer. Maybe that'll be a good thing in the longer term. A year or so ago AW suggested that Sheila Graham would make a great church president, and most readers agreed! But the compromises needed will be, one suspects, more than most Christian women could stomach. Accepting the baubles of office in such circumstances is a bit like Esau selling his birthright for a bowl of pottage.
Meantime, just watch the last remaining conservative, middle aged, tithe paying blokes balk at the prospect of having to listen to a woman preach!