Monday, 29 June 2009

Out of Africa

Earlier this month, the Diocese of Accra voted to permit the ordination of women to the priesthood. According to the Church of England Newspaper, there are a number of women who have been trained for ordination, and are waiting and ready. The diocese has yet to determine what role they will play in the life of the diocese.

I'm really pleased to hear this, for a number of reasons. First, it's sheer good news that another diocese is recognising the value of women's ministry.

Then, it's significant that this is in Africa. It cuts across the growing sense of polarisation which says, to put it crudely, 'North America is liberal and pro-women; Africa is conservative - and thus does not support women in ministry?' It's just not as simple as that!

I recall that when I was at college I helped a fellow student with the writing up of his research thesis. I was fascinated by his subject, which was that Christianity brought liberation (in every sense) to women in his part of Africa. That's what I believe ought to have happened, if the gospel was recieved: women were no longer seen as second class, possessions of their husbands or fathers, but as equally children of God, equally called, equally saved, equally gifted.

So I was excited to hear of this news from Accra. Given the different cultural context, it's a much bigger step for women to be ordained in that context than it is in ours. But the gospel can challenge culture!

And just to keep up to date, here are the stats:
Of 38 provinces in the Anglican communion, only 8 do not ordain women. Two ordain women to the diaconate only, and 24 including the Church of England ordain women to the priesthood. Four provinces have consecrated women bishops.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Men women and teamwork

I've been writing a piece about men and women working together.

It prompted me to remember God's first team. 'In the beginning, God did not send a committee...!' Instead, he created a team.

It was a team of two, one man and one woman. Sadly, all too soon it went wrong, and where there had been perfect harmony, there was disharmony. I was reminded that we see glimpses of great teamwork in Deborah's leading with Barak, and in the New Testament, some of those great partnerships like Priscilla and Aquila.

It seems bizarre to me that in the 21st century the Church can't be setting the world an example when it comes to teams of men and women. Surely we can show that we can work together as brothers and sisters, without our relationships being sullied by assumptions based on gender stereotypes, or by moral lapses?

I wonder how you see it? I am disturbed by reports of how some Christian men seem to have capitulated to our sexualised culture and to see all close working with women as unhelpful. And it's funny how it always seems to be men who make up the rules, and women who suffer as a result.

I hope that we can soon come to a better place, and show how the Church is fulfilling that great prophecy in Joel, that God will pour out his Spirit on all people, and contrary to the cultural rules of 2000 years ago, 'your sons and your daughters will prophesy', and the Spirit will be poured out even on servants, 'both men and women'.

I think it's pretty clear, really. God meant everyone, men and women, to lead and minister together!