Monday, 14 June 2010

When it's 'For Liberal See Woman'

The interesting piece of journalism from Australia suggests that a backlash is taking place regarding a more basic gender issue inside Anglicanism (at least) than that of sexuality and ministry.

The Conservative Evangelical position that women cannot be in charge or preach to mixed congregations is creeping back into the 'females in ministry' debate. But there is more to this, I think, and it is the association with having women as bishops as a liberal cause and it is the surveying that shows that many women have theologically left of centre views. In other words, women in ministry, a gender issue, is becoming connected with the overriding evangelical-liberal divide.

For example, the one means by which the Church of England can become more like The Episcopal Church is if women are bishops and there is a general sense of equality in ministry. Equality is then one of the values that the Church comes to embody and represent.

Now a middling evangelical position has been in favour of women's ministry, but we have an ideological war that associates the middling evangelical position with a compromise that allows the liberals too much space - the 'Liberal Evangelical' position becomes one to overcome by the Conservative Evangelicals so that they get a clear run at the liberals. In this bipolar setting (after Catholic traditionalists have become so weak with their Anglican tradition coming to an end - the Gore Catholics being associated with 'liberals') , the cut goes through the middling evangelicals, the issue being are they more liberal and discerning in biblical method or are they more evangelical in label and loyalty.

The result is a downdraught from the Conservative Evangelicals about women not being heads of congregations or preaching to mixed groups and this is affecting those who would be middling evangelicals. That women ministers are associated with more liberal views, and that female ordination of bishops is seen as a liberal issue, means that especial pressure is being applied to evangelical women seeking ordination or already ordained. I wonder if this is one reason behind why the 'Radical Evangelical' continues to report her own misery on her blog in entry after entry (I see that she has used my revision of her image - good!) even if the self-account is one of personality and institutions. Evangelical women will be squeezed from both ends, from one end that questions if they should have been ordained at all and do such roles, and from the other end about their belief stance and party position.

It is always dangerous when, especially in a bipolar institution that is already thus unstable, one identity (your sex) becomes a shortcut to another identity (evangelical or liberal) that is the centre of the ideological battle. It makes the battlelines easier to run, and fuels the assumptions about who is what and where.

You cannot tell if someone is liberal or evangelical without listening, and then because of the ideological demand for credal loyalty you also have to learn to read between the lines as to how anyone actually means what they say. If, however, you can simply look at someone's body shape, hear the voice, and read the name, and make the identity, then it shortcuts the need to listen. But it will suit evangelicals to be able to make the quick identification if the Church is to become more clearly evangelical and not be frustrated by liberal uncertainties.

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