Wednesday, 15 February 2012

WOMEN BISHOPS, THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND AND METHODISM


Since the Church of England seems to be side-stepping again the opportunity to give women equality by allowing those who object to women Bishops to avoid such episcopal oversight there is a need for the Methodist Church, with its Arminian heritage, to consider its position in its Covenant relationship with the C of E. It is my belief that Methodism should, at the least, state that it can move no further in its relationship with the C of E until the C of E takes away all bars against women being able to have access to all offices and roles within the church that are open to men and, significantly, there should be no loop hole to accommodate those who object to such equality.
This statement requires some clarification.
We need to remember that it is the Church of England, and not the whole Anglican communion, that currently does not allow women to hold episcopal office.
The Methodist Church for many years has allowed women to exercise what the C of E would regard as a priestly ministry and, because of the nature of Methodist governance, an episcopal ministry. Any truly Covenantal relationship is dependent on a mutual recognition of ministries. When the Covenant was signed it was clear that this was not possible at that time. Some Methodists spoke and voted against the Covenant, not in an anti-ecumenical spirit, but in recognition of the equality of all people before God. Some voted in favour of the Covenant in good faith that the Church of England was at least moving towards such recognition. This has now proved, for the time being at least, not to be the case.
Some will want to argue male priority based on the authority of scripture and the maleness of Jesus. The fact that not all theologians or denominations reach this conclusion underlines the understanding that doctrine is a human construct based on human interpretation rather than God given law. For those who want, at the extreme, to see the presence of women in ministry as heretical, it is worth remembering that, from a Jewish perspective, Christianity was (and is) a heresy. Within the young church the acceptance of Gentiles as Christians was equally heretical. I need not rehearse the fact that we are all selective in scripture that we choose to be normative (food laws, laws against mixed fabrics, stoning of adulterers and so on seem not to be widely advocated). If all of this is accepted then the exclusion of women from the episcopacy has to be seen as a human construct. If black people were similarly excluded that would be deemed to be racist. Yet we do not need a long memories to know that in South Africa in my life time similar arguments to those being exercised to exclude women were being used to justify Apartheid, a heresy of which, ultimately, the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa repented.
The Methodist Church should defend the place of women in its own ministry and make it clear to the C of E that the Covenant relationship, into which it entered in good faith, is no longer tenable, and neither will it be until the C of E recognises the equality of women without any reserve. In the meantime it should be shown that Methodists are not anti-ecumenical by strengthening relationships with those denominations which demonstrate similar or greater inclusivity.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

NEW OLYMPIC HYMN


Lift high the banner of these games
in this Olympic year,
that as we forge relationships,
respect might cast out fear.
Whatever name or creed we bear,
we share a common birth,
our skill and our ability
is drawn from all the earth.

Four billion people watch and cheer,
each country hand in hand,
where race, and faith and nation meet,
we pledge to make a stand:
through training we achieve each goal,
the victory is won.
A greater challenge far, for all:
to treat this world as one.

And so, O God we pray for grace,
in each success or loss,
that we might find humility
to bear each crown or cross;
in circles of communion
to share a common task,
to work for peace, to build fresh hope,
is all we seek or ask.
Andrew Pratt © Stainer & Bell Ltd (www.stainer.co.uk) 28/1/2012


Available freely for local use when included in your License/CCL returns. Administered in the USA by Hope Publishing



And another...

1    The witnesses are watching,
more athletes join the race.
We cover ground before us,
we run within God's grace.
We persevere with patience,
we lay aside each load
that holding or constraining
might slow us on the road.

2    Christ ran this race before us,
we heed the words he said.
His faith is our example,
we follow where he led.
Like every saint before us
our strength will come through grace;
Our passion is unending,
for Christ has set the pace.

3    Throughout our lives we'll follow,
we never will regret
the faithfulness and fervour,
the pattern he has set.
No shame could make him falter,
we'll follow to the end
the one who died at Easter
our risen, living friend.

Andrew Pratt  © Andrew Pratt 2004 Please include on you CCL return.

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For more hymns go to Hymns page For Books by Andrew Pratt follow LINKS on the Links page.  Andrew Pratt lectures at Luther King House, The Partnership for Theological Education, Manchester, England as a Methodist Tutor at Hartley Victoria College