I intended to write about this Sunday, when I read the articles, but the first week of teaching got in the way. The Standard is taking on the continuing debates about women in ministry in about as smart a way as I can imagine, using the weekly publication not as a platform from which one faction can condescend to the other but as a forum within which smart, articulate proponents of women ministers and opponents of the same can lay out their cases in text for the sake of letting a literate laity continue to deliberate on it. What’s more, at least in last Sunday’s piece, each “side” (I think that dividing things into “complementarian” and “egalitarian” camps is a bit reductionistic, but I don’t blame them for working within space limitations) got three full pages, which means that the debate took up a good half of the week’s issue. It appears that the next few weeks will do the same, and some professors from our colleges are going to join the fray on the hermeneutical/translation end of things.
Such exchanges make me glad that our movement is congregational in its organization. I realize that church splits can happen, but I suppose I’m enough of a Thomist (Jefferson and Campbell, in this case) that I’d prefer for some congregations to get things right–that way a central authority that goes wrong isn’t going to wreck an entire generation. I realize it’s more risky congregation by congregation, but more and more I’m doubting the wisdom of centralized authority in an age of mass telecommunications. It’s kind of funny–when first I converted, I didn’t have much of an opinion about such things, and when in college I read some Catholic apologetics and some polemics from Orthodox converts, I became more and more convinced of the goodness of strong bishops who would corral the goombahs who would otherwise lead folks into error. But six years into my career as a Miltonist, I’m starting actually to internalize his anti-censorship and anti-monarchical arguments, and in my thirties I’m becoming more of a radical than I was in my twenties. Of course, concretely, in the twenty-first century American church, that seems to mean returning intellectually to the tradition into which I was converted.
The world is a strange place.