Women bishops: the Bible’s view


Today the Church of England voted against the acceptance of women bishops. In a move which has surprised both outgoing and incoming Archbishops of Canterbury, the synod narrowly opted to block the proposal, which needed a two-thirds majority to see it through.

The BBC reports that Prime Minister David Cameron has said that he is “very sad” at the vote, because “it is important for the Church of England to be a modern church in touch with society.” Yet surely, we could argue, it is more important for a church to be in touch with the Bible! Some MPs have claimed that the Church is answerable to Parliament, while again missing the point that surely the Church is answerable first to God, and what He says must count.

The Bible has a number of things to say about women in the church:

“The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but to be in submission… it is shameful for a woman to speak in the church.” (1 Corinthians 14v34-35)

“I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man… for Adam was formed first, then Eve, and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” (1 Timothy 2v12).

Putting these two passages together, we see how Paul, through the inspired Holy Spirit, is saying that because Eve persuaded (or taught) Adam to sin in the garden of Eden back in Genesis 3, a woman should no longer teach a man in spiritual things. Instead, the man should teach the woman. As he says in 1 Corinthians 11v3, “the man is head of the woman”. God can no longer trust the woman to take the lead in spiritual matters. And the consequences of what happened in Eden were meant to last. Is it just coincidence that all priests in the Old Testament were male? That all disciples of Jesus and apostles after his death were male?

The Bible does make clear that in spiritual terms, all are equal in God’s sight: “There is neither… male nor female… but we are all one in Christ Jesus,” (Galatians 3v28). However, men and women have very different roles. If man’s is to teach and guide the flock, then woman’s is a more domestic role: hospitality, care of the afflicted, bringing up children, managing the household (see 1 Timothy 5). The roles are different, but they are of equal importance in God’s sight.

This might be in sharp contrast to the equal rights of today’s society, but when God has commanded someting, who are we to question it? To vote for women bishops, despite 1 Timothy 3 saying that they should be “husbands of one wife,” is to say that the Bible is no longer relevant today, totally undermining the fact that it is the inspired Word of God. We should be very careful not to get carried along by society at the expense of listening to God.

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