The Church of England has recently voted in favour of Women Bishops. Is this Biblical?


Before answering this question, here is some background first:

The Church of England website stated the following (as at 14th July 2014):

“The General Synod of the Church of England has today given its final approval for women to become bishops in the Church of England.   The vote in the General Synod on the measure was carried by the required two-thirds majority in the three constituent parts of the Synod:  the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy and the House of Laity.  This means the first woman bishop could potentially be appointed by the end of the year.

“Today’s vote comes 18 months after the proposal was last voted upon in November 2012 when the proposal failed to achieve the required two thirds majority in the House of Laity.

“The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said:

“‘Today is the completion of what was begun over 20 years (ago) with the ordination of women as priests. I am delighted with today’s result. Today marks the start of a great adventure of seeking mutual flourishing while still, in some cases disagreeing.’”

It is interesting that 18 months ago the vote went against the approval for women to become bishops in the Church of England.   There were tears and recriminations at that time but the revised proposals were approved on 14 July (2014).   It appears that the powers that be, and their supporters, were determined to get their way and this paid off in the end.   Interestingly, there will not be a third vote now that approval has been given, showing that this issue was only going to go one way.

In just over 20 years, women have been ordained to the ministry in the Church of England (and many other churches) and the pressure for higher positions has now paid off.

In our weekly Update 120 for the week ending December 5th, 2003, we discussed the subject in our Q&A, “Sermons by Women?” and showed that the ordination of women to the office of minister and bishop is not allowed by Scripture. Is it sexism or favouritism that the true Church of God takes an entirely different view than for instance the Church of England?  

In the Update, the question of women giving sermons was covered and our free booklet “The Keys to Happy Marriages and Families!” was quoted in this respect.   In the final paragraph of this previous Q&A, it stated: “The message of Scripture is unambiguous: Christian women are not to teach Biblical or spiritual matters in church or in a public forum.”

We clarified what we meant by “public forum,” as follows: “… women are not to teach Biblical or spiritual matters in a public forum, such as television, the Internet, or the printing press… In today’s world of mass communication, churches often use radio, television, the printing press or even the Internet to publish spiritual material. Women should not deliver sermons on radio or television, either, nor should they write Biblical, prophetic, ecclesiastical or spiritual articles…”

When women are ordained to the ministry in any church, they will inevitably be involved in preaching and having authority in services.

We now want to add further information:

There is authority in the God Family.   We read in John 5:19-20 that Jesus said: “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.   For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.”    Jesus also said in John 14:28: “You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I.”    This verse shows that there is a line of authority in the Family of God – the Father and then the Son – but they are always unified in approach.  

Mr Herbert W Armstrong wrote in “Mystery of the Ages,” 1985 edition, pages 40 and 41 the following (selective quotes for sake of brevity –  and our emphasis with underlining):

“The Word and God LIVED. What did they do? They created. How did they live-what was their ‘life-style’? They lived the way of their perfect character-the way of outflowing LOVE. When Jesus was baptized, God the Father said, ‘You are my beLOVED Son.’ God LOVED the Word. And the Word LOVED God–obeyed him completely.

“When the only conscious Life-Beings existed, God was leader–in authoritative command. Thus, even when the only conscious Life-Beings were God and the Word, there was GOVERNMENT with God in supreme command. The government of God is of necessity government from the top down. It cannot be ‘government by the consent of the governed.’ Its laws originate and are handed down from God-never legislated by the people-never dictated by the governed how the government over them shall rule them. Since they created other conscious, thinking life-beings, this very fact of necessity put the GOVERNMENT of God over all creation, with God supreme Ruler.”

We can compare this difference of position with the marriage relationship where a husband and wife have different responsibilities.   A husband is the leader, the head of the wife and is in a higher position of authority, but he is no better by such instruction than his wife (see Ephesians 5:22-25).

Quoting again from page 10 of our booklet “The Keys to Happy Marriages and Families!,” we read: “The Bible makes it very clear, however, that the husband is supposed to be the leader of the family—not a dictator, not a tyrant, not a proud and arrogant brute—but rather, he was made by God to lead the family. And if he leads in a Godly way, the wife will have little or no difficulty in following.”

As there is authority in the God Family, there is also authority in the human family. And there is also authority in the Church of God. That authority relates to the fact that the Church is not organized as a democracy, where members “vote,”  but it is a hierarchical theocracy—with authority from the top down. God the Father is over all with Jesus Christ under Him. Under Christ, there is the ministry, which is also organized hierarchically (compare Ephesians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 12:28). Further, Christ tells us clearly how Church services should be conducted, and who should or should not preach.

Our above-quoted booklet also states on pages 14 and 15 additional information, which relates to official Church services (This is not applicable, of course, to informal social gatherings of men and women which events do not constitute formal Church services):

“‘Rienecker’s Lexikon zur Bibel points out, under “Women,” ‘The relationship between man and woman, ordained by God, can also be seen in the role of service and function within the church. Women do prophecy (1 Corinthians 11:5; Acts 21:9), but only men are specifically referred to as prophets (v. 10). Paul does not allow the women to teach, that is, to fill the office of teacher in the church (1 Timothy 2:12). It is different when Apollos is introduced more fully, in a personal conversation with Aquilla and Priscilla, to the teachings of God. (Acts 18:26).’

“Jamieson, Fausset and Brown state in regard to 1 Corinthians 14:34–35, ‘For women to speak in public would be an act of independence, as if they were not subject to their husbands (cf. Chapter 11:3; Ephesians 5:22; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:1)… Women may say, “But if we do not understand something, may we not ‘ask’ a question publicly so as to ‘learn’”? Nay, replies Paul, if you want information, “ask” not in public, but “at home”: ask not other men, but your own particular (so the Greek) husbands.’

“Jamieson, Fausset and Brown comment on 1 Timothy 2:11–12, ‘Learn—not teach… She should not even put questions in the public assembly… She might teach, but not in public (Acts 18:26).’”

These passages relate to official and formal Church services and pre-suppose two things—that both the husband and the wife are converted, and that the husband does know the answers. When the husband does not know the answers, then the ministry ought to be consulted.

We continue with the quote from our above-mentioned booklet, to also cite some general remarks pertaining to the relationship between a husband and his wife, which show the establishment of considerate, proper, merciful, kind and selfless loving authority:

“The Scriptures make it very clear that a woman is not to assert authority over her husband. God chided Old Testament Israel for having permitted women to rule over men (Isaiah 3:12). Husbands are to exert proper authority over their wives. They must do so with Godly love and they must never abuse that authority. But, as it is shameful for a wife to exert authority over her husband, and especially in public, so it is shameful for the husband to let his wife exert authority over him.

“In 1 Corinthians 11:7–8 we read, ‘…woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man.’ The woman was created by God to be a helper of her husband —not to take over her husband’s role and exert authority over him. God did not create the wife to tell her husband what to do, and to become angry when her husband selflessly decides, after careful deliberation, meditation, and prayer, not to do a particular thing.”

Reading, or re-reading this booklet, will give a lot of further information and guidance on this subject.

And so we might ask why especially our Western society, and many women, seems to ignore the “Instruction Manual” that God gave for everyone’s well-being?

We would offer the following reasons which may contribute to the ignoring of clear Biblical instruction:

1. The largest Christian group, the Roman Catholic Church, believes that  “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God…” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 97).  Their reasoning is that “the apostles left bishops as their successors.  They gave them their own position of teaching authority.” (Par. 77).  “This living transmission, accomplished through the Holy Spirit, is called tradition . . . ” (Par. 78).  “Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.” (Par. 82). Although on the question of women in the ministry, the Catholic Church does not agree with such ordinations, nevertheless they can make up their minds on any matter with the outcome becoming their tradition; e.g., Sunday worship instead of the observance of the Sabbath, amongst many.  Most other churches use the same approach where what they feel to be right may be implemented.   In the recent Church of England vote, Scriptural instruction was ignored.

2. The antipathy of anything Biblical by society in general.   In many cases the Bible is seen as irrelevant, so why take notice of what it has to say?

3. The argument that as society has changed so should the church in relation to modern cultural norms.   So why not have women priests and bishops?

4. The rise of aggressive feminism where it is insisted that women should not be excluded from any job or employment opportunity, including in a religious setting. We realize, of course, that the sometimes horrible misuse and physical and mental abuse of male “authority” has given rise to female “reaction” of “excessive feminism.” This warning also applies to some men in God’s Church today who literally abuse their wives, at least mentally, erroneously thinking that they are thereby following God’s directive. NOTHING could be further from the truth! But this does not justify, of course, the ordination of women to the ministry, as two wrongs don’t make a right.

5. The obsession with equality.   For example, homosexuality and same sex marriage are equal in law with heterosexuality and a marriage of the God-ordained relationship of a man and a woman.   Any resistance to the current norm is dealt with by sanctions and hostility.   Therefore, any disagreement to women priests and ordinations is treated more and more with contempt and derision by our Western society in general.

We must always take our instructions from the Word of God, and it is clear from all of the evidence that the Bible gives us that women should not be ordained to the ministry and become bishops.

Lead Writers: Brian Gale (United Kingdom) and Norbert Link

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