Why approving women bishops is important for fresh expressions (David Muir)

Monday, 14 March, 2011

David MuirDavid Muir explains why approving women bishops is important for fresh expressions.

I have just come back from a 'Sacred Synod' in our diocese, as part of the national process of deliberation about the ordination of women to the episcopate. I almost didn't go because it's the kind of occasion that feels a million miles from pioneer work with the unchurched. But actually the outcome will speak volumes about what we think Christianity is all about, and how God relates to our world.

That's because the issue of whether we should have women as bishops is not really about how God sees women, or about how God sees the role of 'overseers' of his people. It's about how God relates to human beings at all. And the answer, clear in the pages of Holy Scripture, is that it's by exercising enormous grace.

Whether it's Abraham, clearly at ease with the idea of sacrificing a son, or conquering peoples slaughtering civilians to clear the area of idolatry, or a society's acceptance of slavery, or the low place of women in the life and leadership of a community, God graciously relates to humanity, even draws them into his purposes in the world, without thereby condoning every social, moral or political attitude they have.

So we get communities of faith which in key ways do reflect his character but which were never perfect, not even in their perception of perfection, not even when their life is recorded in Holy Scripture. Their life cannot be a prescriptive pattern for ours.

How does God relate to a society which has championed the rights of women and drawn them into the highest leadership?

God is forming communities of faith within 21st Century British society. He calls those communities to be different, in ways that reflect and reveal his holy character within our particular human cultural setting. But he does not call us to be the same as the peoples he has related to before, as if they were entirely shaped into his will already. If we copy our forefathers in that kind of way, we become merely a people apart, separated from society around in a kind of time warp, a culture trap, with distinctives that for that very reason fail to reveal the heart and character of God in our particular setting.

This is vital for fresh expressions of church. How does God relate to a society which has championed the rights of women and drawn them into the highest leadership? How God revealed himself within societies that kept women out of high office, both in society and in the church, is not the point. The point is: what will best reveal the holy character of God in our setting? If Christians involved in fresh expressions of church don't really get this, then whatever we do on the ground is just window-dressing for culture-warp Christianity that does not understand the depth of grace that is revealed to us in Holy Scripture.

About the author: 

Rev David Muir is Pioneer Minister in the Okehampton Deanery and course leader of The Pioneer Disciple, msm in Devon.


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