Friday, May 18, 2007

Women's Ministry

The whole Wycliffe Hall business, which made page three of the Guardian this week, is quite sad. Back in 1979 Wycliffe was one of the theological colleges at which I considered training. Good point was that we stayed in the Principal's massive house as his personal guests and he, a little man called Jim Higginbottom (not sure of spelling), carried our luggage personally. Bad points were compulsory chapel at 7.30 a.m. and the impossibility of affording property in Oxford. There was no problem over theology.

According to the Church Times today the current Principal, the Rev'd Dr Richard Turnbull, has '...made public his belief that women should not teach men.' What? This man who has lived a stretch of his life through a female Prime Minister, sworn an oath of allegiance to the Queen and, I'll bet a penny to a pound, learned at least some of the things he knows due to the competence of some female primary teachers, does not believe that women should teach men.

'Forgive me father for I have sinned, today I accidentally learned something from a woman.'

'Say three Hail Marys (a woman who may well have accidentally taught Jesus a thing or two by the way) and try not to be so easily influenced next time.'

I sort of get the anti-women's priesthood argument from the Forward-in-Faith bunch. It's a load of old lingerie but at least the argument has an internal consistency. But not letting women teach men? The arrogant stupidity of it all. If we are to believe the resurrection accounts in the Bible we would have had no good news at all if the female witnesses hadn't taught it to some men. On behalf of all reasonable men everywhere (which might be quite a small number) I apologise.


Andrew Foulsham said...

You're quite right in your analysis, Steve.
From what I've heard from friends who are there the college is bearing up, but the press are being horrible.
One sad consequence is that quite a few gifted theologians and teachers have had to move on, and the next generation of Wycliffe students won't benefit from their wisdom. There may well be quite a few gaps in the teaching staff for the next academic year.
(Oh, and yes, I am the Andrew Foulsham who worked with you at CPAS a few years back - just delurking after following your blog for quite a few months!).

St said...

Hi Andrew, good to hear you. Delurking is my favourite word this month so far. Since I've moved to Nailsea I've found I have a huge audience of lurkers - people who read, tell me when they meet me that they've been reading, but never comment. Nice when someone breaks cover. Hope you're doing well. Your family blog stuff looks fun.

Ruth said...

Hickenbotham iirc. I once spelt it wrong on a note of apology for making a row on his half-landing at 2.00am. Not my best move ever!

Matthew McMurray said...

As somebody coming from a more 'catholic' perspective, I can understand the FiF perspective. I even wrestled with it myself for a month or so the other year. I have since confessed my sins though. :)

The striking difference for me between the catholic and evangelical objections is that I sense a lot more emotional struggle in the catholic objections. There doesn't seem to be the same emotion in the evangelical camp's arguments.

Kathryn said...

From this particular perspective (and not presuming to speak for womankind at large, or Wycliffe women at all) apologies gratefully accepted.
One way and another, the church can be a rather uncomfortable place...

Matthew McMurray said...

I just remembered telling somebody once - who was from a Catholic anti-women's ordination perspective - that I have never felt unable to receive Holy Communion from a female priest but have felt unable to receive from a male priest.

I don't think he was as amused as I was!

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm too simplistic but I don't believe that God would have given women to gift of teaching if he didn't intend them to use it. This can mean towards men and women. I have learnt a lot from either sex and hope I continue to do so.

I'm signing in as annon because I can't remember my blog password!

Anonymous said...

You are allowed to put your name at the foot of the post when you sign in as anon, like this...


RoryHenry said...


Just popping by.

Golly - the ecclesiastical smalls are well and truly in smithereens over this one.

Bless them.

Good sensible comments, Steve. Thanks.


PS Suggest enough to say kind man carried your bags - how else other than 'personally'?

St said...

Roryhenry, I believe you out yourself as an editor. Please visit lots. Blog may improve.

WW said...

Our female curate in her first post after ordination is as clear a communicator as you could ever meet, with insights and conviction that captivate the congregation.

The idea that she shouldn't teach the congregation is one I cannot really understand.