Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bp. Iker: Women are the Problem

All Saints Parish in Fort Worth is one is one of the major parishes in our diocese. I have a great deal of affection for the parish, as I used to be a member there, and Gayland and I were married there. I have many many close friends who still worship there.

Christopher Jambor, the rector of All Saints, has been doing an excellent job of letting the parish make up its mind about the current situation in our diocese. This is the exception rather than the rule in this diocese, where most of the rectors are “true believers” who refuse to allow much, if any, discussion at all.

Jambor, on the other hand, has had speakers from our diocesan leadership come make their case, and he has had Bonnie Anderson in to speak to the parish on behalf of TEC. Recently Bp. Iker visited All Saints after the parish requested that the bishop come “speak for himself” instead of sending surrogates. He bought Ryan Reed, president of the Standing Committee, with him, although Reed did not speak.

Several people have told me what they heard at the meeting with Bp. Iker. Once again, he made it clear that his basic issue is women, not homosexuality. Here’s a summary from several reports of the meeting:

The bishop continues to maintain that he is not responsible for the current situation in the diocese. This is not all about him. He is simply doing what the diocesan convention directs him to do, he said.

“I do not have a vote. I don’t buy the idea that I’m trying to make the diocese anything other than it is,” he told the meeting at All Saints.

I confess to being surprised at this statement. Jack Iker has never struck me as a bishop willing to be passively led by his” flock.” Indeed, he’s made it clear that it is his responsibility as bishop to save us from the heretical TEC, to serve as protector of the faith “once delivered to our fathers.”

Bp. Iker said that the current controversy is not all Gene Robinson’s fault. The issue, according to Bp. Iker, is bigger than Gene. It’s the “world-wide problem” with the consecration of Katharine Jefferts Schori – a woman – as presiding bishop.

Bp. Iker is irritated that he is blamed by some for causing division in the church. “To say I’ve caused this division is ludicrous. . . the problem is with TEC, who has the arrogant attitude that we will shall do as we please.”

According to several people who were at the meeting, Bp. Iker said he would take communion from an immoral gay priest who was male before he would take it from a moral priest who was a woman. This is because with the male, he would be assured the consecration was “valid,” which is not possible with any woman.

When asked what besides women’s ordination are the issues of contention, the bishop went on at length about the diocese being “forced” to ordain women. Of course no one is forcing him to do such ordinations. Nor could they. No bishop can be forced to ordain anyone.

But this is part of Bp. Iker’s standard “slippery slope” argument – once you start ordaining women, who aren’t “proper matter” for ordination, pretty soon you are ordaining gays and lesbians and God knows what else.

According to this argument, even though the “General Convention Church” has not approved a rite for blessing same sex unions, it’s only a matter of time before Bp. Iker and all the priests in this diocese will be “forced” to perform same sex blessings. Of course, no one could force them to do any such thing, just as no one can force any priest to perform a marriage for anyone.

Bp. Iker said he can name 16 dioceses that do bless same sex unions. He is deeply annoyed that no one is punishing the bishops that allow these things to take place. Of course, no one is punishing Jack Iker for refusing to ordain women to the priesthood either.

Bp. Iker reassured listeners that if All Saints “leaves” with the diocese, those who believe there can be gay priests and same sex blessings will still be welcome in the parish and the diocese. He said that there are good Episcopalians in other denominations, such as the Lutheran Church, that “denomination is not important.”

He also said that he always attends church on Sundays when he travels, but he always checks to see what he can learn about a church first – making sure there are no priests who are women for one thing. He wants to be sure the church espouses a correct form of Christianity before he will worship there. But he also said that he’s taken communion from churches with whom he is not in full communion.

After much roundabout talk, he finally said that the diocese is “in communion” with those who profess Jesus as Lord and place an emphasis "on the word of God as found in Scripture.”

Bp. Iker said he is going to attend the GAFCON meeting in Jerusalem and Jordan with all the other “orthodox” bishops for “refreshment,” but that he’s also going to go to Lambeth. He is in favor of an Anglican Covenant, but he doesn’t think there’s a lot of hope for it. While it will be discussed at Lambeth, “the Southern Bishops” won’t be there – the implication being that without their voices, the Covenant won’t have much support.

Bp. Iker said that when he visited parishes after 2003, vestries would tell him that they are embarrassed about what was being said about Episcopalians and wanted to know if he was going to do something about it or whether they would have to do it themselves. He said it was challenging for them to have to explain, “Oh, we’re not THAT kind of Episcopalians.”

He said that if the diocese “leaves” it will still be the “Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth," but he also cautioned folks not to “get caught up in the invitation from the Southern Cone. We may not align with the Southern Cone. We asked if we could align with them as a ‘safe harbor,’ just as Fr. Jambor has asked me about a safe harbor for All Saints. I have been in recent communication with the Presiding Bishop and with Rowan. Rowan does have extra-provincial dioceses.”

Of course, "being in communication" with people can mean anything from sending an e-mail to having a face-to-face meeting. It doesn't mean they agree or approve of what Bp. Iker is doing.

So here are the main points of his presentation:

-- The whole mess started with the ordination of women.
-- The election of a woman as presiding bishop is much worse than the election of a gay man as bishop, just as any male priest, no matter how "immoral", is better than any female priest.
-- Bp. Iker is not responsible for the division in the diocese. He is only doing what diocesan convention tells him to do.
-- We may not align with the Southern Cone.
-- He is still clinging to the idea of an extra-provincial diocese.

The suggestion that we might not align with the Southern Cone came as a big surprise to nearly everyone in the room , given the full court press that's been on to persuade everyone that we "must" go there in order to be safe from the heresies of The Episcopal Church. This suggestion of a change in plans is worrying on many counts, not the least of which is that he may not "go" anywhere.

Additionally, Bp. Iker may find it is harder to change horses in mid-stream than he thinks. Nearly always, one slips and ends up getting very wet.

One person present at the meeting also suggested that it is not a good idea to irritate every woman in the room with misogynistic statements. It often is just the push needed to move many a person off the fence.


Caminante said...

"Bp. Iker said he would take communion from an immoral gay priest who was male before he would take it from a moral priest who was a woman."

Hm. What sort of Lysistrata-type thing can we women do? Something that doesn't involve sex since that is what is so much on these poor men's brains but how about a story where women form a non-violent force to rise up against the men in power? Just silly musings because the situation seems so intractable....

On the one hand, I feel my scalp tingling with distain and anger at this poor man's necessity to hew to some internalised purity code that prevents him from recognising women's ordained ministry and on the other hand, I can only feel pity for him.

Oh, I pray so hard for your liberation from this craziness. I don't know in what form that liberation will come but I do pray daily for it.

andy said...

One of the problems is the two massively diverse worldviews that now exist in TEC (and in the larger Anglican Communion itself). The Elizabeathan Settlement has run its course, I'm afraid.

Before anything, I would recommend this lecture on the topic by Lewis expert, Dr. Peter Kreeft: Priestesses - Why only boys can be daddies. You may or may not agree with him, but it shows the massive distance between orthodoxy and today's understanding.

Lewis' point is that priests are the altar Christus and as such, can only be male as Christ was male (not the only defining characteristic, but 'a' defining characteristic). It wasn't by accident that He came to us as a male. But Kreeft can explain much more eloquently the catholic (traditional Anglican and Roman alike) position on it.

I must say that while this theological and anthropological study of the priesthood and gender role is necessary, it is not sufficient. Holy Tradition must be taken into account. As Mascall said, there is a difference between 'an appeal to Anglican tradition' and 'the Anglican appeal to Tradition.'

I guess I should say that to call oneself an Anglo-Catholic and to 'affirm' women's ordination is an oxymoron of the utmost severity. It is akin to a Christian priest who is also an Islamic cleric. Affirming-Catholicism is neither affirming nor catholic.

I would recommend Pope John Paul II's *Theology of the Body* for an in-depth look into these and other related subjects.

Blessings in Christ,

bls said...

It's "alter Christus," Andy - "another Christ." And Anglo-Catholicism is evolving, so it's certainly possible to be one and accept WO. In fact, I'd bet that there are more Anglo-Catholics in the world who do accept WO than don't. It's a close thing, anyway. In any case, nothing remains the same, so there's no "oxymoron" here.

See Tobias Haller's piece on WO, BTW, that addresses the Roman Catholic argument about "alter Christus" and other ideas.

Vitaly Kartsev said...

Andy --

Why do traditionalist Anglicans permit the ordination of Gentiles to the priesthood? After all, Christ was Jewish. This was "a defining characteristic" of his. It was no accident that he came to us a Jew. Surely 'Gentile ordination' falls short of the standard set by Christ himself, no?

The argument that a priest must be male to stand as an alter Christus is an absolute nonsense. There are arguments against women's ordination that are worthy of engagement — though they are wrong and do not reflect God's will — but that is not one of them.

(Incidentally, I do not know one serious theologian, Roman Catholic or otherwise, who takes the Theology of the Body seriously. It is beloved by pious conservative RCs, but it is rather embarrassing theologically.)

Fr Timothy Matkin said...

How is Jewishness a defining characteristic of humanity? That sounds almost racist to me.

Jewishness is about culture and faith. One can become a Jew or leave Judaism, but one cannot just change from male to female or from female to male. Even if cosmetic surgery and hormone treatment is employed for a sex change, it is a change of exterior characteristics, not of interior identity.

As a Gentile Christian man, I know that I will always have the ability to become a Jew. But there is no way in the world that I could ever become a mother. That supreme blessing is not a part of my nature, but it does not mean that my humanness is of any less value or dignity.

Likewise, Gentile Christian women will always have the ability to become Jewish (I know two who have), but none can ever become fathers. That wonderful blessing is not a part of female nature, but it does not mean that female humanness is of any less value or dignity.

Vitaly Kartsev said...

Timotheos --

Judaism is not only "cultural", but ethnic. The Jews are first and foremost the descendants of the twelve tribes of Israel. Judaism is not an evangelistic religion and does not focus on conversions.

You may be able to convert, as your acquaintances have, but the meaning of this conversion is not so straightforward as conversion to Christianity, Islam, or other evangelistic religions is.

I fail to see how recognizing that Christ's Jewishness was a central part of the Incarnation is racist. We've been working back to this recognition as a faith pretty intensely the last century, in part because of the horrors of the Shoah. Even beyond that, Jesus have been born a Jew was of course necessary for the fulfillment of prophecies about him.

Vitaly Kartsev said...

Also, your point about maleness and femaleness being immutable is refuted by the existence of intersexed persons. To my knowledge, traditionalists simply ignore their existence entirely and never deal with it theologically.

Can an intersexed person whose sexual ambiguity was pushed in the direction of maleness be ordained a priest in your mind? If so, then why not an intersexed person who was brought up female but is not unambiguously genetically female? If not, then why are genetic tests not required for ordination?

Paul Powers said...

Modesty may prevent you from protesting the way you have been insulted at GAFCON, but I am under no such restraint. How dare they fail to ban you?