Tom Wright has an op-ed in The Times of London today commenting on the Anglican decision not to ordain women as bishops. Wright’s article is a response in large part to Prime Minister David Cameron’s admonition to the church to “get with the program.” Wright thinks Cameron oversteps his bounds in telling the church what it ought to do. Perhaps I’m not the only one who would note the irony of an Anglican church leader complaining about the state chiming-in on church matters. But that is not what I am mainly concerned about here.
At the end of the article, Wright tries to make a biblical case for egalitarianism in the appointment of bishops. There’s nothing new here, and I’m not going to rehearse all the arguments for and against the issue in this blog post. But one paragraph in particular is telling and really does serve to highlight the difference between egalitarians and complementarians in our approach to scripture. Wright writes,
The other lie to nail is that people who “believe in the Bible” or who “take it literally” will oppose women’s ordination. Rubbish. Yes, I Timothy ii is usually taken as refusing to allow women to teach men. But serious scholars disagree on the actual meaning, as the key Greek words occur nowhere else. That, in any case, is not where to start.
The verse that Wright alludes to is 1 Timothy 2:12, “I do not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” This is the verse in which the issue of women serving as pastors is discussed more directly and explicitly than any other text in scripture. And yet somehow Wright believes that this text is “not where to start” in trying to understand what the Bible says about these things. This is an incredible claim.
The triumph of egalitarianism in many sectors of the church and biblical scholarship lies in this. It is now possible to declare the most relevant biblical texts to be the most irrelevant in settling the issue. Through a variety of subversive hermeneutical sleights of hand, egalitarians deftly set aside texts like 1 Timothy 2:12 and 1 Corinthians 11:3. In effect, they have told us, “Nothing to see here, move along.”
Well, in spite of Wright’s protestations otherwise, there is something for Christians to see in 1 Timothy 2:12. It really does teach that Paul only intends qualified males to be pastors. It bears directly on the question of ordination in the C of E, but I doubt that many readers of the Times of London know that. Unfortunately, Wright doesn’t clarify the point but only obscures it.