Why women can't be ordained

Exert from an interview with

Bishop Peter and Bishop Barry in convertibleThe Right Reverend and Right Worshipful Professor Barry Peachey

The AIC is against the Ordination of Women. Is this to do with the apostles all being men? It is said by some that the only reason that Our Lord did not call any women to be amongst the Apostles, the first Bishops of the Church, was because he was following a male-dominated social convention of the time which is now outdated.

Jesus was no respecter of social convention. He associated with tax collectors and prostitutes. He ate on the Sabbath. He publicly disagreed with the Pharisees. Is it therefore credible to believe that Christ didn't call women to be his apostles only because of the ‘social conventions’ of the time, especially when most of the other religions of that time had priestesses themselves? Had it been God’s will to call women to be amongst the first Bishops he would have done so.

Are there any other early church sources which mention women?

From earliest times the Church has held to the same view. All the early Fathers of the Church confirm this. Writing in 215AD Hippolytus wrote: "When a widow is to be appointed, she is not to be ordained, but is designated by being named a widow.... Hands are not to be imposed on her, because she does not offer the oblation and she does not conduct the liturgy. Similarly the Council of Laodicea in 360AD clearly stated that: "The so called presbyteresses or presidentesses are not to be ordained."

What do “designated by being named a widow” and “offer the oblation” mean in this quote?

This is the foundation of the ancient and traditional Order of Deaconesses, which we still maintain. A Deaconess is a special Lay Minister who originally had to be unmarried or widowed so that her duty to her family was not compromised by ministry for the church. Offering the oblation is the act of offering the elements of bread and wine to God in the Eucharist

So do you believe that women have no role in the Church?

That is not the case at all; far from it, in fact. For 2000 years the Church has consistently taught that women are equal to men but simply have a different role to perform. The founder of the Catholic Church, Jesus Christ, had many female disciples such as Mary Magdalene. It was women like her who stayed close to him at the foot of the cross while most of the male apostles fled. Throughout its history women have found the Church to be a constant defender and promoter of their dignity. The highest place of honour in the Church katholikos to which all Christians in the Apostolic Succession belong, belongs to a woman, Mary the mother of Jesus. Many Saints are women. Many women perform active ministerial roles in lay ministry, and occupy high positions in the lay government of the church. In Romans 16 St. Paul warmly commends the church work of Phoebe at Cenchreae, (in some translatiuons the word ‘minister’ is used) and of Priscilla who has the church at her house. To claim that the Church treats women as intrinsically inferior does not stand up to scrutiny.

I always thought the matter turned on St Paul’s teaching that women should be silent in church and should ask their husbands if they want to know anything.

This particular quote from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1Cor: 14) is the single most mis-used piece of scripture by those who do ordain women, who seek to claim that Paul was a misogynist, and cannot be relied upon in this respect. It suits them to ignore the context in which this was written. One gets the flavour from the earlier Chapter 5. In the ancient world Corinth was a den of depravity. There were all kinds of pagan temples where women priestesses indulged in mass sexual orgies, hundreds at a time in the name of worshiping some pagan deity. The abuse of women was the norm in the Society. Paul was teaching that the way to keep women out of this was to keep them out of the priestly concept so prevalent in the pagan rites. To Corinthians ‘women priest’ meant ‘temple prostitute’. Paul taught they the way to break this culture was to prevent women being loudly involved in offering worship. It was for their own protection at that time and place.

What has the Roman Catholic Church said on the matter?

In 1994 the late Pope John Paul II in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis stated that this teaching is not just a matter of discipline, neither is it a matter open to debate, when he said “I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful." This has been the teaching of the Church for 2000 years and continues to be the teaching of the Church amongst the hugely overwhelming majority of apostolic succession Christians: the Roman Catholics, all the Orthodox Churches, be they European, African, Eastern or Oriental, and a very large number of traditionalist Anglicans throughout the world, both within and outside the Lambeth Communion. By what right does the minority Lambeth Communion take it upon itself to unilaterally walk away from the rest of these Christians in deciding that all this history and teaching is to be ignored in favour of satisfying the demands of modern social conventions?