Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Equality in the Anglican Communion

Christine Holcomb, our Field and Policy Intern, shares her response to this article about the recent developments in the Anglican Church concerning women and LGBT people.

Many Christians would say that their religion is different because Jesus is their focal point. Some of the earliest Christians were quiet about their faith because the religion was outlawed, since the early Christians held such a radical view on how to live life, which often clashed with expectations of their society, including political and militaristic expectations. Then, in the early 4th century of Rome, Constantine attempted to make Christianity the common religion by legalizing it. Over time it seems that many Christian sects struggle between authenticity to what it declares as Jesus’ ministry and the intricate connection it has had to politics since Constantine, if not earlier.

The Anglican Church with over 70 million members, as well as relationships with many other large denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church, seems to exemplify the struggle between politics and authenticity with their decision to allow women to be bishops. Traditionalists, those who oppose this reform, make the argument that because Jesus is their leader and male that the church leaders must also be male. The compromise some suggested, if women were to be bishops, was that male bishops would hold the title of “Super Bishops.” Such a suggestion seems more political (not to mention misogynistic and patriarchal) than an authentic attempt to remain true to Jesus’ ministry.

While it is true that Jesus was male, in order to adhere to the tradition of his ministry a larger picture must be looked at, understood and considered. A dominant theme in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) is Jesus challenging the status quo, by expanding his ministry to gentiles and healing on the Sabbath, to name a few. Therefore, to be authentic to Jesus’ tradition (and not simply upholding the tradition of politics) it is a sound decision that the Anglican Church made to allow women to become Bishops. Just because women were not leaders 2,000 years ago does not mean Jesus would expect his followers to do the same today. Indeed, he might expect people, in his spirit, to buck the norm and demand equality (peacefully) for women and LGBT people alike. After all, wouldn’t that be a challenge of the status quo and an authentic representation of Jesus’ stand for the world he lived in?

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