By Julian Mann, Virtueonline
Satirical sneering is not the appropriate response to the abject biblical ignorance of politicians in the House of Commons who celebrated the 20th anniversary of the ordination of women priests in the Church of England. For the national Church by law established, it is a cause for penitent self-examination because these politicians have been sitting in its pews.
Introducing the celebratory debate on Thursday in Westminster Hall, the Right Honourable Caroline Spelman, Conservative MP for Meriden in the West Midlands, declared: ‘Some of the women in my constituency lack female role models within their own family-perhaps they are estranged from the grandparental generation. A female priest can provide real practical help, advice and support to young women making their first steps in motherhood without a family network around them.’
Positive male and female role models are very important in local communities but as an argument for the ordination of women, or indeed men, Mrs Spelman’s apologia for women priests displays a lamentable level of biblical literacy. The primary calling of ordained ministers in the Church of England is to proclaim the Word of God, not to spend their time trying to compensate for societal breakdown.
The Book of Common Prayer’s Ordinal is very clear on the central calling of ordained ministers. According to the Bishop’s Charge, they are ‘to be messengers, watchmen and stewards of the Lord; to teach and to premonish, to feed and to provide for the Lord’s family’. How they are to do that is also made very clear in the Ordinal. They do that by teaching and exemplifying the Holy Scriptures – ‘And seeing that you cannot by any other means compass the doing of so weighty a work, pertaining to the salvation of man, but with doctrine and exhortation taken of the holy Scriptures, and with a life agreeable to the same; consider how studious ye ought to be in reading and learning the Scriptures’. The ordained calling of course involves the minister being a kind and loving person in their local community but it must not involve being so consumed by social work that they neglect their primary vocation to teach God’s Word.
That priority in the Ordinal faithfully reflects the Apostle Paul’s charge to his younger protegee in Christian ministry, Timothy: