I hardly ever write about current events, but a recent occurrence aligned with some thoughts I encountered, and it seemed worth exploring here.
The Church in Wales (part of the Anglican communion) recently voted to allow women to serve as bishops (see BBC news). Women have already been permitted ordination as priests (since 1994), and this move was made as the next logical step.
In fact, one of the arguments made by the archbishop was that it would be inconsistent to agree to ordain women as priests and not bishops.
The only way such an argument works is if the initial decision was well-founded. Otherwise, we run the risk of establishing an errant foundation and then building on it.
Honestly, I’m not entirely sure where I stand. I’m not completely comfortable with the ordination of women in general, and yet one of the most excellent ministers and Bible teachers that I’ve had the pleasure of working with is a woman–and the church certainly would’ve been the worse without her. Ultimately, it’s not my decision to make, but I am concerned with our general approach to decision-making.
It’s good to desire consistency, but if this notion of consistency is to serve as a crucial platform for decision-making, then that requires all the more studiousness to get it right.
In this context, I recently read an essay by C.S. Lewis entitled “Priestesses in the Church?” Published in 1948, Lewis is somewhat prophetic as he explores the issue of ordaining women, and highlights a specific line of reasoning that I found insightful and challenging. You should certainly read it (especially if you’re a Jane Austen fan).
As the archbishop made his argument for consistency, it made me wonder: was the first decision well-made? Is it a valid place for us to launch forward from?
Which then makes me wonder about my own decision-making.
In mathematics and logic, we sometimes talk about syllogisms, a sequence of statements, one following after another, which are intended to lead us logically to a conclusion. Syllogistic logic is fine…but it rests on a crucial fact: the starting statement must be valid. Depart from that, and you can prove or agree to anything.
What are my starting points? What are my assumptions, my presuppositions, my axioms? How often do my current decisions come back to one of these earlier foundations? When examining a choice or dilemma, I often just try to wrestle with the issue before me; perhaps it would be more pertinent to dig back farther, to see if my foundations, my values, my chain of reasoning up to this point is sound. Not that we have to re-examine everything every time, but with some intentionality, at least on occasion, it seems worthy to ask–especially if I’m going to measure my consistency not on the Word of God or the traditions of the Church, but on my own relatively recent choice.