I'm sure he is gracious.
I'm sure he is a lovely man and pastor.
I'm just not sure he should be on the list of nominations for Moderator of the Church of Scotland.
Why my disquiet over Rev. C. Peter White as a Mod. nom.?
As a woman training for ministry of word and sacrament within the CofS, a denomination which over 40 years ago through its system of governance passed legislation allowing for the ordination of women elders and women ministers of word and sac., I'm more than a little stunned to read his blog entry concering the role of women in the church.
To be fair, the blog entry is addressing a particular matter within his congregation, however, while I might disagree with some of his exegesis, the concern comes from the following comment:
Although I think Scripture allows for CoS women elders, a question remains in my heart.
To nominate someone for Mod who is not 'quite all the way there yet' with regard to particular roles of women within the CofS, namely women in eldership [and one is forced to consider the question - what about women ordained to ministry of word and sacrament?] ... and here I reiterate, an institution which recognises these roles in its law and practice, and which has done so now for over 40 years is just a bit of a bizarre thing to do - indeed a little bit of a situational oxymoron proceedurally, no?
This is not an argument about having to accept this opinion as a consequence of being a 'broad kirk'; it is a matter of kirk law.
While we are indeed a broad kirk, we work within a particular structure in which there are regulations set down in order to faciliate how we go about being that broad kirk. It would be odd indeed to have someone who would seem to appear not to hold to the law of the kirk as Moderator. This particular broad kirk holds that we accept women for ordination both as elders, deacons and ministers of word and sacrament. This is not about bias, or even a matter for conscience, it is about keeping in line with thegovernance of the church structure one is working within.
That said, I do have to wonder: if this were not about women but about people of colour, and that there were entire presbyteries found in which there were white only sessions/ no ministers of colour, it would certainly raise a question with regard to the possibility of institutional racism. Maybe the question that is quietly being asked here is whether there is still institutional sexism?
Earlier in his blog, Mr White discusses the concept of male 'headship' and notes:
I appeal to those of you, therefore, who say that because there are no women elders, women are second class citizens in Sandyford. Hold on a minute. Respecting male headship does not make that young lady a second class citizen in her marriage, nor need it in church. Rather the reverse: look again at his commitments. When well obeyed it protects women and their ministries of service, cherishes their femininity and seeks their fulfilment.
Here I would ask how we define what 'femininity' is exactly? And further, who is it that gets to define the criteria? But that, I think, is a discussion for another day.
I just find it extremely disappointing that at the highest reaches of the kirk's structure there are people who seem to think it is neither odd, nor proceedurally unfitting, to nominate someone who has difficulties with an aspect of kirk law that has been around for forty years. While perhaps completely unintentional, particularly in view of this year's debate within the Ministries Council report which discussed women eldership and again affirmed women in ministry, it still does send out a negative message.
A little like a slap to all women who have been called into the various ministries within the kirk:
a wee reminder to us to not get too above ourselves, and that this situation could change.
And so, back to definitions: how do we define 'ministry'? And who is it that gets to define it?
In one of those fascinating little lectionary irony twists, this week's gospel passage is Luke 18:1-8, the story of the persisitent widow:
Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"
The widow keeps 'bothering' the judge, insistent upon justice. Eventually, just to get rid of her, the judge listens to her, and gives her the justice she is seeking. How long must we, as women in Christ, as women of the kirk and the wider Church keep insisting that justice be done? How long must we keep bothering the institution by reminding them that we, too, have a place at the [communion] table, both in front of and behind?