Sunday, June 26, 2016

N. P. Williams in 1937 or 1938

"If, on the other hand, it is permissible for the Church of England to disregard the authority of St Paul and the universal custom of the Church Catholic—and if there is nothing in the grounds which we have suggested as underlying the teaching of Scripture and the practice of the Church—then there can be no particular reason why women ministers should be restricted to the functions specified in Resolution 7.  Indeed, the question must arise:  Why should there be a diaconissate, as a fourth Order definitely distinguished from the three traditional Orders, at all?  Why should not women be frankly admitted to the ordinary diaconate?  If the sex of ordinands is as irrelevant to the question of their fitness for the ministry as the colour of their eyes or hair, why should women not be admitted to the priesthood and to the episcopate?  We have above stated our reason for believing that it is profoundly relevant; but, if this be dismissed as mere morbidity, there seems no reason why the Church should not use the gifts and powers of women in any hierarchical rank whatsoever. . . .  if female sex be not inherently a bar to Holy Order, there would seem to be no reason why a matriarch or 'mother in Israel' should not one day arise, endowed with character or abilities so commanding as to render her capable of occupying the Chair of St Augustine himself."

     N. P. Williams, "Deaconesses and Holy Orders" (1937 or 1938), N. P. Williams, ed. Eric Waldram Kemp (London:  S.P.C.K., 1954), 200 (185-201).  Cf. "these considerations, if valid at all, would permit, and even necessitate far more sweeping changes than those proposed by the Resolutions under discussion; for they would equally justify the admission of women to the priesthood and the episcopate" (193-194).  Cf. also Williams on the sense of call (194):
no argument for the repudiation, in regard to this matter, of the authorities just quoted has been produced, apart from the fact that some educated and high-minded women believe themselves to have a 'vocation', not merely to the service of Christ and his Church in ways open to a laic or to a cleric in minor Orders, but to the specific status of 'Holy Orders'.  But to use this supposed consciousness of 'vocation' as an argument for the change is surely to beg the question; for, if it is the case, as the Church has hitherto believed, that it is not the will of God that women should be admitted to Holy Orders, any such feelings of 'vocation' must be illusory.
"the grounds which we have suggested as underlying the teaching of Scripture and the practice of the Church" are not those given today, e.g. by Gerhard Ludwig Müller, in Priesthood and diaconate (2002 [2000]).  But then Müller is explicit about the fact that, unlike the teaching and practice itself, they have changed over time, and says that we needn't be threatened by the fact that the "underlying" "grounds" floated in earlier periods aren't as convincing in a given present.

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