Thursday, October 15, 2020

Priestesses In The Church

C. S. Lewis was quite against the ordination of women to the priesthood of the Episcopal Church, the C of E, 70 years ago. Yet not for the reasons you might expect. Not entirely, at any rate.  He may be wrong, but at least not in the way prejudice would immediately accuse.

When I am away from Lewis I drift into disagreeing with him in such matters as merely a product of his era.  I do recognise that I am also a product of my era, but generally wave that off with the claim that I have already accounted for that.  A return to Lewis's actual arguments reveals there remain claims I have not successfully answered and put to rest.


Douglas2 said...

Suppose the reformer stops saying that a good woman may be like God and begins saying that God is like a good woman.

That sounds like "The Shack" by William Paul Young. I actually think there's a lot of wisdom in that book, but of course I was never so sucked-in that I started thinking 'this is real' instead of 'this is one guy's representation, which has imperfect analogies that might nevertheless be useful to my understanding.

Suppose he says that we might just as well pray to "Our Mother which art in heaven" as to "Our Father"

This is what led me to leave a congregation, when I needed to use the restroom mid service and thus got to hear what was being taught to the children downstairs. It was the weaseling of the response from the Priest and parish council when I expressed uncertainty about it that pushed me out -- after all there are plenty of feminine descriptions of God (Is. 49:15 & Deut. 32:18 come to mind). It seemed it was a rejection of maleness and the concept of fatherhood that was the motivation, rather than trying to bring consciousness that in Christian ( & Jewish) teaching while we use male pronouns for God the Father, he is neither male nor female. (As expressed in Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) #239, for example)

We call them 'Priests' in the Episcopal and Anglican churches, not 'priestesses' even if they are women. My reading of the debates in the various churches was that it was never "should we have priestesses?", but "Should we allow women to be priests."

I can't help but feel that there is an unexamined prior in Lewis' writing that God the Father is 'male', in contrast to the catholic view, and therefore a woman can't be the right sort of representative.


BFriendshuh said...

I do not have the depth of knowledge or time spent as a Christian as you or others, but to me it is enough to look at what "priestesses" are doing to the Church, first in replacing the message, and then replacing the object of worship altogether.

It is enough to make one want to grab the whip, or to lean off the other side of the horse straight into "I do not allow a woman to speak or uncover her head in church".

The Mad Soprano said...

Speaking as a woman myself, I personally am not comfortable with the idea of women being ordained as priests. I guess that's just personal preference, but something about it always bothered me.

Usually I hear the word "priestess" used in the context of Pagan worship rather than in Christian worship, though, so that may have some bearing on the issue.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ Mad Soprano - I think that was part of Lewis's point, and you illustrate it well. If women are ordained in a tradition that has priests, they are then priestesses. We don't like the associations with that, so the Episcopalians have called them "priests" to avoid that pagan feel. When Roman Catholics talk about ordaining women, they similar stick with the word "priests." Lewis is insisting that this is only an appearance - there actually is a difference between priests and priestesses that mere naming does not remove. They may tell themselves that they are only removing a PR obstacle that the title "priestess" artificially injects into the discussion. Yet what if this is not so? What if they are avoiding the deeper spiritual reality in order to get what they want this Tuesday?