“Our way or the highway” is not a good approach to ecunemical dialogue

Sky News (UK): Vatican ‘Regrets’ Bishop Decision — The Vatican has said it “regrets” the decision by the Church of England to allow the ordination of women bishops. (thanks to Oklahoma Lefty for this link)

CNN: Vatican ‘regrets’ female bishops decision

(CNN) — The Vatican said Tuesday it regrets the decision by the Church of England’s governing body to allow the ordination of women as bishops.

The move by the Anglican Church’s General Synod “is a rift to the apostolic tradition” of ordaining only men as bishops, the Vatican said in a statement, and is another obstacle to reconciliation between Anglicans and Roman Catholics.

“This decision will have consequences on the dialogue which had brought good fruits,” the Vatican statement said. . .

MSNBC/AP: England church backs women bishops — Move risks split in Church of England as some traditionalists oppose idea
I respectfully disagree with the traditionalist point of view on this issue. Women did perform significant roles in the life of the early church (including the possibility of the female apostle Junia (see the Wikipedia article about her) mentioned in Romans 16:7), but were hampered by the hyper-sexist attitudes of the time. If the Biblical texts were read in the context of their times, I would say that Paul’s writings are pretty conflicted (with both proto-feminist and sexist leanings), while the Gospel accounts of Jesus are very pro-female and could be seen as even feminist.

So, if the early Christian movement was birthed in the midst of a horribly sexist time and culture, but still managed to push the boundaries in its early days, then doesn’t it make sense that followers of Christ today would take the lead in pushing the boundaries our culture and proclaiming the truth that HUMAN BEINGS, both male and female, are made in the Image of God, and that any kind of theology that puts women down is putting down part of the Image of God.

But that’s not the main point I want to argue in this post. I’m glad to see the Church of England take a pro-female leadership stand (a bit late, but at least it is happening. The US has had female Episcopal bishops for some time, and the head of the US church is a woman), but my beef now is with the Roman Catholic Church.

Now, before I launch into my criticisms, let me make it very clear that I love the RC church and my brothers and sisters there. Many of my dearest friends and partners in peace and justice work in Oklahoma are RC’s, and I myself am increasingly seeing myself as a participant in the Catholic Worker movement. So, please hear my criticisms as coming from a lover and friend of the RC church.

I find it hard to take seriously the RC Church’s concerns over ecumenical progress, when they are taking such extreme positions. Surely the RC Church understands that many (if not most) of the rest of Christendom is open to the idea of women being in leadership roles in the church. There is still lots of more subtle sexism at play (i.e. just because a denomination will allow female ministers, doesn’t mean that female ministers will be hired), but the move around the world is towards greater inclusion, not less.

The RC Church certainly has the right to take very strong traditional stances if it so chooses, but trying to bind those stances on others (or requiring agreement to be able to commune together) is I think wrong-headed. In many ways, this reminds me of one of points of strongest disagreements with my childhood religious tradition, the Churches of Christ. The Churches of Christ (who I still love dearly, even though I no longer am one of them), believe it is wrong to use instrumental music in worship, and do all of their worship with accapella singing only. I understand their arguments in favor of this tradition (and disagree with them), but the more troubling concern for me is that they believe that others who use instrumental music are sinning and they refuse to fellowship with their brothers and sisters in Christ if they refuse to hold the same views.

“Our way or the highway” is not a good approach to ecumenical dialogue. I understand that members of the Church of Christ and a group that uses instruments may not be able to hold worship services together (unless they all agree to do it acapella), and I understand that the RC’s and the Episcopalians may not want to merge (which they weren’t anyway), if one group allows female bishops and the other one doesn’t. But why can’t brothers and sisters who disagree, seek to find common ground and work together when they can?

I don’t understand this. Why can’t churches focus on what they have in common (with each other, and with other faiths) that with what they disagree about??