Tuesday, August 26, 2008

ReFocus Canada and Bruce Ware

I have been asked to put together a short list of articles which outline my concern with Bruce Ware's influence on the churches of Vancouver, in particular, the Anglican Network churches such as St. John's Shaughnessy.

I am aware that the present disunity in the Anglican Communion worldwide is made up of many competing concerns, of race and geography, of male and female, of local autonomy vs unity and hierarchy. However, I have personally experienced the current trend as an effort to keep women out of the pulpit and make them submissive in the home.

While this is couched in terms of "obedience to the word," I would like to point out that slaves remaining submissive to their masters is also "obedience to the word," as well as colonies to empire, and subjects to the crown.

Back to my central concern. On April 14-15, 2008 Bruce Ware spoke at the Willingdon church to a group of pastors at the reFocus Canada conference. The goal of the conference was to "equip pastors to preach the full counsel of God." The focus was indeed on the authority of God over Christ, Christ over the church and leaders given authority over the church.

However, Bruce Ware is also a noted speaker on complementarianism, the teaching that men and women have distinct and complementary functions in the home and in church. Although he did not focus on gender relations at reFocus Canada, he did say,
    Marvel at the submission of the eternal Son to the eternal Father, carried out with absolute fidelity to His Father's will, and with nothing but joy and happiness and satisfaction. Note: this is true not merely of the incarnate Son, but of the eternal Son, to the eternal Father! And marvel at the Spirit's joyful willingness to be eternally in submission to the Father and to the Son. Take this to heart, and apply this principle broadly in ministry:

    It is as God-like to submit joyfully and gladly to rightful authority as it is God-like to exercise wise and benevolent rightful authority.
    Is it any wonder that that when God created human beings in His image, that He made them equal in essence, but distinct in function? Relationships of authority and submission in human relationships, then, derive from and should be modelled after the relations of authority and submission in the Godhead.

    Bottom line: The basis for authority is in the eternal Godhead. What is authority if there is nothing to submit? Does authority originate with creation? No. Authority and submission is eternal within the very Godhead. We as Christian people and Christian communities ought to be among those who are the most counter-cultural in the societies in which we live: rather than chafe at and despise submitting to authority, we ought to joyfully and gladly submit to God and do the will of the Father. Wives to husbands, church members to elders, employees to employers, citizens to the states. This is not some device simply to maintain control, but a reflection of the divine order.
The complementary function of male and female is then for the male to have authority and the female to submit to that authority.

John Neufeld also spoke on the issue of gender at this conference. He said about elders,
    And they are men. In the Old Testament, elders appear to have been male. Then see Paul's counsel in 1 Timothy 2:12, which is explained in verse 13 because Adam was formed first, then Eve. The explanation of the command is grounded in creation: there is an order in creation. The man, Adam, is given federal headship over the human race, just as Christ, the second Adam, is also given federal headship over the human race.
Further readings from Bruce Ware:

Male and Female Complementarity and the Image of God

[W]hile unified in our essential human equality and our common responsibility to do the will of God, the temporal priority of the image of God in the man, through whom the woman is formed as a human bearer of God's image, supports the principle of male-headship in functioning as the image of God persons both men and women are. This is precisely Paul's point in 1 Cor. 11.

The reason he is concerned about head coverings is that he knows that God has designed women and men to function so that each respects the other's God-ordained roles. Women are to honor and men are to embrace the special responsibility that God has given men in the spiritual leadership in the home and believing community. Where male-headship is not acknowledged, our functioning as the image of God is hampered and diminished.

This puts Paul's instruction in Ephesians 5 in a new light. What we realize is that when wives submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ (5:22-24), and when husbands love their wives as Christ loves the church (5:25-27), they exhibit their God-ordained roles as bearers of the image of God. It is not only in their equality that they are image of God. They also bear and express God's image as they function in a manner that acknowledges the headship of the male in the bestowing of image of God (1 Cor. 11:7-9).

Summaries of the Egalitarian and Complementarian Positions on the Role of Women in the Home and in Christian Ministry
Male and female were created by God as equal in dignity, value, essence and human nature, but also distinct in role whereby the male was given the responsibility of loving authority over the female, and the female was to offer willing, glad-hearted and submissive assistance to the man. Gen. 1:26-27 makes clear that male and female are equally created as God's image, and so are, by God's created design, equally and fully human.

But, as Gen. 2 bears out (as seen in its own context and as understood by Paul in 1 Cor. 11 and 1 Tim. 2), their humanity would find expression differently, in a relationship of complementarity, with the female functioning in a submissive role under the leadership and authority of the male.

These articles are from the website of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Sermons by Bruce Ware,

Building Strong Families in Your Church
Identity is rooted in priority given to the male… Her identity as female is inextricably tied to and rooted in the identity of the male… Her created glory is a reflection of the man’s… has her glory through the man. Seth is the image of God because he was born through the fatherhood of Adam. Specifically Adam is mentioned and not Eve. As Seth is born in the likeness and image of Adam, so is he born in the likeness and image of God. Male headship is a part of the very constitution of woman.
Complementarian Vision of Creation
The very wise and good plan of God, of male headship, is sought to be overturned as women now, as sinners, want instead to have their way, instead of submitting to their husbands, to do what they would like to do, and seek to work to have their husbands fulfill their will, rather than serving them;

and their husbands on their part, because they are sinners, now respond to that threat to their authority either by being abusive, which is, of course, one of the ways men can respond when their authority is challenged, or more commonly by becoming passive, acquiescing and simply not asserting the leadership they ought to as men in their homes and churches.
I apologize for this being a repeat of information for some.

Update: Here is where Ware says that women demonstrate that they are Christians by embracing their role to bear children.


Anonymous said...

This is getting quite strange.

Over here people are standing behind the rector of St. John's Shaughnessy, David Short, (and J.I. Packer) because of actions taken against them by their bishop after they sought alternative oversight because they oppose the direction the Canadian church is taking with regard to homosexuality. See this article by Mark Thompson of Moore College.

The linked paper was written in March 2008 and I can't find out what's been going on since except that, going by the church website, it appears that Short is still at St. John's.

So what on earth is going on? Has the Canadian Anglican Church's favourable view of homosexual practice spooked these people so badly that it has driven them deep into fundamentalist conservatism? Has their perceived lack of power to put themselves outside the Canadian church (while still keeping their parish buildings) led them to focus on a much softer target, i.e., women? It reminds me of stories of men who, having been pushed around by other men at work, come home and take their frustrations out on their wife.

Now have a look at this article titled "Living the Whole Truth ... and Nothing but the Truth"by Phillip Jensen, Dean of St. Andrew's Cathedral in Sydney. He seems to me to be saying that anyone who says that women don't have to help their husbands in the same way that women living nearly 3,000 years ago helped their husbands is rejecting the authority of Scripture. But what about the historical-grammatical method? And what about the meaning of the word "help"?

I've known pretty much forever that the Sydney Diocese will not accept women's ordination and for most of that time it didn't bother me since I had no interest in being ordained and a heap of other things to worry about. But I'm beginning to see signs that their attitude to women's roles everywhere might be hardening into something Bruce Ware could agree with. On the other hand, having grown up in the Sydney Diocese, I find it very hard to imagine that they would accept Ware's views on the Trinity.

And, sorry, but now I need to know what you think the Bible teaches regarding homosexual sexual intercourse. Is it sinful or not?


Suzanne McCarthy said...

David Short is from the Sydney diocese and I think also Paul Barnett, who has been giving summer teaching sessions at St. John's for some time and is now at Regent.

The views of the Sydney diocese on women stands out here markedly since women have been ordained since 1976 and no one associated it with liberalism that I am aware, it grew out of the fact that there were women as licensed lay readers in the mission posts who served in places where there was no ordained clergy.

Florence Li Tim Oi had her ordination confirmed in Toronto.

The memebers in St. John's took little notice of the clergy attitude regarding women since there were few women their who wanted to become ministers. Only in the last few years the submission of women was mentioned obliquely in the pulpit, and then this summer more specifically.

I was in agreement with the stand of St. John's until two years ago, regarding homosexuality and what was happening in the diocese. However, I finally realized that the pervasive attitude against women was growing. I also was not able to accept that Jim Packer has signed the statement of concern against the TNIV Bible translation. I ultimately decided that, to me, it was a form of slander.

Then I had to question my own views on homosexuality. Since I am familiar with ancient Greek literature and literature of the Middle East today, I am aware that homosexual relations are pervasive in patriarchal societies. I did not feel that homosexuality and liberal attitudes to women have any connection whatsoever. Quite the opposite.

I also do not believe in the sacredness of marriage. I was raised in the Plymouth Brethren which is terribly strict but has a different notion about sacraments and so on. Marriage is not a sacrament. I just do not believe that one form of sexuality is sacred and the other not. Heterosexual relations even within marriage can be profoundly non sacred and I just decided that the homosexual issue was a non-issue for me. That was my personal decision. It took me a few years to make this shift and it wasn't easy but of course there were other, personal concerns as well.

I could not accept the problems that I saw concerning women and the anti-TNIV stance.

Anonymous said...

anonymous, you write

"I find it very hard to imagine that they (i.e. Sydney diocese) would accept Ware's views on the Trinity."

I think that Moore College has done quite a lot to push the 'eternal subordination of the Son' line as a justification for the permanent subordination of women - this would have been duing rhe time Peter Jensen (now Archbishop of Sydney) was Principal. And, of course, at least one of the Jensen Boys' wives is a founder of 'Different But Equal', an Australian complementarian group.

Anonymous said...

You are quite right, fern.

I've been searching around and discovered that Sydney diocese has been playing in this pool since at least 1999 when their Doctrine Commission produced a report titled The Doctrine of the Trinity and its bearing on the relationship of men and women.

So much for my incredulity.

Alaska said...

Interesting how Ware has all the kinds of authority he is preaching about. He's a husband, so he's in charge there. He's a church leader, so he's in charge there.

Hm. How interesting.

But, then again, I am woman and easily decieved, so I'd best not trouble my pretty head with conjecture.

Don said...

What? You mean it is POSSIBLE to interpret the Bible to give power to one group over another and that one might be tempted to do this if one is a member of the first group?

Who'd a thunk such a thing was every possible?