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Ordaining Women and Homosexuals

My brother Michael will no doubt disagree with half of this post by Mark D. Roberts, while my other brother Michael is just as likely to disagree with the other half. Platypus that I am, I think Roberts has it right on both issues.


  1. mike says:

    Frater Meus,

    You’re right about this half, of course. Women certainly held leadership roles in the early Church (think Perpetua, Felicity, Olympias, and Jerome’s circle), but there’s not a shred of evidence that any was ever ordained to the priesthood. The only instance of female “clergy” we find is in Firmilian’s account of a demon-possessed seer who went about simulating the Eucharist. The orans figures in the catacombs are not evidence of women clergy. The orantes were almost always feminine, whether they appeared in Christian, Jewish, or pagan contexts. Why? No one knows. In Christian contexts, they may symbolize the Church (Bride of Christ, mater ecclesia) at prayer, or they may symbolize the soul (anima, feminine) of the deceased. Mark didn’t mention the gravestones that identify the deceased as presbutera, but those too are commonly misunderstood. It’s a term that has always been applied to a priest’s wife (and still is). And then there’s the famous Episcopa Theodora mosaic, which depicts the mother of Pope Paschal I, but is often trotted out as an instance of a female bishop of Rome!

    This is not a question of equal dignity before God. We’re all called to holiness, though few of us are called to orders. It’s at least arguable that Christian women — even without orders — have had as great an influence on history as Christian men. Think the Blessed Virgin Mary, Blandina, Agnes of Rome, Macrina the Younger, Monica, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Dorothy Day, and Teresa of Calcutta.

    It’s a misguided clericalism (presbyterianism?) to think that any of these women would have been “improved” by holy orders. They needed the laying on of hands like a fish needs a bicycle. πŸ˜‰


  2. Oh, you are such a platypus!


  3. D. P. says:

    Mike: We’ll just have to disagree agreeably, of course. But I can’t help but wonder, if orders don’t “improve” upon the faithful service of godly men and women (no argument from me there!), and if most of the work of the kingdom is done by layfolk anyway, why it’s such a big deal to ordain such women as are judged to have the appropriate gifts and calling. And why it seems the vast number of canonized saints are in fact ordained clergy. Somebody may well be operating out of a misguided clericalism on this issue, but I’m not 100% sure it’s me πŸ™‚

    Mark: Oh, you don’t know the half of it!


  4. mike says:

    Clericalism is surely the root cause of the dearth of lay canonizations. Augustine saw this coming in the fifth century. I don’t contest a single one of those decisions. But, if all those clerics were indeed as successful as all those infallible decisions mean they were, they must have led at least a few hundred parishioners apiece through the pearlies. Yet nobody took the time to plead their causes.

    Where you and I disagree agreeably, of course, is on the nature of sacraments. And that does make all the difference.


  5. D. P. says:

    It may be more an issue of sola scriptura than sacraments. Either way, I’m not going to cross anyone who can sick Mother Angelica on me. I’ve heard stories about those nuns! πŸ™‚ And I’m proud to call you my brother in Christ in any case.


  6. mike says:

    And I you.


  7. Of course, since I am not sure “ordination” is a NT concept–at least, not as practiced by modern churches–I only partially disagree. However, Darrell, you got my major direction right. I think that, if the church is going to “ordain” anyone, white, heterosexual, males should be in the back of the line. Which is why, although I have served as a pastor and deacon, I have refused to be ordained–although married to an ordained Baptist pastor (a woman, just in case some wonder), whose ordination is also accepted by Disciples and the UCC.


  8. Of course, unlike the people Mark Roberts is talking to, I don’t think the case of gays in the church is as analagous to the question of women’s roles as it is analagous to the question of slavery.


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