How Egalitarian Tactics Swayed Evangelicals In The Church Of England -- By: Wallace Benn
How Egalitarian Tactics Swayed Evangelicals
In The Church Of England
November 1992 was a critical time for the Church of England. It was then that the General Synod voted in favour of women becoming priests/presbyters. Before the November vote, a preliminary discussion and vote was taken at the July synod. The Evangelical Group in General Synod (EGGS) arranged a debate and discussion about the whole issue. Everyone knew that it would be the evangelical vote that would cause the measure to succeed or fail, so the debate was important.
I was asked to be one of the speakers along with Colin Craston, a senior evangelical clergyman who is in favour of women priests. The debate had been carefully planned; we exchanged papers several months before and were meant to react to the final papers we each produced. It was set up to be as productive as possible and to minimise misunderstanding between us.
However, on the Monday of the week of the debate Canon Craston pulled out, stating that he had to be at a meeting of the synod Standing Committee, and without any consultation, he substituted for himself an able and popular laywoman theologian, Christina Baxter, the Dean of St. John’s College, Nottingham. I respect and like Christina, but it was a clever debating substitution! Then Canon Craston arrived just after the debate started! We had a full, frank and irenic exchange of views that I hope and believe was helpful and instructive.
Both positions were fully and fairly represented. What surprised me were several factors:
1. Although I am used in other contexts to being booed and heckled (at a University mission in the students’ union, for example), to find oneself being treated like that by sisters and brothers in Christ was a surprising and difficult experience. Some evangelical feminists/egalitarians are just rude, and one feels that if men behaved like that we would be in deep trouble! Well perhaps we have been rude or demeaning in the past too, but I was a bit surprised and shocked! I was very surprised to find someone like Elaine Storkey joining with others who were saying “Rubbish! Nonsense!” during my presentation. During the discussion, I was also disappointed by the silence from many that held our position—although I do see that the tactic caused the other side to somewhat overstate their case.
2. I was very surprised by the patently selective use of material, and what looked like the dredging up of anything that would support a predetermined case. Let me give an example. One able minister in response to what I had said on Ephesians 5 made the point that “submit” was not present in the Greek text of Ephesians 5:22 so we did ...
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