Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Thomas F. Torrance on Women in MInistry

It is surely, partly at least, for that reason, that the celebrant wears vestment (which have no reference to his sex), for he does not act in his own significance, or in his own name but only in the name of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is rather in the office or “persona” with which he is clothed to act in Christ’s name that the representation of Christ is to be recognized, not in the self
of the celebrant, and certainly not in his male nature. It is actually the unseen Christ who in the real presence of his divine-human Person ministers at the Eucharist, not the person of the presbyter or bishop as such except in the name of Christ, and then only in a humble, self-effacing way. Hence the celebrant is not to be regarded as a sacrificing priest who repeats the atoning sacrifice of Christ, even though in an “unbloody” form, but is only one who serves the eucharistic proclamation of Christ’s full, perfect and sufficient, all-prevailing sacrifice, offered once for all. It is upon Christ our ascended High Priest that the Father looks and only on the celebrating priest on earth as found in him. Thus, however we look at it, to insist that man, precisely as man or as male, alone is able to represent Christ, would amount to a serious intrusion of male self-consciousness and assumed preeminence into our understanding of the priestly office of Christ, and would be tantamount to some form of psychological sacerdotalism and eucharistic Pelagianism.

We conclude that in spite of long-held ecclesiastical convention, there are no intrinsic theological reasons why women should not be ordained to the Holy Ministry of Word and Sacrament; rather, there are genuine theological reasons why they may be ordained and consecrated in the service of the gospel. The idea that only a man, or a male, can represent Christ or be an ikon of Christ at the
Eucharist, conflicts with basic elements of the doctrines of: the incarnation and the new order of creation; the virgin birth, which sets aside male sovereignty and judges it as sinful; the hypostatic union of divine and human nature in the one Person of Jesus Christ who is of the same uncreated genderless Being as God the Father and God the Holy Spirit; the redemptive and healing assumption of complete human nature in Christ; and the atoning sacrifice of Christ which he has offered once for all on our behalf, in our place, in our stead. And therefore it conflicts also with the essential nature of the Holy Eucharist and the communion in the body and blood of Christ given to us by him. As in Christ there is nether Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, so there is neither male nor female, for all sinful separation and gradation between them resulting from the Fall of mankind have been done away, while God-given distinctions have been preserved, renewed and sanctified. Through the incarnation, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ humanity has thus been set upon an entirely new basis of divine grace, in which there is no respect of persons, and women share equally with men in all the grace-gifts or charismata of the Holy Spirit, including gifts for ministry in the Church (cf. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 88).

--T.F. Torrance, The Ministry of Women: An Argument for the Ordination of Women.

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