Thursday, July 22, 2010
A post below re the Church of England and women bishops has led to a long sequence of comments. One aspect emerging in those comments particularly intrigues me, the notion of "validity."
What does God think of the way we conduct our sacramental ministry? Does God approve of the ordaining of women? Answer: we do not know what God thinks about the way we do things in respect of the sacraments and of ordination.
What we do reflects our human attempts to best understand the meaning and implications of Scripture, including the few remarks and reports we have about the eucharist and about ministry. Even when we build that understanding on what we have received through tradition, we are building on human developments of Christ and the apostles' ministries.
To say that this eucharistic occasion or that ordination is "valid" is to make a judgement concerning our understanding of these things, believing earnestly that God is also pleased with what has been done. As is being pointed out in the sequence of comments in the earlier post, some judge "validity" in different ways. We Anglicans think our eucharists and ordinations are valid, not only as an "Anglican" judgment, but also viewed against the back story of undivided, and then Western and Eastern Christianity. Romans and Eastern Orthodox differ. And we differ amongst ourselves as to whether (say) a woman ordained is validly ordained, or whether a eucharist is valid when conducted in a particularly Protestant way (including, let us say, employing words at the "epiclesis" which suit Protestant sensibilities so no actual invocation of the Spirit upon the elements occurs).
But what God thinks about these questions of "validity", we do not know.