Maybe you, like me, are coming to Anglicanism from a different tradition.
If that’s the case, then one thing you should know is that Anglican debates about women’s ordination can often be quite different from debates about the same topic in other church contexts.
This is due to Anglicans having different views on, among other things:
- ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church),
- the sacraments, and
For example, in my broadly evangelical/non-denominational/Baptist upbringing, debates about women in ministry centered on whether or not women were allowed to preach and teach.
In Anglican circles, although you can still find debates about preaching/teaching, I’ve found that people place much more focus on whether or not women can administer the sacraments as priests.
If you’re interested in learning more about the contours of Anglican debates on women’s ordination, I recommend that you start out by reading the 2017 ACNA Holy Orders Task Force Report. It is an especially useful document for those coming from a USA evangelical background into Anglicanism.
The ACNA Holy Orders Task Force Report (2017)
Here’s an excerpt from the official ACNA announcement of the report, quoted from the ACNA website.
In 2012 the College of Bishops appointed a Task Force on Holy Orders to provide the College with a scholarly and informed study on Holy Orders and, specifically, women in Holy Orders (the enabling resolution is reprinted in what follows). The Task Force, led by Bishop David Hicks, consisted of people representing differing perspectives and practices. They have met for the past 5 years and during that time have periodically released progress reports. This past January Bishop Hicks presented a report on the last phase of the process to the College, and we are now releasing the whole report to the Province.
You can download a PDF of the entire report by clicking here.
The report is quite long (318 pages). So, I’ve broken it up into shorter PDFS.
- Section I: The Task Force and its Process (pp. 1–11)
- Section II: A Unified Approach to Scripture (pp. 12–17)
- Section III: Principles of Anglican Ecclesiology (pp. 18–256)
- Section IV: The Arguments For and Against [Women’s Ordination] (pp. 257–311)
- NOTE: The “evangelical” portion of this section relies heavily upon this 2003 AMIA Report on Women’s Ordination. In fact, when it comes to the exegesis of specific biblical texts, the ACNA report simply quotes from the AMIA report. See pages 269–74 of the ACNA Report and pages 37–105 of the AMIA Report.
- Section V: Analysis and Conclusions (pp. 312–18).
As you can tell from the list above, if you’d like to read the arguments for and against women’s ordination, check out section 4 on pages 257 to 311. You’ll also need to consult this 2003 AMIA Report on Women’s Ordination.
I highly recommend that you at least take the time to read Section 5, because it includes a final summary of the task force’s findings, including their recommendations to the College of Bishops.
Speaking of which, the College of Bishops issued a statement on the ordination of women on September 7, 2017.
A Statement from the ACNA College of Bishops on the Ordination of Women
Click here to see the original version of this on the ACNA website, which includes an introduction from Archbishop Foley Beach.
In the preamble to the statement, the Bishops say the following:
In an act of mutual submission at the foundation of the Anglican Church in North America, it was agreed that each Diocese and Jurisdiction has the freedom, responsibility, and authority to study Holy Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition of the Church, and to seek the mind of Christ in determining its own convictions and practices concerning the ordination of women to the diaconate and the priesthood. It was also unanimously agreed that women will not be consecrated as bishops in the Anglican Church in North America. These positions are established within our Constitution and Canons and, because we are a conciliar Church, would require the action of both Provincial Council and Provincial Assembly to be changed.
Then, they proceed to the statement itself:
Having gratefully received and thoroughly considered the five-year study by the Theological Task Force on Holy Orders, we acknowledge that there are differing principles of ecclesiology and hermeneutics that are acceptable within Anglicanism that may lead to divergent conclusions regarding women’s ordination to the priesthood. However, we also acknowledge that this practice is a recent innovation to Apostolic Tradition and Catholic Order. We agree that there is insufficient scriptural warrant to accept women’s ordination to the priesthood as standard practice throughout the Province. However, we continue to acknowledge that individual dioceses have constitutional authority to ordain women to the priesthood.
Finally, the Bishops state their commitments moving forward:
As a College of Bishops, we confess that our Province has failed to affirm adequately the ministry of all Christians as the basic agents of the work of the Gospel. We have not effectively discipled and equipped all Christians, male and especially female, lay and ordained, to fulfill their callings and ministries in the work of God’s kingdom. We repent of this and commit to work earnestly toward a far greater release of the whole Church to her God-given mission.
Having met in Conclave to pray, worship, study, talk, and listen well to one another, we commit to move forward in unity to carry on the good witness and work that God has given us to do in North America (Ephesians 4:1-6; John 17). We invite and urge all members of the Province to engage with us in this endeavor to grow in understanding the mission and ministry of all God’s people.
This statement was adopted unanimously by the ACNA College of Bishops in September 2017. It describes the current state of the issue in the ACNA.
What’s The ACNA’s Position on Women’s Ordination?
This question is included on the ACNA’s FAQ page. Here’s the answer:
At the inception of the Anglican Church in North America, the lead Bishops unanimously agreed to work together for the good of the Kingdom. As part of this consensus, it was understood that there were differing understandings regarding the ordination of women to Holy Orders, but there existed a mutual love and respect for one another and a desire to move forward for the good of the Church. This commitment was deeply embedded in the Constitution and Canons overwhelmingly adopted by the Inaugural Assembly (2009).
In respect of the two integrities concerning Holy Orders, three matters were specifically agreed in Constitution and Canons:
(1) The Province shall make no canon abridging the authority of any member dioceses, clusters or networks (whether regional or affinity-based) and those dioceses banded together as jurisdictions with respect to its practice regarding the ordination of women to the diaconate or presbyterate (Constitution, Article VIII)
(2) Except as hereinafter provided, the norms for ordination shall be determined by the Bishops having jurisdiction. (Title III Canon 1.4)
(3) To be a suitable candidate for the episcopate (bishop), a person must: Be a male Presbyter at least 35 years old. (Title III Canon 8.3.7)
Which ACNA Dioceses Do/Don’t Ordain Women?
To put some numbers to this debate, I’ve produced the following chart. The congregation/membership/attendance data comes from this 2018 report. Please let me know if you spot any errors!
Click the image below to view the most recent version of the spreadsheet on Google Sheets.
Bibliography for Further Study
If you’d like to do some more reading and research on this topic, then the Task Force Report has a very helpful annotated Bibliography for Further Study (pp. 300–11 of the Task Force Report).
Click the link above to download the PDF of just the bibliography. Otherwise, I’ve listed the works below, without the annotations/descriptions.
Note that I’m still trying to find links to everything. Amazon links below are all affiliate links.
Women’s Ordination from an Evangelical Perspective
Books in favor of Women’s Ordination
Collections of Essays
- Mickelsen, Alvera (editor), Women, Authority & the Bible. InterVarsity Press, 1986.
- Pierce, Ronald W. and Rebecca Merrill Groothius (editors), Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy, Second Edition (InterVarsity Press, 2005).
General Works on Women in the New Testament and the Early Church
- Bauckham, Richard, Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels. Eerdmans, 2002.
- Cooper, Kate, Band of Angels: The Forgotten World of Early Christian Women. The Overlook Press, 2013.
- Keener, Craig S., Paul, Women & Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul. Hendrickson Publishers,1992.
- Macy, Gary, The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination: Female Clergy in the Medieval West. Oxford University Press, 2008.
- Payne, Philip B., Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters. Zondervan, 2009
- Witherington, Ben III, Women and the Genesis of Christianity. Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Commentaries on I Corinthians (11:1-16 and 14:34-34)
- Peppiatt, Lucy, Women and Worship at Corinth: Paul’s Rhetorical Arguments in I Corinthians. Cascade Books, 2015.
- Thiselton, Anthony C., The First Epistle to the Corinthians. Eerdmans, 2000: in The New International Greek Testament Commentary).
- Witherington, Ben III, Conflict & Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on I and II Corinthians. Eerdmans, 1995.
Commentaries on I Timothy 2: 8-8-15
- Fee, Gordon D., 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus. Baker Books, 2011.
- Kroeger, Catherine Clark and Richard Clark Kroeger, I Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking I Timothy 2:11-15 in Light of Ancient Evidence. Baker Book House, 1992.
- Wright, N.T., 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. InterVarsity Press, 2009 [Here’s the commentary. Here’s the study guide.]
Books containing a variety of views
Collections of Essays
- Clouse, Bonnidell and Robert G., eds., Women in Ministry: Four Views. Downers Grove: IVP, 1989.
- Beck, James R. and Blomberg, Craig L., eds., Two Views on Women in Ministry. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001. (See the Revised Edition, published in 2005.)
Books not in favor of women’s ordination
Collections of Essays
- Piper, John and Grudem, Wayne, eds., Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1991.
General Works on Women in the New Testament and the Early Church*
- Mitchell, Patrick, The Scandal of Gender: Early Christian Teaching on the Man and the Woman. Salisbury, Mass.: Regina Orthodox Press, 1998.
Works discussing Men’s and Women’s roles in the Church and Society
- Clark, Stephen B., Man and Woman in Christ: An Examination of the Roles of Men and Women in Light of Scripture and the Social Sciences. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Servant, 1980.
- Harper, Michael, Equal and Different: Male and Female in Church and Family. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1994.
- Hurley, James B., Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981.
Works discussing relevant Scripture Passages
- Hauke, Manfred, Women in the Priesthood?: A Systematic Analysis in the Light of the Order of Creation and Redemption, tr. David Kipp. San Francisco: Ignatius, 1986.
- Köstenberger, Andreas J., Schreiner, Thomas R., and Baldwin, H. Scott, eds., Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995.
Studies and Articles
- “A Report of the Study Concerning the Ordination of Women Undertaken by the Anglican Mission in America: A survey of the Leading Theological Convictions,” unpublished paper by the Rt. Rev. John H. Rodgers and the Women’s Ordination Study Team (July 31, 2003)
- This is the 2003 AMIA Report upon which Section 4 of the 2017 ACNA Report relies.
- “The Doctrine of the Trinity and Its Bearing on the Relationship of Men and Women,” the 1999 Sydney Anglican Diocesan Doctrine Commission Report
- “Women, Ordination and the Bible”, written by Rod Whitacre, 28 August 2014
Women’s Ordination from an Anglo-catholic Perspective
General Anglican Sources
- [Church of England]. The Priesthood of the Ordained Ministry. London: Church House Publishing, 1986.
- [Church of England]. The Ordination of Women to the Priesthood: A Second Report by the House of Bishops of the General Synod of the Church of England. London: Church House Publishing, 1988.
- [Church of England]. Women Bishops in the Church of England? A Report of the House of Bishops’ Working Party on Women in the Episcopate. London: Church House Publishing, 2004.
- Avis, Paul, ed. Seeking the Truth of Change in the Church: Reception, Communion and the Ordination of Women. London: T and T Clark, 2004.
Catholic Perspective—Notable Sources
- Beattie, Tina. God’s Mother, Eve’s Advocate: A Marian Narrative of Women’s Salvation. London: Continuum, 2002.
- Kirk, Geoffrey. Without Precedent: Scripture, Tradition, and the Ordination of Women. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2016.
- Lewis, C.S. ‘Priestesses in the Church?’ In Undeceptions: Essays on Theology and Ethics. London: Geoffrey Bles, 1971. 191-196. Also printed in God in the Dock.
- Loades, Ann. ‘On Women.’ In The Cambridge Companion to C.S. Lewis, ed. Robert MacSwain and Michael Ward. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. 160-173.
- Mascall, E.L. ‘Women Priests?’ London: The Church Literature Association, 1972.
- Podmore, Colin, ed. Fathers in God? Resources for Reflection on Women in the Episcopate. Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2015.
- [Paul VI.] Inter insigniores (Declaration on the Question of Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood). Rome: Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1976.
- [John Paul II.] Ordinatio sacerdotalis (Apostolic Letter of John Paul II to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone). Rome: Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1992.
- [John Paul II.] Responsum ad propositum dubitum Concerning the Teaching Contained in ‘Ordinatio sacerdotalis.’ Rome: Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1995.
- Butler, Sr. Sara. The Catholic Priesthood and Women: A Guide to the Teaching of the Church. Chicago: Hillenbrand Books, 2007.
- Behr-Sigel, Elizabeth and Kallistos Ware, The Ordination of Women in the Orthodox Church. Geneva: World Council of Churches, 2000.
Catholic Perspective—Other Sources
- Baker, Jonathan, ed. Consecrated Women? A Contribution to the Women Bishops Debate. Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2004.
- Beattie, Tina. ‘Vision and Vulnerability: The Significance of Sacramentality and the Woman Priest for Feminist Theology.’ In Exchanges of Grace: Essays in Honour of Ann Loades. London: SCM Press, 2008. 235-249.
- Bridge, G.R. Women and the Apostolic Ministry? Parry Sound, ON: The Convent Society, 1997.
- Loades, Ann. ‘Women in the Episcopate?’ Anvil 21 no. 2 (2004): 113-119.
- MacKinnon, Donald. ‘The Icon Christi and Eucharistic Theology.’ Theology (March/April 1992): 109-113.
- Mascall, E.L. ‘Women and the Priesthood of the Church.’ London: The Church Literature Association, 1960.
- Richardson, Alan. ‘Women and the Priesthood.’ In Lambeth Essays on Ministry: Essays Written for the Lambeth Conference 1968. Ed. Arthur Michael Ramsey. London: SPCK, 1969. 75-78.
- Underhill, Evelyn. ‘Ideals of the Ministry of Women.’ In Mixed Pasture: Twelve Essays and Addresses. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock 2015. 113-122.
Works Not Mentioned in the Task Force Report
- Lynn H. Cohick and Amy Brown Hughes, Christian Women in the Patristic World: Their Influence, Authority, and Legacy in the Second through Fifth Centuries, Baker Academic, 2017.
- Gordon P. Hugenberger, “Women in Church Office: Hermeneutics or Exegesis? A Survey of Approaches to 1 TIM 2:8-15,” JETS 35/3 (1992): 341–60.
- Michael Lee-Barnewall, Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate, Baker Academic, 2016.
- Kevin Madigan and Carolyn Osiek, eds., Ordained Women in the Early Church: A Documentary History, Johns Hopkins, 2011.
- Scot McKnight, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible, 2nd edition, Zondervan, 2018. Especially Part 5 (chs. 14–19), “Women in Church Ministries Today.”
- Lucy Peppiatt, Rediscovering Scripture’s Vision for Women: Fresh Perspectives on Disputed Texts, IVP Academic, 2019.
- John G. Stackhouse, Jr., Partners in Christ: A Conservative Case for Egalitarianism, IVP Academic, 2015.
- Kallistos Ware, “Man, Woman, and the Priesthood of Christ,” pp. 68-90 in Man, Woman, and Priesthood, edited by Peter Moore, SPCK London, 1978.
- Cynthia Long Westfall, Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ, Baker Academic, 2016.
- Ben Witherington III, Women in the Earliest Churches (Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series), Cambridge, 1991.
- William Witt, Icons of Christ: A Biblical and Systematic Theology for Women’s Ordination, Baylor University Press, 2020.
- William Witt‘s series of blog posts on women’s ordination.
- N.T Wright, “Women’s Service in the Church: The Biblical Basis”
What works would you add to this reading list?
What specific questions do you have?