Quodlibet

Iconic Presbyters

by S. M. Hutchens

In my own thinking about women's ordination I have become ever more acutely aware of the symbolic importance—that of the alter Christus—of those who stand before the congregation in the sacramental offices. Change the sex of this person and you radically alter your entire theology, starting with that of the Holy Trinity. The most striking thing to me about the descriptions of the elder and bishop in the Pastoral Epistles is their symbolic suitability to stand in the place of Christ, for they themselves are a part of Church teaching about the nature and character of the Savior.

The fact that they, unlike Jesus, may be married Gentiles, is a revelation on the order of the one to Peter at Joppa, for by the logic I have cited, they should remain single and Jewish, just as the ministry of Jesus should be restricted to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Which is also a standard and example, furnished early on, of what is ambiguously called "development of doctrine.") Much is also said by the dictum that the presbyter should be "the husband of one wife," for in this our Lord, whose bride is the Church, is like the married presbyter.

S. M. Hutchens is a senior editor.

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