The Short Answer

When I, who have written much on the subject, am asked for a short answer for why I don't believe women should be ordained as priests or pastors, I say this:

One identifies Christianity—and thus also not-Christianity—by certain positive (and so likewise excluding) signs—the cross, and not a cosmic circle; the Bible—and not other texts, as its Holy Book; the doctrines of the Creed—and not competing teachings; the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper—and not tea and biscuits. These are visible symbols by which the invisible faith of Christianity is recognized, understood, and adopted by those who would be Christians. The maleness—and not-femaleness of Christian elders (priests and ministers) in a world where there have always been priestesses is by any historical reckoning one of these positive and excluding signs, so wherever a woman appears in the church in the place of a man, it is at the very least a radical disruption in Christianity—like a circle instead of a cross, or the Book of Mormon in the place of the Bible—and the operation raises grave doubts about whether the Christian God is now the object of worship.

This is what I tell those who want the short answer, but something a bit more than, "It isn't Christian." It is essentially the reasoning given by C. S. Lewis in his famous article, "Priestesses in the Church?" and I think understandable by non-Christians and Christians of every denomination: just as a ball is unrecognizable as a ball without dancing, so a "church" with priestesses (or pastoresses) has become unrecognizable as Christian. There are other valid arguments, but this one I find most obvious and compelling.

S. M. Hutchens is a senior editor.

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