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Topic: Complementarianism

The State of Complementarianism in the ACNA (Rt Rev’d Dr Felix Orji)

June 17, 2024
By Felix Orji

Editor’s Note: The following article is part of a multi-denominational forum on the state of complementarianism and appears in the Spring 2024 issue of Eikon.

Q: What do you believe the Bible teaches about God’s design for men and women, particularly in the home and the church? How do you view the relationship between the Bible’s teaching on the proper order of the home and the proper order of the church?

A: The Bible teaches that God has designed men and women to be children of God, joint-heirs with Christ, and servants of God in the church and at home. In addition, though equal before God in both home and the church, God has different functions and responsibilities for the man and the woman. According to Scripture, the man is designed by God to be the head of the family at home as well as in the church. Headship in both the home and the church is a God-given prerogative under God’s authority and Word. 

I understand the desire of some people have women ordained, but as Christians we are under obligation to follow the teaching of the Bible which clearly prohibits it in 1 Timothy 2:12–15. Paul writes, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” 

You hear echoes of the same injunction in 1 Corinthians 14:33–34, 37: “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. . . . If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.”  

We should not allow tradition, feelings, sentiments, culture, reason, or experience overthrow the written Word of God. Sadly, that’s the hermeneutic that liberals use to justify all their false teachings. It is unbecoming for Bible-believing Christians to deploy a similar strategy in doing what they feel like doing in the church of God. We must be careful not to rebel against God. God loves women and he has assigned them their proper roles in the church, and humility requires that they follow it gladly without complaining. The warning of Article XX of the 39 Articles of Religion of the Anglican Communion is apropos here, “It is not lawful for the church to ordain anything that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another.” 

Q: What limits, if any, do you believe the Bible places on women serving in the church?

A: The woman is called to serve God in every way in the church except in the headship roles such as the diaconate, the priesthood, and the episcopacy. She can preach, teach, administer, and lead particular ministry responsibilities in the church except that of the leadership of the church as a whole. 

Being ”silent” in Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 14:33–34, 37 is neither misogynistic nor discriminatory and has never meant being quiet in the church, either historically or exegetically as the context shows. We know from Paul’s note in 1 Corinthians 11 that women prayed and prophesied in the first century church when Paul wrote his letters (“But every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven” 1 Cor. 11:5). We also know that women participated in other forms of Christian ministry in Philippi. Notice the Apostle’s instruction to the Philippian Christians in Philippians 4:2–3: “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”

So we can then deduce from the foregoing that the “quiet” or “silence” stated by the same Apostle Paul has to do with authority over the church rather than all forms of ministry activity in the church. In fact, Paul was clear that women should “not have authority over men” in the church. Authority is what is given to the ordinand when he is ordained by the Bishop. It’s very clear. I’m a Bishop and that’s what I do when I ordain — I give the ordinand authority to lead the church, which is what the Bible says I shouldn’t give to women.

Q: How would you evaluate the fidelity of your denomination as a whole and its member churches individually regarding the Bible’s teaching on men and women?

A: The Anglican Churches around the world in general, with few exceptions, have been rebellious and abysmally unfaithful to the divine standards and teaching in regard to the subordinate and complementary role of women in church leadership. As the late Anglican theologian Dr. J.I. Packer wrote in Christianity Today several years ago, “The present-day pressure to make women presbyters owes more to secular, pragmatic, and social factors than to any regard for biblical authority.” In addition, pastoral sensitivity towards women who have been oppressed by men in the church (patriarchy) has been cited as a good reason to sidestep the teaching of Scripture on this issue. In this regard the words of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger are instructive: “We wish to make it clear that departure from the Church’s teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral. Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral.” 

Q: What direction would you like to see your denomination head regarding the Bible’s teaching on men and women?

A: The ACNA began in 2009 by bringing a diverse group of Anglicans together, some who support the ordination of women and many who do not. The Anglican Diocese of All Nations has reaffirmed by resolution that ordination in our diocese will be reserved for men only, and that this diocese will not ordain women to holy orders, now or in the future. We also affirm and bless women in the various other roles and ministries to which God calls them in homes and in church, and we thank God for the backbone they are in the diocese and shared ministry. We hold this view because we believe that this is the teaching of Scripture. Ultimately, ordination is not about gender roles, but about the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. We must stand by the teaching of the Bible in all things rather than follow the unfortunate contemporary Jeffersonian trend of cutting out what we don’t want from Scripture or picking what we want from Scripture whenever it suits our fancy. In September 2017 the College of Bishops of ACNA stated that “[We] 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.” Biblical consistency is a necessary component of godly integrity.  

My hope is that the Anglican Communion, especially the evangelicals who claim submission to Scripture, will actually take the Scriptures seriously and gladly obey its teaching by stopping the ordination of women to the diaconate, priesthood, and the episcopacy. As someone wrote recently, “Our feelings or social convention must give way to the Bible itself and its historical exegetical practice” on this matter, which is, the ordination of qualified and godly men only to the three orders of ministry. 

The Rt Rev’d Dr Felix Orji (OSB, DMin, MDiv, DipCS, MEd, BA.Ed, DD, ECCK) is Diocesan Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of All Nations, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) in Houston, Texas.

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