May 21, 2020

Renewal Past and Present

Filed under: Spiritualty,Trinity School for Ministry — William Witt @ 5:56 am

The following appeared in Trinity School for Ministry’s Seed & Harvest Spring/Summer 2020.


Why renewal? Because the Christian church has been around for over 2,000 years, renewal becomes necessary as each generation must once again claim the faith for itself, but also must address the changes and challenges of a surrounding culture that may or may not be sympathetic to the Christian gospel. As the upcoming generation encounters the challenges of its own culture, it has to be faithful not only to what has come before, but also to address new challenges in new ways.

A renewal movement took place in the Episcopal Church in the 1970’s that had its roots in the charismatic movement that began in the 1960’s, characterized by the experience in mainline Protestant denominations of charismatic gifts that earlier had been characteristic of Pentecostalism. The renewal emphasized an experience of the presence of the Holy Spirit in worship that had been lacking in mainline denominations.

This renewal movement has continued to have an influence on the contemporary church. Many later church leaders got their starts or came to faith then. Charismatic renewal had a significant effect on styles of (contemporary) worship music. Within Anglican and Episcopal circles, charismatics are regularly included as one of the “three streams” of conservative Anglicanism identified as not only Evangelical and Catholic, but now also Charismatic.

While this renewal movement of the 1970s played a significant role in bringing revitalization within the mainline churches, it was only one of several renewal movements of the previous century. In what follows, I will mention three other renewal movements, and how they led me to become an Anglican.

Contemporaneous with charismatic renewal was the rise of “Evangelicalism” (as distinct from Fundamentalism) in denominations that were predominantly baptistic or revivalist, – “born again” Christianity. Evangelicalism likely reached its cultural high point when Newsweek recognized the election of Jimmy Carter as President by designating 1975 as the “Year of the Evangelicals.”

During my high school and college undergraduate years, my family were members of an Evangelical megachurch with a large youth group that became the center of my social circle. While other teenagers went to prom or played high school sports, I spent my time with my church friends. It was through this youth group that I became convinced that I had a vocation to some kind of Christian ministry, and I ended up doing my undergraduate studies at a local Evangelical liberal arts college. My Evangelical upbringing gave me a spirituality that focused on a “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ, a knowledge of and love for the Bible, and a way of responding to certain types of worship. Hymns like ‟Amazing Grace” still move me in ways that are hardly rational.

A second renewal movement took place during the twentieth century in the area of academic theology. (more…)

May 13, 2020

An Initial Response to the Anglican Diocese of the Living Word’s “Response” to “Women in Holy Orders”

Filed under: Theology,Women's Ordination — William Witt @ 7:55 pm

Melancholy A couple of years ago, several bishops of the ACNA approached Grant LeMarquand, fellow Professor at Trinity School for Ministry, former Bishop in the Horn of North Africa, and current interim Bishop for the Diocese of the Great Lakes in the ACNA, and myself with the request to write a short summary of the biblical and theological case for women’s ordination to the priesthood (presbyterate). We were asked to keep this as short as possible; initially ten pages was suggested, but the final copy was still only 22 pages, plus bibliography. At that length, we could not attempt a complete argument, but only a summary, which, of course, meant that some concerns could receive only cursory attention, and even where a bit more detail was given, only a few essential points could be mentioned. One of the purposes of the attached bibliography was to point people in the direction of further resources to address some of the questions that such a short summary inevitably would raise.

The document was released only to the House of Bishops, not publicly. The primary reason for this, as an ACNA bishop wrote to me in email, was that the bishops who requested it “didn’t want your work to begin another round of a ‘T I T for T A T’ debate on the blogs.” Both Bishop Grant and I have been frustrated that what we wrote was not made publicly available, but we are also quite aware of the low level of discourse on the internet. As we wrote in the original essay, “In producing this statement we have no desire to be contentious. Our desire is simply to uphold what we believe to be a biblical and godly practice.” (more…)

Women in Holy Orders:

Filed under: Theology,Women's Ordination — William Witt @ 7:27 am

christ_in_the_house_of_martha_and_maryThe following essay was written by Trinity School for Ministry Professor of Missions Bishop Grant LeMarquand and myself at the request of the bishops of the ACNA in August 2018. The bishops asked us not to release the document publicly because they wanted to avoid “another round of a ‘T I T for T A T’ debate on the blogs.” Recently, the document was released along with an accompanying “Response” by the Anglican Diocese of the Living Word (ACNA) without notification to either Bishop Grant or myself. Given that the “blog debate” has already become a reality, there seems little point in holding onto the essay so it appears below. I also intend to respond to the “Response,” likely in more than one essay.

A Biblical and Theological Defense of the Case for Allowing Women to Continue to be Ordained as Presbyters in the Anglican Church of North America

The Rev Dr. Grant LeMarquand and Dr. William G. Witt

On September 7, 2017, the ACNA College of Bishops stated:

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.

Although it had been hoped that their statement would bring a certain amount of peace to the ACNA, which has been divided on the issue of women’s orders, in fact the statement generated much heat in the blogs. This paper may also generate some heat simply by virtue of its topic. This, however, is not its purpose. In producing this statement we have no desire to be contentious. Our desire is simply to uphold what we believe to be a biblical and godly practice.

The College of Bishops rightly stated that there are different hermeneutical principles being used by differing groups within the church. This paper, we hope, will make clear that we believe that there is a sufficient weight of evidence in scripture, no persuasive tradition against, and persuasive theological reasons to affirm, that women are called and gifted by God for ordained ministry in the church. The bishops also stated that the ordination of women is “a recent innovation.” We would argue that women were serving in ministry positions in the apostolic period. Ordaining women is “a recent innovation” only because the practice of ordaining women was lost to the church and has now been revived. At the same time, any appeal to the “tradition of the church” as an argument against ordaining women should honestly recognize the historical reasons why women were not ordained, and that recent arguments against the ordination of women do not reflect this historical position, but are themselves recent innovations. Further, the bishops stated that there is “insufficient scriptural warrant to accept women’s ordination to the priesthood as standard practice throughout the Province.” We take this statement to mean that it is not the opinion of the bishops that women’s ordination be imposed on all dioceses. We concur. If some bishops and dioceses are not convinced that women should be ordained, those bishops and dioceses should not be forced to do so.

The purpose of this paper, therefore, is not to attempt to coerce any diocese into the practice of ordaining women as presbyters. This statement acknowledges that the reasons given for not ordaining women are coherent (although we disagree with them) and that it has the weight of much (but certainly not all) of the history of the church on its side. What the signers of this paper contend is that the argument in favor of ordaining women is also coherent and that there are important arguments in its favor. Most of all, we contend that there is a substantial body of scriptural reasoning and theological argument in favor of ordaining women as priests. This statement will not present every argument which could be made: substantial arguments have been made elsewhere (see the short bibliography attached). Our statement is meant to be merely an outline of the major arguments, especially those from scripture. This scriptural witness leads us to believe that the ordination of godly women as leaders in Christ’s church should continue to be authorized in ACNA dioceses that have decided, or may in future decide, in favor of this policy.

Because this study is simply an outline of the pro-women’s ordination argument, there may be many questions raised which could be answered if there was room for more detail. We commend the bibliography attached as a collection of writings which may help those interested to gain further insight. We would remind any who may comment on this paper to remember that this subject is a sensitive one, both for those in favor of women priests and for those against. By all means, arguments can and should be raised, but arguments should be made against ideas, not people. There is no excuse for dismissing another person’s case without evidence. The use of arguments ad hominem (the logical fallacy which attacks the person rather than the position – a form of argumentation which, sadly, have become prevalent on the internet) should be resisted.


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