Is There A Connection? image

Is There A Connection?

Two brief observations, then a question.

1. The last generation has seen a dramatic rise in the number of women in eldership and/or priesthood in Protestant churches, for all sorts of reasons. I don’t have the statistics, but I doubt anyone is going to disagree with me on it.

2. The last generation has also seen substantial shifts both in the terminology that is typically used for church government offices, and in the way that words like “pastor” and “pastoral” are understood, from implying traditionally paternal functions (like defending, admonishing, confronting and guarding) to traditionally maternal ones (like nurturing, caring, developing and encouraging). Both features have always formed part of the job description of the priest/pastor, of course; anyone who has read pastoral manuals from previous centuries will know that. But it is not uncommon today to hear people use the word pastoral virtually as a synonym for sympathetic, sensitive, relational or therapeutic, and even as an antonym for combative, robust or confrontational. You frequently hear comments like, “X’s position on divorce and remarriage may not be as biblically robust, but it is far more pastoral,” or “Y’s approach to same-sex relationships is not very pastoral.” I may be giving a slight caricature, but I’m guessing most readers recognise it.

So here’s my question: are those two things connected? And if so, is that because the former causes the latter, or the latter causes the former, or—as I suspect—something else causes both? Answers on a postcard.

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