The pastoral office is one of the most critical in Christianity. Historically, however, Christians have not been able to agree on the precise nature and limits of that office. A specific area of contention has been the role of women in pastoral leadership. In recent decades, three broad types of arguments have been raised against women’s ordination: nontheological (primarily cultural or political), Protestant, and Catholic. Reflecting their divergent understandings of the purpose of ordination, Protestant opponents of women’s ordination tend to focus on issues of pastoral authority, while Catholic opponents highlight sacramental integrity. These positions are new developments and new theological stances, and thus no one in the current discussion can claim to be defending the church’s historic position.
Icons of Christ addresses these voices of opposition, making a biblical and theological case for the ordination of women to the ministerial office of Word and Sacrament. William Witt argues that not only those in favor of, but also those opposed to, women’s ordination embrace new theological positions in response to cultural changes of the modern era. Witt mounts a positive ecumenical argument for the ordination of women that touches on issues such as theological hermeneutics, relationships between men and women, Christology and discipleship, and the role of ordained clergy in leading the church in worship, among others.
Uniquely, Icons of Christ treats both Protestant and Catholic theological concerns at length, undertaking a robust engagement with biblical exegesis and biblical, historical, systematic, and liturgical theology. The book’s theological approach is critically orthodox, evangelical, and catholic. Witt offers the church an ecumenical vision of ordination to the presbyterate as an office of Word and Sacrament that justifiably is open to both men and women. Most critically Witt reminds us that, as all Christians are baptized into the image of the crucified and risen Christ, and bear witness to Christ through lives of cruciform discipleship, so men and women both are called to serve as icons of Christ in service of the gospel.
Part 1. Introduction
2 Non-Theological Arguments against the Ordination of Women
3 The Argument "from Tradition" Is Not the "Traditional" Argument
Part 2. Protestant Arguments
4 Hierarchy and Hermeneutics
5 Beginning with Genesis
6 Disciples of Jesus
7 Mutual Submission
8 Women in Worship and "Headship"
9 Speaking and Teaching
Part 3. Catholic Arguments
10 A Presbytera Is Not a "Priestess"
Old Testament Priesthood
11 Women’s Ordination and the Priesthood of Christ
Biblical and Patristic Background
12 Women’s Ordination and the Priesthood of Christ
In persona Christi
13 The Argument from Symbolism
God, Priests, Incarnation, and Apostles
14 The Argument from Symbolism
Transcendence and Immanence
Part 4. The Ministry of Women in the New Testament
15 Women’s Ministry in the New Testament Office
16 Women’s Ministry in the New Testament
Bishops, Presbyters, Deacons
At times a book comes along that subjects common rhetoric and typical tropes to a withering criticism, but rarely does that kind of critical study put in place an alternative that compels—but William Witt has done just that with this compendium on ordaining women. This will become the standard book for years to come. A rare achievement.~Rev. Canon Dr. Scot McKnight, Professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary
Should women be allowed to be ordained church leaders? While some may think the conversation has moved on and the question is settled, this is simply not the case for our diverse and global Church. In this wonderfully comprehensive and convincing new book, Witt provides us with the best single volume yet on the topic of women in church leadership. The book is theologically orthodox and biblically grounded in a way that should appeal to any thoughtful Christian. By taking on both Catholic and evangelical arguments in a scholarly yet readable style, he shows the weakness of the majority view that would bar women from priesthood or pastorate on the basis of their gender. Demonstrating a generous orthodoxy and biblical faithfulness, this book should be studied by thinking Christians of all kinds and places considering this question for the Church today.~Alan G. Padgett, Professor of Systematic Theology, Luther Seminary
Theologian, ethicist, and skilled reader of biblical texts, William Witt sets forth a refreshing, intentionally theological defense of the ordination of women. One might have thought this question settled. Indeed in many churches of the enclave of Protestant bodies it is, either yea or nay. But Witt steps back to examine the scene and delineates a number of positions, kinds of approaches, and types of arguments. Witt’s ecumenical examination into the subject of the ordination of women is respectful, learned, and convincing. A creative step forward.~Kathryn Greene-McCreight, author of Feminist Reconstructions of Christian Doctrine
Witt is to be commended for his groundbreaking methodology that exposes how both Catholic and Protestant theologians support male leadership by interpreting key passages in ways that esteem women as inferior to men—a view at odds with the entire canon. In doing so, Witt also reveals how this longstanding, but failed interpretative path also promotes a distorted worldview that devalues women simply because they are born female.~Mimi Haddad, CBE International
Witt’s presentation of the confessional divide that emerges in these debates is his greatest gift and the most innovative thing about the book as a whole. His insight that Protestant and Catholic resistance to women’s ordination does not take the same form or come from the same place, and is even contradictory on a fundamental level, is valuable and important for women, and particularly for women clergy, to understand.~Hannah W. Matis, Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology
Icons of Christ will be the book for Christians to engage with as the long debate over women’s ordination continues in the various streams of Christianity. Its ecumenical engagement with both Protestant and Catholic arguments makes it stand out as a unique contribution, equally capable of grappling with biblical exegesis and the historic Christian tradition.~Alex Strohschein, Reading Religion