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If Jesus knows who a woman is -- why is the Church of England SO confused?

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
July 19, 2022

Starting out in the second chapter of Genesis, the Bible explains that God created male and female (man and woman).

"So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female (man and woman) He created them." (Genesis 2:27)

And it was again reiterated in Genesis chapter 5.

"Male and female (man and woman) He created them, and He blessed them ..." (Genesis 5:2)

Somewhere along the line between when Genesis was written (circa possibly between the 6th-5th centuries BC) and when the Church of England General Synod met last week, the Mother Church of Anglicanism lost the ability to define what a woman is.

In America, things came to a head in March when Supreme Court Associate Justice nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson said she could not define what a woman was.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) asked the simple question "Can you provide a definition for the word 'woman'?"

"I can't," Judge Jackson answered. "I'm not a biologist."

Judge Jackson may not be a biologist, but she is a woman -- an adult human female. She should know what a woman is because she is a woman and the mother of two daughters, both of whom are young women.

"The meaning of the word woman is so unclear and controversial that you can't give me a definition?" Sen. Blackburn asked.

"Senator, in my work as a judge, what I do is I address disputes," Judge Jackson -- a black woman -- replied. "If there's a dispute about a definition, people make arguments and I look at the law and I decide."

The confusion of "What is a woman?" is now disputed because of transgender women -- men claiming to be women -- are attempting to claim the term "woman" for themselves.

Now this dispute has crossed over into the Church of England where an Anglican bishop trips all over himself to provide a non-definition.

This time Adam Kendry, a lay member of the General Synod, and a representative of the Royal Navy asked the question: "What is the Church of England's definition of a woman?"

The question was answered by the Chair of the Faith and Order Commission, Bishop Robert Innes (IV Bishop in Europe).

"There is no official definition, which reflects the fact that until fairly recently definitions of this kind were thought to be self-evident, as reflected in the marriage liturgy," Bishop Innes answered. "The Living in Love and Faith (LLF) project however has begun to explore the complexities associated with gender identity and points to the need for additional care and thought to be given in understanding our commonalities and differences as people made in the image of God."

"The Faith and Order Commission (FAOC) advises the House of Bishops, the General Synod, the Council for Christian Unity, and the Church of England as a whole on theology," the Church of England website explains. "FAOC writes theological resources and reports, to support the Church's work."

Other bishops on the Faith and Order Commission include: Anne Hollinghurst, Bishop of Aston; Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Lichfield; Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington; John Perumbalath, Bishop of Bradwell; and Dagmar Winter, Bishop of Huntingdon.

The Living in Love and Faith initiative is designed to deal with questions about identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage and how they fit within the bigger picture of the Good News of Jesus Christ? And: What does it mean to live in love and faith together as a Church?

"The Church of England is keenly aware that issues of gender and sexuality are intrinsic to people's experience; their sense of identity; their lives and the loving relationships that shape and sustain them," the LLF website explains. "We also know that the life and mission of our Church -- and of the worldwide Anglican Communion -- are affected by the deep, and sometimes painful, disagreements among us which have been debated and discussed on many occasions over the years."

What started out in the culture has now found its way into the Church of England.

The Church of England should know what a woman is. From 1952, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England is still-living Queen Elizabeth II -- a woman.

Since King Henry VIII's time, other women who have been the Supreme Governor (or Supreme Head) of the Church of England have included: "Disputed" Lady Jane Grey (July 1553); "Catholic" Queen Mary I (1553-1555); Queen Elizabeth I (1559--1603); "Anglican" Queen Mary II -- jointly along with William of Orange (1689--1694); Queen Anne (1702--1714); and Queen Victoria (1837--1901). All of them are women.

Historically there has been common agreement on what a "woman" is in dictionary definitions.

AMERICAN DICTIONARY: the female of the human race, grown to adult years;

BRITANNICA DICTIONARY: an adult female human being;

COLLINS DICTIONARY: an adult female human being;

MERRIAM-WEBSTER DICTIONARY: an adult female person;

OXFORD DICTIONARY: an adult female human being;

WIKIPEDIA: A woman is an adult female human. Prior to adulthood, a female human is referred to as a girl;

WOMAN: A compound of womb and man. An adult female person; a grown-up female person, as distinguished from a man or a child.

The King James Bible is liberal in its use of the word "woman." It uses the word 360 times. The first use is Genesis 2:22: "And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man." And the final use is in Revelation 17:18: "And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth."

A decade ago, Lindsay Hardin Freeman, an adjunct priest at St. David's Episcopal Church in Minnetonka, Minnesota, undertook a three-year-long Bible study of the New Revised Standard Version to determine how many women have speaking roles in the Holy Writ. She undertook the intensive and detailed Bible study with a study group at Trinity Episcopal Church in Excelsior, Minnesota, where she was rector at the time.

The Bible study group found there were 93 speaking women, of whom 49 were named. However, trying to get a handle on how many women are mentioned in the Bible is more difficult.

It depends on who is counting and how they are counting.

The Catholics come up with more than 300 women, including those of the Apocrypha: the Woman with Seven Sons (II Maccabees 7: 1-41); and Sarah, Tobias' wife (Tobit 19:7-10, 11:16-18, and 12:12-14).

Protestants come up with about 200 named women like Eve in Genesis and Mary in the Gospels, and another 100 women who are mentioned, but unnamed such as the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:4--26); Peter's mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14--15, Mark 1:29--31, and Luke 4:38--39); Lot's wife (Genesis 19:15-16 & 26, and Luke 17:32); the Zarephath widow (I Kings 17:7-24).

Eve and Mary are both mothers. Eve is called the "mother of all living things" (Genesis 3:20); and Mary is the Mother of Jesus Christ (Luke 2:1-7).

Jesus is not confused Who His Mother is. He knows His Mother is a woman, in fact He calls her "woman" twice -- once at the wedding of Cana, the other time from the Cross.

"And Jesus said to her, 'O woman, what have you to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.'" (John 2:4)

"When Jesus saw His Mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, He said to His Mother, 'Woman, behold, your son!' Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!' And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home." (John 19:26-27)

Mary's cousin Elizabeth isn't confused about Mary's womanhood either. She quickly identifies her as a woman.

"Blessed are you among Women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:42-43)

Those words: "Blessed are you among Women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!" Are the bedrock of the Ave Maria, which both Catholics and Anglicans recite honoring Mary for her Motherhood of Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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