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Thursday, March 31, 2011

UK: MPs seek to tighten abortion law

MPs seek to tighten abortion law

By Ed West on Wednesday, 30 March 2011

MPs seek to tighten abortion lawResults are read out the last time MPs voted on abortion law, during the

passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill in 2008 (PA photo)

Britain's abortion laws could be tightened for the first time in 20 years under an amendment tabled by a cross-party group of MPs this week.
Conservative Nadine Dorries and former Labour minister Frank Field will table amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill now passing through the Commons.
The MPs hope the amendments will lead to a dramatic reduction in the number of abortions that are carried out in Britain, which now total almost 200,000 a year. It would be the first pro-life victory in Parliament since 1990, when MPs voted to amend the 1967 Abortion Act to lower the time limit from 28 to 24 weeks.
Mid-Bedfordshire MP Mrs Dorries said that if her amendments were accepted there would be a "dramatic fall in the number of abortions because evidence shows us that if women are given advice before they get the abortion, many change their minds".
The Coalition Government's new health bill will restructure the National Health Service to give consortia of GPs the power to authorise treatment for their patients. The Dorries-Field amendment would force GPs to make provision for independent advice for women with a "crisis pregnancy".
One of the amendments would make it mandatory for women to receive advice and counselling from an organisation that does not carry out abortions before receiving one.
Many organisations that provide counselling services for women, such as the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), also provide abortions. According to Mrs Dorries, the current system means that women receive advice on terminations from a "remote abortion provider, with a vested interest".
In January Mrs Dorries, a former nurse who witnessed medical abortions, told The Catholic Herald that abortion was a "money-making industry" and that BPAS's "very existence depends upon the ever-rising rate of abortion". BPAS has denied it has a "vested interest" in persuading women to have an abortion, although only 20 per cent of women who approach BPAS go through with the pregnancy.
BPAS carries out half of NHS-funded abortions and 80 per cent of post-20 week abortions, as well as advising women past the 24-week limit to seek abortions abroad.
A spokeswoman for BPAS said in response: "Information is not withheld from women seeking abortion. As with other medical procedures, women must provide informed consent before an abortion can take place… The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists provides guidance, on the basis of clinical evidence, on which risks should be explained and how they should be discussed."
Another amendment to be tabled this week would strip the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) of its role setting clinical guidelines on abortions, with the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence advising doctors on allowing women to have abortions.
Anti-abortion groups say that the college is biased towards abortion. Miss Dorries said the college had "failed to uphold the principle of professionalism and ethical responsibility in the way it has behaved in the production of these guidelines".
She said: "Our amendment will remove the incestuous behaviour of the RCOG and bring the care of vulnerable women back to a balanced, impartial, accountable and caring footing." In 2008 Mrs Dorries tabled an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill to reduce the legal time limit for abortion to 20 weeks. It was defeated by 332 votes to 190.
Nadine Dorries said this week that the amendments had a "very realistic" chance of passing.
She said there were serious questions about the RCOG's role in drawing up guidelines, since "11 members of the RCOG who earn their living wholly or partly from carrying out private abortions had drawn up the guidelines, along with the two main abortion providers, BPAS and Marie Stopes. It is a bit like British American Tobacco providing guidance for smokers… We don't have people selling pensions giving pension advice."
She also said that the RCOG had ignored a study by the British Journal of Psychiatry which showed that women who abort are 30 per cent more likely to develop mental health problems.
Women, she said, "need advice and support. Once a woman steps through the door of an abortion clinic there is little chance of her not going through with it, the way [clinics] market themselves."
"For those who don't, it is normally because a partner or a member of the family intervenes. That's why they don't go ahead." She added that women seeking post-abortion counselling should not be given counselling at abortion clinics but "in the community".






1987 The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ" and through Baptism:34

But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves as dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.35
1988 Through the power of the Holy Spirit we take part in Christ's Passion by dying to sin, and in his Resurrection by being born to a new life; we are members of his Body which is the Church, branches grafted onto the vine which is himself:36

[God] gave himself to us through his Spirit. By the participation of the Spirit, we become communicants in the divine nature. . . . For this reason, those in whom the Spirit dwells are divinized.37
1989 The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus' proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."38 Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. "Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.39
1990 Justification detaches man from sin which contradicts the love of God, and purifies his heart of sin. Justification follows upon God's merciful initiative of offering forgiveness. It reconciles man with God. It frees from the enslavement to sin, and it heals.
1991 Justification is at the same time the acceptance of God's righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. Righteousness (or "justice") here means the rectitude of divine love. With justification, faith, hope, and charity are poured into our hearts, and obedience to the divine will is granted us.
1992 Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life:40

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.41
1993 Justification establishes cooperation between God's grace and man's freedom. On man's part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent:

When God touches man's heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God's grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God's sight.42
1994 Justification is the most excellent work of God's love made manifest in Christ Jesus and granted by the Holy Spirit. It is the opinion of St. Augustine that "the justification of the wicked is a greater work than the creation of heaven and earth," because "heaven and earth will pass away but the salvation and justification of the elect . . . will not pass away."43 He holds also that the justification of sinners surpasses the creation of the angels in justice, in that it bears witness to a greater mercy.
1995 The Holy Spirit is the master of the interior life. By giving birth to the "inner man,"44 justification entails the sanctification of his whole being:

Just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification. . . . But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life.45
1996 Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.46
1997 Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ, the Head of his Body. As an "adopted son" he can henceforth call God "Father," in union with the only Son. He receives the life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church.
1998 This vocation to eternal life is supernatural. It depends entirely on God's gratuitous initiative, for he alone can reveal and give himself. It surpasses the power of human intellect and will, as that of every other creature.47
1999 The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification:48

Therefore if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.49
2000 Sanctifying grace is an habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by his love. Habitual grace, the permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with God's call, is distinguished from actual graces which refer to God's interventions, whether at the beginning of conversion or in the course of the work of sanctification.
2001 The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace. This latter is needed to arouse and sustain our collaboration in justification through faith, and in sanctification through charity. God brings to completion in us what he has begun, "since he who completes his work by cooperating with our will began by working so that we might will it:"50

Indeed we also work, but we are only collaborating with God who works, for his mercy has gone before us. It has gone before us so that we may be healed, and follows us so that once healed, we may be given life; it goes before us so that we may be called, and follows us so that we may be glorified; it goes before us so that we may live devoutly, and follows us so that we may always live with God: for without him we can do nothing.51
2002 God's free initiative demands man's free response, for God has created man in his image by conferring on him, along with freedom, the power to know him and love him. The soul only enters freely into the communion of love. God immediately touches and directly moves the heart of man. He has placed in man a longing for truth and goodness that only he can satisfy. The promises of "eternal life" respond, beyond all hope, to this desire:

If at the end of your very good works . . ., you rested on the seventh day, it was to foretell by the voice of your book that at the end of our works, which are indeed "very good" since you have given them to us, we shall also rest in you on the sabbath of eternal life.52
2003 Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us. But grace also includes the gifts that the Spirit grants us to associate us with his work, to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church. There are sacramental graces, gifts proper to the different sacraments. There are furthermore special graces, also called charisms after the Greek term used by St. Paul and meaning "favor," "gratuitous gift," "benefit."53 Whatever their character - sometimes it is extraordinary, such as the gift of miracles or of tongues - charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. They are at the service of charity which builds up the Church.54
2004 Among the special graces ought to be mentioned the graces of state that accompany the exercise of the responsibilities of the Christian life and of the ministries within the Church:

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching; he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.55
2005 Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved.56 However, according to the Lord's words "Thus you will know them by their fruits"57 - reflection on God's blessings in our life and in the lives of the saints offers us a guarantee that grace is at work in us and spurs us on to an ever greater faith and an attitude of trustful poverty.

A pleasing illustration of this attitude is found in the reply of St. Joan of Arc to a question posed as a trap by her ecclesiastical judges: "Asked if she knew that she was in God's grace, she replied: 'If I am not, may it please God to put me in it; if I am, may it please God to keep me there.'"58

You are glorified in the assembly of your Holy Ones, for in crowning their merits you are crowning your own gifts.59
2006 The term "merit" refers in general to the recompense owed by a community or a society for the action of one of its members, experienced either as beneficial or harmful, deserving reward or punishment. Merit is relative to the virtue of justice, in conformity with the principle of equality which governs it.
2007 With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator.
2008 The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man's free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man's merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.
2009 Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God's gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us "co-heirs" with Christ and worthy of obtaining "the promised inheritance of eternal life."60 The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness.61 "Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due. . . . Our merits are God's gifts."62
2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God's wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.
2011 The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.

After earth's exile, I hope to go and enjoy you in the fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for your love alone. . . . In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself.63
2012 "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him . . . For those whom he fore knew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified."64
2013 "All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity."65 All are called to holiness: "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."66

In order to reach this perfection the faithful should use the strength dealt out to them by Christ's gift, so that . . . doing the will of the Father in everything, they may wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of their neighbor. Thus the holiness of the People of God will grow in fruitful abundance, as is clearly shown in the history of the Church through the lives of so many saints.67
2014 Spiritual progress tends toward ever more intimate union with Christ. This union is called "mystical" because it participates in the mystery of Christ through the sacraments - "the holy mysteries" - and, in him, in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. God calls us all to this intimate union with him, even if the special graces or extraordinary signs of this mystical life are granted only to some for the sake of manifesting the gratuitous gift given to all.
2015 The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle.68 Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes:

He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows.69
2016 The children of our holy mother the Church rightly hope for the grace of final perseverance and the recompense of God their Father for the good works accomplished with his grace in communion with Jesus.70 Keeping the same rule of life, believers share the "blessed hope" of those whom the divine mercy gathers into the "holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband."71
2017 The grace of the Holy Spirit confers upon us the righteousness of God. Uniting us by faith and Baptism to the Passion and Resurrection of Christ, the Spirit makes us sharers in his life.
2018 Like conversion, justification has two aspects. Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, and so accepts forgiveness and righteousness from on high.
2019 Justification includes the remission of sins, sanctification, and the renewal of the inner man.
2020 Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ. It is granted us through Baptism. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who justifies us. It has for its goal the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life. It is the most excellent work of God's mercy.
2021 Grace is the help God gives us to respond to our vocation of becoming his adopted sons. It introduces us into the intimacy of the Trinitarian life.
2022 The divine initiative in the work of grace precedes, prepares, and elicits the free response of man. Grace responds to the deepest yearnings of human freedom, calls freedom to cooperate with it, and perfects freedom.
2023 Sanctifying grace is the gratuitous gift of his life that God makes to us; it is infused by the Holy Spirit into the soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it.
2024 Sanctifying grace makes us "pleasing to God." Charisms, special graces of the Holy Spirit, are oriented to sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. God also acts through many actual graces, to be distinguished from habitual grace which is permanent in us.
2025 We can have merit in God's sight only because of God's free plan to associate man with the work of his grace. Merit is to be ascribed in the first place to the grace of God, and secondly to man's collaboration. Man's merit is due to God.
2026 The grace of the Holy Spirit can confer true merit on us, by virtue of our adoptive filiation, and in accordance with God's gratuitous justice. Charity is the principal source of merit in us before God.
2027 No one can merit the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods.
2028 "All Christians . . . are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity" (LG 40 § 2). "Christian perfection has but one limit, that of having none" (St. Gregory of Nyssa, De vita Mos.:PG 44, 300D).
2029 "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Mt 16:24).

34 Rom 3:22; cf. 6:3-4.
35 Rom 6:8-11.
36 Cf. 1 Cor 12; Jn 15:1-4.
37 St. Athanasius, Ep. Serap. 1,24:PG 26,585 and 588.
38 Mt 4:17.
39 Council of Trent (1547): DS 1528.
40 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1529.
41 Rom 3:21-26.
42 Council of Trent (1547): DS 1525.
43 St. Augustine, In Jo. ev. 72,3:PL 35,1823.
44 Cf. Rom 7:22; Eph 3:16.
45 Rom 6:19,22.
46 Cf. Jn 1:12-18; 17:3; Rom 8:14-17; 2 Pet 1:3-4.
47 Cf. 1 Cor 2:7-9.
48 Cf. Jn 4:14; 7:38-39.
49 2 Cor 5:17-18.
50 St. Augustine, De gratia et libero arbitrio, 17:PL 44,901.
51 St. Augustine, De natura et gratia, 31:PL 44,264.
52 St. Augustine, Conf. 13,36 51:PL 32,868; cf. Gen 1:31.
53 Cf. LG 12.
54 Cf. 1 Cor 12.
55 Rom 12:6-8.
56 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1533-1534.
57 Mt 7:20.
58 Acts of the trial of St. Joan of Arc.
59 Roman Missal, Prefatio I de sanctis; Qui in Sanctorum concilio celebraris, et eorum coronando merita tua dona coronas, citing the "Doctor of grace," St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 102,7:PL 37,1321-1322.
60 Council of Trent (1547): DS 1546.
61 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1548.
62 St. Augustine, Sermo 298,4-5:PL 38,1367.
63 St. Thérèse of Lisieux, "Act of Offering" in Story of a Soul, tr. John Clarke (Washington DC: ICS, 1981), 277.
64 Rom 8:28-30.
65 LG 40 § 2.
66 Mt 5:48.
67 LG 40 § 2.
68 Cf. 2 Tim 4.
69 St. Gregory of Nyssa, Hom. in Cant. 8:PG 44,941C.
70 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1576.
71 Rev 21:2.

JAPAN: Christian volunteers working to avert catastrophe

Bishop pays tribute to Christian volunteers working to avert nuclear catastrophe RSS Facebook March 31, 2011

Some 180 anonymous volunteers, led by a Christian, are carrying out emergency operations in the Fukushima I nuclear power plant in the hopes of averting a nuclear disaster.
"In the midst of this tragedy we are experiencing and which is creating serious concern for all, we know that some Christians are working as volunteers near the plant," said Bishop Martin Tetsuo Hiraga of Sendai. "In this terrible situation, the Japanese Christians have a great opportunity to give witness to their faith and Gospel values. They are doing it in solidarity and dedication to others, in a spirit of self-denial. In Fukushima workers are risking their lives to save the Japanese people and prevent nuclear catastrophe."
Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

ECCLESIAL AUTHORITY in the Acts of the Apostles

PAPER I – Ecclesial Authority in the Book of Acts

Course: ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Winter 2011

Intstructor: Prof. Rod Remin


                The risen Christ "promises that the apostles will become the 'witnesses' to his resurrection".  The apostles thereafter understand their work in this light, and "Paul's work also is characterised as that of witnessing".[1]  The apostles, including Paul, are at the heart of the Church and are persistently referred to as authorities regarding the correct practice / teaching of the faith; that is clear.  However, the apostles practice their authority 'collegially' or collectively, so to speak, in that they collaborate with the elders of the Jerusalem Church which apparently included Mary the mother of Jesus, and other women in some consultative capacity.  Acts illustrates that whatever power the Jewish religious authorities had after the resurrection of Jesus "religious authority over Israel – considered God's people – [had] passed to the apostles.  They rule over the twelve tribes of Israel."[2]  Luke further establishes the deacons as "prophets who carry the mission [of the Church] beyond Jerusalem" under the authority of the apostles[3] who affirmed this diaconal and missionary ministry again in conjunction with the wider community of believers.

Acts 1: 1-2; Jesus chose the apostles through the guidance of the Holy Spirit;  Acts 1: 12-26; a congregation of 120, including Mary the mother of Jesus and other women, is gathered.  Peter leads the group and they collectively select two potential candidates to be considered for election to the group of 12 apostles thus replacing Judas.  The congregation prayed, drew lots, and elected Matthias.


                After his death and resurrection Jesus instructs the apostles through the Holy Spirit in all things including the selection of the new apostle Matthias who is to return to fullness the number of apostles that Jesus himself had chosen; twelve.  "Through this instruction the 'apostles' become the official transmitters of the gospel that Jesus himself had preached.  So Luke stresses the Spirit-guided apostolic character of the Christian gospel."[4]  Only Luke states that Jesus 'named apostles' in a manner that "limits the 'apostles' to the Twelve, and the Twelve to the apostles.  This limitation [governs] a number of details in the Lucan story as the sequel in Acts unfolds".[5]  The title of apostle is not clearly traced to Jesus himself "but represents rather an important title that developed in the early pre-Lucan and pre-Pauline church in Judea, where it was used of a group of Christian emissaries greater than the Twelve."[6]    

                Fitzmyer, acknowledges the practice in the early Church of assigning a particular authority to the role of the apostles in guiding the community of faith.  In my reading of Acts 1: 1-2; Acts 1: 12-26 I see the apostles holding an authority that has them presiding over the wider community of believers in a communitarian manner, i.e. what would most likely have been somewhat common to the contemporary cultural practices of the Jewish people in that region.  That there is a large gathering of 120 persons of significance to the local Church is notable in that there appears to be what today might be referred to as a 'consultative model' upheld in the guiding of the community.  Further, that Mary the mother of Jesus and other women are included in this company of 120 is highly noteworthy indicating perhaps that their contributions were of significance to the discernment process undertaken by the apostles and other Church leaders.

4: 32-35; all live in unity, the apostles holding tacit authority over the Christian community.

                The apostles, having been personal witnesses of Jesus resurrected from the dead stand to the Christian community as forceful testifiers to the fact that Jesus is risen.[7]  Believers in turn brought all their wealth and goods to be lain "at the feet of the apostles" to be distributed to all to support and sustain all according to their need.[8]  Clearly the apostles have a role of at least tacitly accepted leadership within the community and a trust held by the common believer that allows for a common acceptance of the apparent servant leadership practiced by the apostles.

                Every community needs leadership and Jesus clearly chose the disciples to provide that guidance to his followers to come in the future.  Jesus' directive to Peter, "Feed my lambs; Feed my sheep" as well as Jesus' directing the apostles at the last supper to provide servant leadership to the Church indicate that it was Jesus' intent that they lead (Jn. 13:14); that Peter was to be the leader of the apostles is to be easily inferred from the Gospels (John 21; Mt. 16:18).  Most Christian congregation are modeled on this pattern to some degree or other either implicitly or explicitly.     

5:12; the apostles are one in heart as they work miracles in the service of God's people. 

                It appears that the apostles are those whom Jesus leaves with the power to work miracles amongst those in need, and this naturally results in a particular respect being given the apostles that was distinct within the community.  Further, there appears in 4:5 mention of 'leaders, elders, and scribes' in the community who rank as three 'classes' of community member supporting the Church and the ministry of the apostles.[9]

                That servant leadership is the model for how the Christian community should be guided is clear from Jesus' actions and words at the Last Supper.  The apostles appear to be the only figures in the Jerusalem community who have been infused with gifts of miracle working; certainly Jesus' choice of the apostles to be the sole workers of such acts of power would have given their role in the wider Church a certain weight of authority and it was on their authority in a number of cases that others were sent out to preach and teach what was considered orthodox Christian belief and practice, i.e. Paul's meeting with Peter regarding preaching to the Gentiles and the controversy at Antioch where Peter's support was considered necessary for there to be a final resolution to conflict. 

6:1-7; the apostles summoned a gathering to direct the disciples to elect deacons.  The apostles would continue to devote themselves to prayer and the "service of the Word".

                The apostles, 'the Twelve', "are presented as having authority to summon the community, to counsel action, and to determine criteria for those to be selected" as deacons.[10]  The apostles are designated to preside over Christian forms of cult and to bear witness in a manner 'set apart' from the rest of the community, a special ministry of sorts within the community.[11]

                Today pastors are more involved in their congregational ministries than what seems to be presented as normative in 6:1-7 as regards the activities of the apostles within the community.  Monastic communities today seem to follow the above model more explicitly, especially Orders like the Carthusians (O.Cart.) and other eremitic Orders like the Camaldolese Benedictines (O.S.B. Cam.) where lay brothers provide for the material supports necessary to the hermit priests who live a strict solitary life of prayer and study along the lines of the ancient practices of the Desert Fathers and Mothers.

9:26-30; the disciples in Jerusalem are afraid to meet Paul, having only heard of him as a persecutor of the Church, so Barnabas takes Paul to meet the apostles.  Paul thereafter began preaching with the apostles in Jerusalem. 

                After meeting Peter through the aid of Barnabas, Paul is permitted to preach in Jerusalem after being accepted by the other apostles and disciples.[12]  It seems here that Paul is accepted as a Christian and a leader in the Church only after being declared so by the words and public appearance of Peter and other Church leaders alongside Paul, at least initially.  If a generalized authority of the apostles were enough to gain Paul an accepted place in the Jerusalem Church Peter would surely have not had need of being named in association with Paul. 

10:9-16; Peter has the authority to teach something contrary to the 'norms' held by Jews prior to the coming of Jesus in the form of a letting go of dietary laws and the mixing of Jews with gentiles.  Peter's 'new teaching' was based upon the revelation he received in a dream regarding the ritual cleanness of all things made clean by God, in conjunction with the revelation received by Cornelius that he should send to meet with Peter who was then resident at a place miraculously revealed to Cornelius.  Peter's authority seems to have been given by Jesus, then in turn recognized by the apostles, and successively accepted by the wider body of believers.  10:34-35; Peter has the authority to state that "God has no favourites but He accepts any who fear Him" and believers in Jesus seem to accept such an 'innovation' unquestioningly when Peter unites his testimony to the corroborating vision of Cornelius and then an outpouring of the Holy Spirit when Peter gives account of these extraordinary events to the Jewish Christian believers at Jerusalem. 

                Peter spoke with an authority that was testified to be a movement of the Holy Spirit, in matters that would have been considered religious innovations to the Jewish Christian community of Jerusalem, i.e. the relaxation of dietary laws and prohibition from mingling with non-Jews.[13]  In this particular case one might consider Peter's experience to have been a 'private revelation' that would not necessarily be applicable to the Church as a whole.  Yet, his insistence that the vision occurred three times, and had corroborating evidence in the events relating to Cornelius and the consequent outpouring of the Spirit on the Jewish congregation as a confirmation of Peter's interpretation of these dreams and events gives his new teaching the weight of authentic Divine revelation and therefore orthodoxy.  Peter's authoritative role in the Church is here supported by the common experience of a wide range of believers in the community, what might today be referred to as the Sensus Fidelium, or 'Sense of the Faithful'. 

11:1-18; Peter's testimony regarding God's revelation to him concerning food and gentiles converting to the faith seems to be regarded as 'binding' by Jewish Christ followers. 

                "Words coming from [Peter, as] the leader of Jewish Christians of Jerusalem are enough to put an end to all further criticism, especially since Peter has shown how the authority of God has been involved."[14]

15:1-2; controversy at Antioch takes Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to consult the apostles and elders;  15:3-12; the apostles and elders "with the whole Church" chose delegates to send to Antioch with an apostolic letter; the letter is from the "apostles and elders, … brothers" to the believers in Antioch, and claims authority for the apostles over and above those "acting without any authority" bestowed upon them by the apostles. 

                These passages infer a difference being made between the Church as a wider body, and the ministry specific to the apostles and presbyters, in this particular matter in the search for an authoritative or definitive declaration of what should be considered the 'orthodox' approach to circumcision.[15] 

15:28; "it has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to impose on you any burden…".
"The Spirit guided Church of Jerusalem passes on its instructive decision to its daughter Churches… about no circumcision and no need to observe the Mosaic law." [16]  The Church of Jerusalem clearly has primacy of place in terms of her teaching authority apparently in light of the presence there of Peter in addition to other apostles, and 'pillars' of the Church, like James the brother of Jesus.

19: 13-17; Paul had the spiritual authority, in Jesus' power, to cast out demons but certain others (Jewish exorcists) did not.

                The superior spiritual authority of Jesus and Paul over and above that of Jewish exorcists is made clear here by the demon's recognition of Jesus and respect for Paul.[17]  As stated above, the apostles were those of the Jerusalem Church whom Scripture testifies had the power to work miracles which in turn would have most likely given them a unique degree of spiritual authority within the community of believers.  That Paul also bears this hallmark of authentic Divinely derived authority, an authority to work miracles on an equal footing with that of the Twelve, seems likely to have given an authority to his words and actions that clearly outstripped that of the non-Christian Jewish leaders with whom followers of the Way were having interaction.  In the fight for souls Paul is here evidenced to be the spiritual leader with power and what made him different from other Jewish religious authorities was his worship of Jesus as savior / redeemer. 

[1] Gaventa, Beverly Roberts.  'Acts of the Apostles' in NIDB, vol. 1.  Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2006. P. 45.

[2] Johnson, Luke Timothy.  'Book of Luke-Acts' in ABD, vol. 4.  Toronto: Doubleday,  1992.  P. 415. 

[3] Johnson, 416. 

[4] Fitzmyer, Joseph A.  Acts of the Apostles, ABC, vol. 31.  New York: Doubleday, 1998.  P. 196.  

[5] Fitzmyer, 196. 

[6] Fitzmyer, 197.

[7] Fitzymer, 313.

[8] Fitzmyer, 314.

[9] Fitzmyer, 328.

[10] Fitzmyer, 348. 

[11] Fitzmyer, 349.

[12] Fitzmyer, 440.

[13] Fitzmyer, 466.

[14] Fitzmyer, 472.

[15] Fitzmyer, 541.

[16] Fitzmyer, 566.

[17] Fitzmyer, 650.

LEADING WOMEN in the Acts of the Apostles

PAPER III - "The Leading Women Referred to in ACTS"

Course: ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Winter 2011

Intstructor: Prof. Rod Remin


-          Who are the devout women of high standing (1:14; 13:50; 17:4; 17:12; 21:8-9).

-          What is the role of women in Acts?


The devout women of high standing in Acts seem to fall into two categories in a certain sense.  First mentioned are those who are taken note of for their central role in the faith life of the community, i.e. Mary the mother of Jesus and other women in Acts 1:14; and second, although more frequently referred to, the devout women "of high standing" (13:50; 17:4; 17:12).  Additionally, it is worth making note of the fact that Philip's four daughters are mentioned, although unnamed, in 21:8-9 as 'prophetesses', clearly a ministry of value to the Christian community.    

From this handful of references to significant women left to us by Luke in the book of Acts we can deduce that women were central to the life of the early Church not solely at the moment of the Incarnation of God in the womb of Mary, but also after His Resurrection and throughout the Church's nascent beginnings.  Mary was not only the mother of Jesus bodily, but the formator of Jesus, along with Joseph, in their family home.  In Acts, Luke has Mary again in the beginning of the Christian story, now as the mother of Jesus present at the birth of the Church.  Further, it is women who throughout Acts will continue to support the new Christian family through their personal resources and spiritual support.    

ACTS 1:13-14 -

Authors and commentators since the first centuries of the Church have made note of the fact that woman, in the person of Mary the mother of Jesus, was present from the very conception of the Church.  Arguably the beginning of the Church lies with Mary's response to the greeting of the angel Gabriel and her unhesitating assent to God's request that she receive Jesus and have her life utterly transformed by His presence in her and with her.  It is noted that "[In Acts] the mention of Mary... at the beginning of the Church recalls her presence at the beginning of Jesus' life and ministry: she is the only one present from the beginning to the end, at infancy, in Jesus' public life and at the post-resurrection gathering". [1]

'The list of apostles is given (minus Judas); "the women" are mentioned, as are Jesus' brothers;... [The sixth century Christian writer] Arator traces the contradistinctions between Mary and Eve.  While his main concern is the distinction between Eve, the mother of humankind, and Mary, the mother of God, the narrative frame hints at how the apostles' return to Mary is, as it were, a return into the womb where the Saviour was formed, in order to be reborn in a descent of the Spirit."[2]

Arator wrote regarding Acts 1:13-14 :

They sought by a swift path, with which it was possible to go a mile on their sabbath, the well-known walls where Mary, the gateway of God, the virgin mother of her Creator, formed by her own Son, was sitting at a religious gathering.  The second virgin put to flight the woe of Eve's crime; there is no harm done to the sex; she restored what the first took away.  Let grief not raise up complaints or vex mourning hearts with groaning over the old law; these very forms of wickedness and crime rather cause delight at this bargain, and a better lot come to the redeemed world from the fall.  The person, not the nature [of a woman], caused ruin; in those days [of Eve] a pregnant woman [brought forth] peril.  In these [of Mary] one grew great to bring forth God, the one begetting mortal things and the other bearing divine - she through whom the Mediator came forth into the world and carried actual flesh to the heavens.[3] ([brackets] belong to original author)

            The membership of the community is worth taking note of .  Luke's listing of apostles (1:13) is a typical convention used in what are referred to as 'succession narratives', which means to indicate: "These are the names of those who form the community's leadership and will provide the messianic community's leadership in the Messiah's absence." [4] 

Only eleven apostles are named, members of an incomplete apostolic circle.  This narrative detail explains the purpose of the subsequent account of Judas' demise... and his replacement's selection...;  The inclusion of "certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus" recalls the importance of various women in Jesus' ministry... and makes clear that women will continue to play a significant role in the Church's mission to the end of the earth (see Acts 18).[5]

The role of women disciples is highlighted in Acts 1:13-14 by a simple sentence structure (much less elaborate than those structures utilized in the Synoptics); "The most basic kind of chiasm, an ABA' arrangement, is used by Luke to dignify the role of women in this foundational season of prayer in the Upper Room"; here, the women and Jesus' male family members are situated as equals to Peter, John, and the other apostles:

A (1:13) the remaining eleven apostles praying in the Upper Room

                                    B (1:14a) the unity and continuous nature of the prayer time

A' (1:14b) the women and brothers of Jesus praying in the Upper Room[6]

Tim Perry writes,

What needs to be understood here is that the pattern for the church seen in Acts 2:42-47 actually started in the upper room before Pentecost.  In that regard, Acts 1:13-14 can only be treated fairly if it is remembered that women disciples were a key part of that unity in prayer (1:14).

                Nothing we have said necessarily affects conclusions on the role of women in regard to church leadership - just their significance as disciples of Jesus Christ...; Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Salome, a number of other unnamed women at the Cross..., as well as others like Joanna and Susanna..., should all be considered as much full-fledged disciples as the Eleven.[7]

Mary, as woman, stands as the prototype of the faithful disciple.  She said yes to Jesus in the Church's beginning (or perhaps as the Church's beginning) which was, in a certain sense, the opening of salvation to humanity through her assent to God's plan for creation's redemption over against Eve's rejection of God's express will (Gen. 3).  Mary's presence in the Gospels parenthesizes the life of Jesus, she was faithful to God at the beginning of the story of the conception of Jesus and the Church, and faithful at the end, standing at the foot of the Cross at Jesus death.  In Acts Mary is present at the Church's beginning, there amongst the apostles in the upper room prior to, and at the day of, Pentecost.  "The 'mother of Jesus' appears as one whose faith is not dependant on Jesus' working signs but on her belief in [Him]... for Luke, perseverance is a mark of a disciple... in the end, faith involves 'staying with', remaining with Jesus."[8] 

ACTS 13:50 -

In this passage the animosity shown Paul and Barnabas by a group of prominent Jews "and devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city" might have been expected.  The Greek terminology used here "suggests that the women were Jewish proselytes... combined with "the Jews" who instigated the protest, indicates that hostilities toward the Christian missionaries originated from within the synagogue and were motivated because of the leaders' "jealousy"."[9]  Just as women played a significant, and perhaps central role in the life of the synagogue, so it can be understood how it was that Saul before his conversion to Christ pursued and imprisoned both women and men of the nascent Church, considering Christians of both genders to be equally dangerous (Acts 8:3; 9:2).[10]  The power of women being mustered against the apostles being acknowledged in Acts 13:50[11] allows us to recognise the potential for the positive roles of influence within the Church to which Luke repeatedly refers both explicitly and tacitly throughout the book. 

ACTS 17:4; 17:12 -

"Not a few leading women" (17:4) joined in Thessalonica to follow the teaching of Paul and Silas, and in Berea "a number of prominent Greek women" (17:12) were added to that number.  "Not a few" in NT Greek is a figure of speech used to draw attention to the number, thus indicating the presence of a notable number of women believers.  The fact that Luke points out the number of women and that they are "leading women", seemingly in their own right, apparently made later readers uncomfortable to the extent that "one manuscript of Acts inserts a small change so that these women become the wives of the leading citizens rather than the leading women themselves."[12]  Noteworthy is the fact that the religious authorities in the synagogue ignore or reject the teachings of Paul and Silas, it is "only the lay people - marginal and female at that - [who] are persuaded by Paul's exegesis."[13]  This is hardly a fact that power and status seekers would be drawing attention to by making a record of it as Luke has done in Acts!  Interestingly, however, it is these marginal female figures who had the resources to support the fledgling Church[14]; it was their support of Paul and the Christian message that was considered a threat by the local synagogue leaders.[15]

ACTS 21:8-9 -  

"Acts 21:9, ... translates literally from the Greek as: 'and to [Philip] there were four virgin daughters (who were) prophesying'... the exact nuance of the participle prophēteuousai is unclear: possibly Spirit-given charismatic speech of some sort, as in 2:17-18; 19:6."[16]  Luke uses the Greek word 'parthenoi' (virgins) to describe the daughters of Philip "which in his mind probably indicates a special call that includes prophecy...[17].  

While in Luke's gospel he has Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna speak of God's mystery being made manifest in their present circumstances he does not have the prophetess daughters of Philip speak in Acts.  Smith asserts that "Luke, 'silences' them, and 'women prophets never utter an actual prophetic utterance in Acts - and therefore within the early Christian missionary enterprise'."  Yet, the historian Eusebius leaves account that "the churches in the Asian provinces derived their apostolic origin from [these four women]."[18]  Eusebius appears to have been very much struck by the stories he had heard concerning Philip and his daughters.[19]

Eusebius of Caesarea wrote:

In this epistle [to Victor, the bishop of Rome] he [Polycrates] mentions him [John] together with the apostle Philip and his daughters in the following words:

"For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the last day, at the coming of the Lord, when he shall come with glory from heaven and shall seek out all the saints.  Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, ... and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and moreover John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and being a priest wore the sacerdotal plate.  He also sleeps at Ephesus."; Proclus... speaks thus concerning the death of Philip and his daughters: "After him there were four prophetesses, the daughters of Philip, at Hierapolis in Asia.  Their tomb is there and the tomb of their father."  Such is his statement.  But Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, mentions the daughters of Philip, who were at that time at Caesarea in Judea with their father and were honoured with the gift of prophecy; [one of whom, it has been related], rose from the dead.[20]

The women of high standing in Acts were clearly numerous, yet never enumerated in the texts and few were named.  In light of the Incarnation and the redemption of both man and woman that was required, presumably because both man and woman were involved in the fall, God invited woman, in the person of Mary, to accept the will of God for the redemption of all creation into her very flesh.  The Father chose that humanity would be redeemed by the God-Man through the willing assent of a woman.  Further, Mary was at the beginning of the life of Jesus and at his death, then finally she was there at the beginnings of the Church as one held in authority in conjunction with the apostles, she alone named amongst a group of other devout women.  As Acts proceeds, more women of high standing are brought forward in the narrative as leaders in the young Church, not least of whom the daughters of Philip who are taken note of for their spiritual gifts rather than social standing.  All of the women of Acts stand out for their devotion and commitment to Jesus Christ and his Church through their presence, actions, and gifts.  Although we do not hear their voices, we can be certain of their significance to the early Christian community because in Scripture they are remember, recognised, in some cases named, and nevertheless acknowledged - we just wish we could have been left with more! 

[1] Martin, Francis, editor.  Acts, from the 'Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture; New Testament, vol. V'.  Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006.  P. 13

[2] Martin, 13.

[3] Martin, 13-14.

[4] Wall, Robert C.  The Acts of the Apostles, in NIB vol. X.  Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994.  P. 44.

[5] Wall, 44.

[6] Luter, A.B. Women Disciples and the Great Commission.  Trinity Journal 16 (2, 1995) 183-184.

[7] Luter, 184-185.

[8] Smith, Susan E.  Women in Mission, From the New Testament to Today.  Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2007.  P. 52-53.

[9] Wall, 196.

[10] Thurston, Bonnie.  Women in the New Testament, Questions and Commentary.  NY: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1998.  P.  118. 

[11] Arlandson, James Malcolm.  Women, Class, and Society in Early Christianity, Models from Luke-Acts.  Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1997.  P. 130-131.

[12] Gaventa, Beverly Roberts.  "Turning the World Upside Down": A Reflection on the Acts of the Apostles", in Shaking Heaven and Earth: Essays in Honour of Walter Brueggemann, and Charles B. Cousar, Christine R. Yoder, Kathleen M. O'Connor, E. Elizabeth Johnson, and Stanley P. Saunders, ed.s.  Louisville, KY: WJK Press, 2005. P. 107-108.   

[13] Ibid.

[14] Arlandson, 129-131.

[15] Gaventa, 108.

[16] Fitzmyer, Joseph. The Acts of the Apostles, ABC.  NY: Doubleday, 1998.  P. 689.

[17] Martin, 259.

[18] Smith, 63.

[19] Martin, 259.

[20] Martin, 260.