Friday, January 26, 2024

The Parting of Ways: Calvin Robinson's Case


The Rev'd Calvin Robinson

Dr. Alice C. Linsley

A recent brouhaha in the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) emerged when a young Anglican priest from Great Britian was asked to address a conference of Anglicans gathered in South Carolina on Saturday, January 20th. 

The priest, Calvin Robinson, is a man of color and he was asked to speak on Critical Theory (CT). He made connections between CT, Marxism, and ideological Feminism and raised a reasonable objection to the application of these ideologies to the question of women priests in the ACNA.

The audience consisted of women priests who were offended. They protested and the conference organizers decided to unseat Fr. Robinson from the summary panel. The Rev'd Jeffrey S. Miller posted this explanation: For the concluding panel discussion of the 2024 Mere Anglicanism Conference, Father Calvin Robinson was pulled from participating not because of his views on women's ordination, but because he failed to address in his plenary presentation the topic that was assigned to him. Father Robinson was not asked to leave the conference, but remained through its conclusion and was paid his full honorarium.

In conversation with some Anglican women who stand on opposing sides of this issue, I realized that many do not understand ideological Feminism. They think that Feminism is about equal rights and equal pay. Because of this, Calvin Robinson's connections did not seem justified. 

Both Marxism and Feminism are based on a false perception of universal struggle between two groups. In Marxism the conflict is between those wealthy who control the means of production (factories) and the natural resources (mines, oil, etc.) and the workers who often have little political clout (this is before the time of unions). Marx wanted the workers of the world to unite and take control of the factories and mines, if necessary, by violent means.

In Feminism, the conflict is between men and women. Feminists argue that men hold all the power, and that patriarchy is a means of oppression of women. They pose this as a universal conflict, but it is not. Anthropologically, it is easy to pop this bubble. Anthropologists have never found a single absolute patriarchy. Social structures are always more gender balanced than the Feminists would have us believe.

That is especially true of the social structure of the biblical Hebrew from whom we receive the core beliefs of the Messianic Faith that we call "Christianity". The Hebrew were a ruler-priest caste which practiced endogamy. That is, marriage partners were members of the caste. The women of the caste were not priests. They were involved in different and equally important work at water shrines where they ministered to women, as inn keepers, and as queen mothers. Many were women of great influence in their social circles. Huldah served as a royal adviser to the king. She lived in Jerusalem with her husband, Shallum, who was in charge of the priestly vestments. The narrative in 2 Kings 22 reveals the high esteem with which she was regarded by the king and the people.

The rulers listed in Genesis were Hebrew and the social structure of the Hebrew ruler-priest caste was unusual for that time in that it exhibited considerable gender balance. There were male and female prophets; male and female clan chiefs, and both male and female ancestors were acknowledged by their descendants, especially if those ancestors were heroic or exercised great authority. Daughters could petition to receive inheritance. If a landowner died without a male heir his property was to go to a ranking daughter (Num. 27:8). In the Hebrew double unilineal descent pattern, both the patrilineage and the matrilineage are recognized and honored, but in different ways.

The gender balance of the Hebrew social structure is evident also in the Bible's narrative couplets, such as the parallel between the blood symbolism of the Passover associated with Moses and the blood symbolism of the scarlet cord associated with Rahab. Consider the two occasions when death passed over. Moses' people were saved when they put the blood of the lamb on the doors. Rahab's household was saved when she hung a scarlet cord from her window.

The abusive behavior of drunken Noah toward his sons has a parallel in the abusive behavior of drunken Lot toward his daughters.

The "mother's house" and the "father's house" had distinct obligations of equal value in the Hebrew social structure.

Both males and females are portrayed positively and negatively in the Bible. Both kill. Both promote lies. Both complain. Abraham complains to God about not having a proper heir. Jonah complains about the repentance of the Ninevites and the heat. Sarah complains about Hagar and Ishmael. Rebekah complains about her daughters-in-law. 

At the presentation of Jesus in the Temple His identity as Messiah is affirmed by the priest Simeon and by the prophetess Anna. 

Jesus restored the widow of Nain's deceased son to his mother (Lk. 7:11-17). Jesus restored Jairus' deceased daughter to her father (Mk. 5:21-43).

A better grasp of what the Bible tells us about male and female roles should be encouraged by the ACNA bishops. Understanding the social structure of the biblical Hebrew and their Jewish descendants has direct bearing on the Church's ecclesiology and theology. (See The First Lords of the Earth: An Anthropological Study.)

It also is necessary that Anglicans be taught Anglican sacramental theology. Anglicans believe that their priests belong to the one universal Church and that the Eucharistic sacrifice is offered not only for those immediately present, but also for the whole Church. This cannot be true where the priest is a woman since she is not recognized as a priest by the universal Church. “Since the Church is universal,” writes Dr. C. B. Moss (1888-1964), “she requires a ministry which is universally recognized.”

In his address to the 1978 Lambeth Conference (July 31), Canon John Macquarrie pointed out that many in the Anglican Communion “conscientiously believe that a woman cannot validly consecrate the Eucharist.” He added, “And who can prove beyond doubt that such persons are mistaken?”

The late Dr. J. I. Packer wrote, “Jesus is the second man, the last Adam, our great high priest and sacrifice, our prophet, priest, and king (not prophetess, priestess, and queen), and he is all this precisely in his maleness. To minimize the maleness shows a degree of failure to grasp the space-time reality and redemptive significance of the incarnation.” (J. I. Packer, “Introduction,” in Man, Woman and Priesthood, ed. James Tolhurst, Gracewing, 1989, p. 13).

On a more personal note, I have observed censorship of conversations about women priests in various groups related to the ACNA. I have been shut out of forums, Facebook groups, Titus One Nine, Stand Firm, and the official ACNA Facebook group, though having studied the question for longer than the ACNA has existed. I feel that I have something of substance to offer to the conversation because I did serve as a priest in the Episcopal Church.

My friend, Fr. Jay Scott Newman, had this to say in 2011 about the inevitable parting of ways:

"... the truce which has been called on the question of women in the priesthood as a condition for bringing into being the new Anglican bodies in North America seems to me more than a bit like the truce over slavery that was required to bring the United States of America into being. But the latter truce could not hold, and neither can the former. Eventually, the disagreement must be sorted out, and that almost certainly means that the battle must be joined. And when that happens, then the great gulf between Evangelicals and Catholics on the nature and number, the origin and efficacy of the sacraments will once again be a church-dividing gulf."

Fr. Newman added:

"The primary category mistake of most Anglicans seems to be a refusal to accept the Principle of Non-Contradiction. For example, either sodomy is a grave sin or the foundation of a sacrament, but it can’t be both. Or, either it is possible that women have the capacity to receive presbyteral and episcopal ordination or they do not, but it can’t be both. Let’s forgot for a moment the authority of Apostolic Tradition which every Catholic must believe is an intrinsic part of the Gospel (no sola Scriptura for us), when a foundational principle of right reason like Non-Contradiction is routinely denied in practice if not in theory, then the only thing left is raw will to power."

Ironically the Mere Anglicanism conference theme was “Speaking the Truth in Love: The Church and the Challenge of the New Morality". What happened to Calvin Robinson is regrettable and a sign of deeper problems within the ACNA.

It is hoped that this incident will make Anglicans more aware of their need to speak the truth in love, to be charitable toward those with whom they disagree, and to be willing to hear what the other has to say even when it makes us uncomfortable or challenges our assumptions.


  1. Thank you for this excellent article, Dr. Linsley.

  2. I do not think it is correct to pit Anglo-Catholics against Evangelicals on the issue of women's ordination. PLENTY of Evangelical Anglicans do not accept WO, on the basis of the primacy of holy Scripture, and the supporting witness of Tradition. I suspect more Charismatics are proponents of WO, having dueling dual authorities of what they think immediately is the Holy Spirit, and, the Bible.

  3. Thank you Alice. Appreciate you.

  4. Great work as usual, Alice!

  5. Here is another article by the perceptive Fr. Lee m. Nelson SSC.

  6. Alice, I find your work that reveals the ancient Hebrews marriage structure and division of roles to very informative. There seems to be an assumption that modern church roles should mirror those roles. Yet, only those pertaining to the administration of sacraments by gender are deemed necessary. Other roles and customs such as marrying half sisters and cousins as well as the caste system and family clans governance and property rights are not thought necessary in the modern church. Why are some ancient Hebrew caste activities considered spiritual or sacred required and others not? Thanks John Bierma


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