Sunday, 4 May 2014

20 years of women priests

Updated Sunday evening, Monday evening, Tuesday evening

Yesterday there was a procession from Westminster Abbey and a celebratory service at St Paul’s Cathedral to mark the 20th anniversary of the ordination of women to the priesthood in the Church of England. Every woman ordained in 1994 was invited to take part in the events.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Reverend Justin Welby, preached this sermon: Archbishop Justin’s sermon at service to mark 20 years of women priests

Press reports include these:

Edward Malnick The Telegraph Female priests have suffered, says Justin Welby

BBC March though London to mark 20 years of women priests

Huffington Post UK Justin Welby Says Church Of England ‘Has Long Way To Go’ Over Ordaining Women

Getty Images has this marvellous photograph: Women Priests Gather To Celebrate Twentieth Anniversary Of Ordination Of Women Priests


Madeleine Davies Church Times Sunshine celebration for 20 years of women’s priesthood

Kate Boardman was there: Rejoice!

WATCH have issued a press release (copied below the fold). They also have some photographs of Ordinations at St Paul’s 20 years ago.

Press Release Tuesday 6 May 2014

Women and the Church (WATCH)

20th Anniversary Celebration of the Priesting of Women

On Saturday 3rd May 2014 the Church of England at last said ‘Yes!’ to women. Yes, we are glad that you are here; yes, we are thankful for your witness and care as priests; yes, we rejoice at your calling. Large numbers of people both ordained and lay, women and men, came together to give thanks and celebrate the ministry and vocation of our ordained women. It was particularly poignant and moving that the congregation in a packed St Paul’s stood and gave a prolonged ovation as the “women of 94” entered the Cathedral. We give thanks for the Archbishop of Canterbury who acted as deacon to the presidency of Canon Philippa Boardman at the Eucharist, and WATCH along with many others were moved by his sermon. Archbishop Justin spoke of the Church, “Male or female, it matters not, so long as in our beings, through our clay, in a willingness to risk everything and stop at nothing, we offer ourselves to Christ and for Christ”. His words felt both sensitive and appropriate and signalled the beginning of the healing process for so many in the Church.

Hilary Cotton, Chair of WATCH commented, “Saturday was a day of joy and affirmation for all women and all that they offer to the Church in the service of Christ. Those called to ordination were rightly the focus of celebration as their call from God was unheard by the Church for so long. WATCH recognises that there is still more to do and we are ready, as ever, to join in the Spirit’s dance of transformation. Alleluia.”

Posted by Peter Owen on Sunday, 4 May 2014 at 12:01pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

I may have missed something, but what that sermon seems to lack is any theological reflection on what this momentous change means for the church.

Posted by: Linda Woodhead on Sunday, 4 May 2014 at 2:49pm BST

Here's another really good photo with Archbishop Justin marooned in a sea of women priests!

Posted by: peter kettle on Sunday, 4 May 2014 at 4:44pm BST

There's a much higher quality version of the photograph of the marooned Archbishop in the Church Times article that I have just added a link to above. You can go to it directly here:

Posted by: Peter Owen on Sunday, 4 May 2014 at 7:04pm BST

"I fear it is the second - loyalty to the machinery of the institution - that costs the most, not least because so often it fails to honour that sacrifice. As a representative of that institution, I want to thank those here today whose costly loyalty, whose scars, make this celebration possible, and I want to say personally how I grieve that it cost so much, to apologise for my own part in that hurt."

The hilarious thing about Welby is that he can say things like that with a straight face, while simultaneously engaging, with relish, in precisely the sort of "loyalty to the machinery of the institution" which causes "hurt" to many people. He seems to believe that it doesn't matter how discriminatory you are so long as you make a cheap and easy apology twenty years later, so I guess that's the strategy he intends to follow over equal marriage: get it wrong, hurt a lot of people, make a shallow and insincere apology when it's too late. Who needs deeds, when you've got words?

Posted by: Interested Observer on Sunday, 4 May 2014 at 7:35pm BST

A very good series of articles on a subject that has been celebrated in other Provinces of the Communion to include the Ordination of Women as Bishops - for almost as long as the C. of e. has ordained priests!

Never mind. We'll get there one day, please God!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 5 May 2014 at 1:44am BST

I've been asked to explain what I think is missing in the ABC's sermon for the 20th anniversary. Let me try.

As someone says on this thread, repentance without serious reflection on what went wrong is just words (like RC Church on child abuse).

To explain the resistance to women's ordination as just 'knee-jerk' institutional conservatism is no explanation at all - it's a knee-jerk cliche (and insulting to many serious-minded opponents of women's ordination).

The hard question that needed to be addressed was: how could the church have failed so spectacularly to treat women as something approaching equals for more than a century after many other parts of society had accepted they were? What theologies of priesthood, of anthropology were in play? What features of the institution and which structures made it so resistant?

Then - once these are identified - the issue that should have been addressed: if we are now to honour and 'celebrate' women clergy rather than treat them as a useful top-up of the draining clerical barrel, how must our theology change? How deep does that go? Does it even mean change in how we think of God?

So I also missed reflection on what it is that is being celebrated - and serious thought about how, if at all, women have made a difference to the church in the last 20 years.

All these questions are also directly relevant to how the church now deals with SSM. Lacking this preliminary reflection, it's no wonder its statements on the latter have been so shallow.

Posted by: Linda Woodhead on Monday, 5 May 2014 at 12:18pm BST

Justin Welby said "Twenty years, out of 450. That's less than 5% in the story of the Church of England, so far, a story in which we remain committed to reimagining ministry."
Not only can the Archbishop be accused of lacking any "theological reflection" in his sermon, he also displays a very limited understanding of Church History.
Next time he is in his cathedral church in Canterbury I would suggest that the Primate of All England look at the list of ABCs and there he would discover that his name is 105th on the list, going right back to Saint Augustine in the year 597 A.D.. Considerably longer than a mere 450 years. If Archbishop Welby were more versed in theology and ecclesiastical history then a very different reimagined sermon would have been the end result.

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 5 May 2014 at 1:16pm BST

Thank you for clarifying what you felt was a missing from the ABC's sermon, Linda. And I agree this is a vital part of the thinking and heart searching this part of the church of Christ needs to be doing.
I am just not sure that was the time or the place to do it. (And I question the implication that it is not yet happening - though forgive me if I have misunderstood you there). I think ++Justin was right in what he said about how institutions change.

For me (as someone who was there in 94 too) this was an occasion marked by extraordinary grace, gratitude, tears and celebration - not by campaigning or landmark theological pronouncement. I for one could not have coped with that I don't think. But as a man to be standing and applauding all those priests into the cathedral will stay with me for the rest of my life. So will the integration of men and women in the entire service and the sight of the ABC serving as deacon to a woman president. I do not think the theology that transforms is always theology proclaimed in pulpits or declared in conference pronouncements. The drama of the whole event marked a deep theological change. Words of apology were offered. The restraints on unashamed open celebration were at last officially repealed.
But I too remain committed to exploring the challenges you rightly articulate as part of the on-going journey.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Monday, 5 May 2014 at 4:43pm BST

"A very good series of articles on a subject that has been celebrated in other Provinces of the Communion to include the Ordination of Women as Bishops - for almost as long as the C. of e. has ordained priests!"

Actually, longer. My older son, who will be 27 in July, was present at Barbara Harris' consecration as bishop at the age of just a few months.

And my dear wife will be celebrating the 37th anniversary of her ordination to the priesthood in just a couple of weeks.

We all get there - it just takes some of us a bit longer than others.

Chad Wohlers

Posted by: Chad Wohlers on Tuesday, 6 May 2014 at 1:17am BST

Thanks for that information, Chad. It goes to show that The American Episcopal Church is often the forerunner of something good, that only later gets approved of at the heart of the Anglican Communion.

Let's hope it goes the same way with your loving openness to the LGBTI community in you Church.

Christ IS Risen, Alleluia!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 6 May 2014 at 11:51am BST

I can't believe it has been twenty years.

I met Barbara Harris about twenty years ago, so I don't know what all the fuss has been about admitting women to the episcopate in the C of E.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Wednesday, 7 May 2014 at 3:40pm BST

Floating somewhere on the English canal system I hope there still is a Norman 20 cabin cruiser named "Bishop Barbara". It was our first boat and, as two young Anglo-Catholic clergy we were so delighted with Barbara Harris' ordination that we named it after her. In the cabin there should be a framed letter with BH's gold-leafed letterheading thanking us for the gesture.

Posted by: Jonathan MacGillivray on Friday, 9 May 2014 at 11:32am BST
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