Thinking Anglicans

Welcoming women's ministry?

Savi Hensman has written an article for Ekklesia Welcoming women’s ministry, which discusses the archbishops’ recently proposed amendment to the women bishops legislation.

…Not surprisingly, some have felt hurt and undermined, and if the Archbishops get their way, some women who might make excellent priests and indeed bishops, may be put off from pursuing the ordained ministry. There is evidence that already the Church of England’s image (along with that of some other churches) is driving sizeable numbers of lay women away and putting off potential members. In 2008, the sociologist Dr Kristin Aune, estimated that 50,000 women a year were leaving congregations because they felt the church was not relevant to their lives: “Young women tend to express egalitarian values and dislike the traditionalism and hierarchies they imagine are integral to the church.” Men and boys unwilling to be in spaces where women are unequal may also be put off.

The damage however may be even more far-reaching. Quite apart from the unfairness of treating women as inferior, to some Christians the problem touches on the very nature of the church and Christian faith. To treat some people as second-class is to dishonour a Creator who made all humankind in the divine image, a Redeemer whose self-giving love offers fullness of life to all and a Spirit who, like the wind, cannot be tamed, generously bestowing sometimes unexpected gifts.

And such unequal treatment undermines the whole church’s calling to care for the needy and challenge the world by witnessing to the possibility of a new way of life in which none are exploited or marginalised. To behave as if a cleaner struggling to get by on low pay and care for her children or elderly relatives is as important as a millionaire banker, or that a destitute survivor of domestic violence or a boy trying to break free of macho gang culture matters as much as a top politician – or wealthy potential donor – is hard. A clear stance on women’s acceptability in all forms of ministry can empower lay women, men and youth in our own vital ministry and mission…

66
Leave a Reply

avatar
3000
66 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
14 Comment authors
Rod GillisFather Ron SmithWilliam TighePantycelynErika Baker Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

Thanks lots, Savi H – banning women is just (plain) raggedy, lousy witness. Period.

Suem
Guest

Another great article from Savi H.

JCF
Guest
JCF

Countdown till someone opines here that denying ordination to priesthood/episcopate to women who *believe themselves called* (and are affirmed by appropriate ecclesial bodies) is NOT to “treat some [female] people as second-class”, much less “to dishonour a Creator who made all humankind in the divine image”… (Sigh)

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

Savi Hensman – another prophetic voice within the Anglican Communion – will this be heard in the Church of England? Or must all thinking women of the Church remain captive to the role of Martha? Jesus did hint at ‘some better’ vocation.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

JCF It doesn’t help to talk about equal rights, though, if opponents of women priests genuinely believe that they are not treating women as second class but that God actually does not enable women priests. If someone is absolutely convinced that women can no more be priests than men have babies, it’s not constructive to talk about equal rights and justice. That’s talking cross purposes, might make us feel better, but won’t help to change hearts and minds because it’s not addressing those minds and is, as far as they’re concerned, completely missing the point. It would be better to… Read more »

Cheryl Va.
Guest

Women don’t have to remain captive to the paradigms of men or churches. Eve was created whilst Adam slept; without Adam’s knowledge, consent or contrivance was Eve created. God only took a part of Adam, who had already written off a planet with Lilith. Adam might resent this planet and long to be free of the encumbrance of this “unclean” planet. He and Lilith can shuffle off to their “perfect” existence. Eve does not mind seeing the backs of either Adam nor Lilith, and rejoices in life in this planet. This planet is not a mistake nor a failure. It’s… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Erika, I have to disagree with you on the matter of not pushing the perspective of equality. It is a strategic mistake not to do so. There are two reasons for this. (1) Arguing on more user friendly “pure” theological grounds, from a pragmatic point of view, gets us nowhere. It simply strengthens the hand of patriarchy, which creates a stalemate using different theological fundamentals, and then feels even more justified in demanding “special provisions” on the grounds of “conscience”. This is especially true since sexist theology has the benefit of being entrenched. The possibility of changing hearts and minds… Read more »

Fr James
Guest
Fr James

Erika – I really appreciated reading your post – it was good to see how you understand the difficulty faced by many Anglicans.

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

Rod Gills is right when he opines that – to keep the status quo in England, on the matter of special provisions for a minority of dissenters to women’s ordination – would only serve to entrench the mistaken theology of ‘Two Integrities in Ministry’. The very idea of a bifurcation of Integrity is not catholic, and could never bear scrutiny as anything like a permanent solution to the problems we face. For Christians to believe that being female should prevent women from hearing God’s call to ministry and leadership roles in the Church, is as silly as to believe that… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

Erika, I find your response to me a little mystifying. I never mentioned “equal rights”, and only used the language Dr Hensman used (re to “treat some people as second-class…to dishonour a Creator who made all humankind in the divine image”). I *understand* the ontological argument (women as wrong matter for the ontological change into a priest/bishop of Christ). However, I feel that those opposed to the ordination of women pay far too little attention to the REALITY of their position, that they place themselves OVER a woman who perceives a Call from God TO the priesthood (that she discerns… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

Erika is absolutely correct. This is the fundamental failure of the liberal side of the debate – the old Anglican failure of believing that all men of good will and good sense will come to see reason and sense. It is the reason that special arrangements for bishops and such won’t work. Not only are they two different churches, but two entirely different expressions of faith. In the end, a broad tent cannot contain that which is entirely it’s own opposite and demands what is anathema to it. That is the reality of what is being called a debate. Where… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Rod It depends on what you want. If this is a strategic battle that you have to win, then yes, pointing to equality and justice will be helpful. But if you want to understand what motivates FiF and how to speak to them, you need to engage with where they are. You have decided that no further hearts and minds can be changed, that only the die-hards are left. OK, in that case, the conversation is over and realpolitik will win the day. But if there still is a conversation to be had, and if only so we stop demonising… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

We do need to accept the reality that we are working from two opposing bases of faith – both sincerely held – which preclude the *ability* to share a common ecclesial structure. For us in the progressive spectrum to maintain the sort of rosy attitude that the relentless togetherness works is based in a fallacy – a rather arrogant one – that the conservative side are all just slow on the uptake and need time to come around to “right thinking.” They have their rationale, and, for it’s basis, it is sound. It is better to talk over a distance,… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

JCF “Erika, I find your response to me a little mystifying. I never mentioned “equal rights”, and only used the language Dr Hensman used (re to “treat some people as second-class…to dishonour a Creator who made all humankind in the divine image”).” In your original post said “Countdown till someone opines here that denying ordination to priesthood/episcopate to women who *believe themselves called* (and are affirmed by appropriate ecclesial bodies) is NOT to “treat some [female] people as second-class”…. (Sigh)”. I may be misreading you, but that did not strike me as a post that was carefully considering the views… Read more »

Savi H
Guest
Savi H

By the way, JCF, it is plain Ms not Dr Hensman, or Savi for short!

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“I just can’t be doing with all this lack of respect for others that is so deeply entrenched in all our church debates.” – Erika baker, on Wednesday – Dear Erika, the context of this debate is one of theological importance – something that both sides of the argument have to deal with. At the heart of it all is whether, or not, women can be called by God into the ministry of the Church. It is not about whether you are on one side of the argument or the other – it is purely about the theological perception of… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“I just can’t be doing with all this lack of respect for others that is so deeply entrenched in all our church debates.” Erika. The lack of respect is something that deeply affects whoever is the recipient. What one finds real difficulty with is the sort of double-mindedness that allows someone to write-off the possibility that the sacerdotal ministry of a women is heretical, while at the same time, staying in a Church Body which has already ruled the opposite. Either women are legitimately called by God into ministry in a particular Church Body – or they are not. For… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Erika, Thank you for your reply. I find the first two sentences of your post the easier part to grasp, “Rod, It depends on what you want …” Reading posts, I am reminded of how much one’s context impact’s one’s opinion. For example, I’m completely unfamiliar with FiF–completely. My responses come out of (1) the tension (indeed the disconnect) here between the Canadian civil and ecclesiastical situations and (2) nearly four decades of living with entrenched dogmatic opposition by a conservative theological group to everything progressive that has gone down in the Canadian Church. Do I make the choice you… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

JCF wrote “To them it is not about treating some people as second class, no more than men could be considered to be treated as second class citizens because we keep refusing to allow them to get pregnant, thereby dishonoring a Creator who made all humankind in the divine image.” A sound principle in inter-faith dialogue, applicable to debates within the church, is starting with how people define themselves rather than starting with how I might choose to define them. So, we live in hope of constructive conversation. However, there are other dynamics involved. I admire, I truly admire, the… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Fr Ron Of course women are either called to the sacerdotal ministry or not. And you know that I firmly believe they are and that I do find the arguments of those who do not believe so to be quite weak. On the other hand, neither you nor I can ever conclusive prove God’s will, and in true Christian humility we could allow others to hold a different view. What that means for how the church governs itself is, as I said, a different issue and my views on special provisions are hopelessly mixed. If there is any fault at… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Rod You are, of course, in the enviable position of being in a church where you no longer have to “understand” the traditionalists’ views. But they are part of my church in England, they were part of the church when I joined it, and although I don’t agree with their thinking, wishing them away isn’t going to get me anywhere. I find them a lot friendlier than the anti-gay brigade (of course, many are both, I know that!), because they are happy to live in a segregated ghetto in the church and let the rest of us get on with… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Erika, again thank you. I can’t comment on the particulars of your context, or how you propose to respond to it, because I really don’t know much about it. Again, my posts are largely cast against the context in Canada. From the context here, I can tell you that conservatives are a mixed bag, but they certainly continue to have influence. Anyone who thinks that conservatives in Canada are a rump about to fade away is mistaken. However, that is not my main concern. I’m more concerned about the about the chasm that exists between the notion of human and… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Rod “Any ethical system requires congruence. Lack of congruence between theoria and praxis results in a loss of credibility. So, we have women bishops. A male rector does not want the female diocesan to celebrate or ordain in “his” parish because it would be “confusing” or “upsetting.” I think you are still only looking at the human rights framework. In that context, you are absolutely 100% right. But if this is not about human rights, and for a sizeable number of people it isn’t, then your argument is…. incomplete? Not quite hitting the mark? And repeating that it is a… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Erika, again an engaging rejoinder. Every values system (emphasis on “every”) requires congruence in order to have integrity. The parallel existence in the same organization of two policies, one that piously purports to uphold gender equality by ordaining women and one that creates gender segregation with no go zones, is incongruous.You are correct when you re-state the obvious i.e., that there is a bifurcation between the premises of traditionalist Anglo-catholic theology and human and civil rights frameworks. The fact is, there is a bifurcation. It cannot be resolved. One has to choose. I choose the ground of human and civil… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“They are saying that God does not enable them and that they are therefore in a very real way simply not ordained. For these people, being asked to accept a woman priest is like being asked to accept lay presidency, lay confirmations, lay everything.” – Erika, on Wednesday – But, Erika, should we stand by and accept their theory – that women already ordained by the Church are not (validly and institutionally) ordained. To do that would be to say that. It would be, for us at least, saying that ‘black is white’ simply because it would be convenient for… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

“And no, I think Mark and you misunderstand me if you think that I believe there will be a breakthrough of the liberal view and that all will suddenly smilingly agree. These people will never agree. Can we not live with that? Must we win at all cost to the point where dissent is not tolerated? Why?” No. That’s not what I think you think. You misunderstand me if you thought that’s what I was saying. Of course we can live with dissent. We’ve done it for centuries. Rome doesn’t agree with us. The various EO churches don’t agree with… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

In the end, given the depressing news out of Mexico, Williams – and Anglicanism’s – utter failure to be true to conviction, the rise of a Christian fundamentalism with all the marks of a Taliban, and the incredible, dull-witted, dazed regurgitating of the same issues, I can only assume that the religion has become committed only to serving and protecting itself in its numerous little tribes – Roman, EO, Anglican – and my *best* advice is now this – run. Run from Christianity and cling to Christ. Find your own way and make your own communities and never – NEVER… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Fr Ron and Rod So what you’re really saying is that, although there are several possible views on this, we have to insist that only our own has any standing at all in the church and this although until about 5 minutes ago we (as a church) have given those who think differently the impression that we were able to make room for them, to the extent that we are even now still ordaining those who who hold those views. I have to accept your view on this. I don’t share it. I believe that unless opposing views are actually… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Erika, We have different priorities. My priority is the theoretical basis for gender equality. How traditionalists are accommodated is secondary. Let me throw out an analogy. I embrace God as creator. I appreciate how First Nations Christians refer to the Creator with a sense of intimacy. However,I accept the theory of evolution as the best explanation for all the data. I read Genesis as a myth. I reject creationism as mistaken. So, in reflecting theologically, my task is take seriously the mythology of Genesis, John’s Prologue, St. John the Divine in Revelation. But,I have to accept The theory of Evolution… Read more »

tommiaquinas
Guest
tommiaquinas

“And if dissidents from this practical reality see things differently, the Church they put their trust in has failed them, and they need, for the sake of their own sanity, need to be elsewhere. This is not just a matter of ‘Being Nice’ – for which we Anglicans have long been compromised – it really is a matter of ‘?Faith and Order’, which the opponents of women clergy themselves believe.” Then, Father, give them the means of getting out with honour and integrity. With buildings, congregations and legacies to form a new province, or swim the Tiber. Except that view… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Rod I think you still misunderstand me when you question why I put “human rights” in quotation marks. I’ll say it again – while it is (also) a human rights issue for me, it is not one for FiF. You can repeat that it is one for you and for Canada and for whoever else you like until you’re blue in the face. It will not make it a human rights issue for FiF. I really don’t understand why you find that so hard to comprehend. If I jumped up and down and insisted that men not getting pregnant is… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Erika wrote “Rod…You can repeat that …..until you’re blue in the face. It will not make it a human rights issue for FiF. I really don’t understand why you find that so hard to comprehend.” But, Erika, I do comprehend it. I understand perfectly that these guys you are talking about don’t see it as a human rights/civil rights issue. I get it. Dig? What you fail to comprehend is that I–don’t– care! I’m not interested in accommodating them as a prerequisite to the church developing a gender policy. I’m focused on the underpinnings of a human rights theology that… Read more »

Savi H
Guest
Savi H

Erika, the provision for those objecting to women’s ordination – whether because they are a certain kind of Anglo-Catholic or they believe in male headship – is quite generous under the Revision Committee’s proposals. In contrast, for most of my life there was no provision at all for women in the Church of England called to the priesthood or worshippers who felt that an all-male priesthood was not in line with their Christian beliefs. However, attempts to go to great lengths to accommodate those opposed to women’s ordination, as at Blackburn Cathedral, when worshippers were offered separate ‘untainted’ bread when… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“Remember,(Erika,) being human is logically and actually prior to being a Christian. While you and I are batting around the relative merits of provisions for patriarchs, the big world outside the church tends to see organized religion as an obstacle to peace, justice and equality in the world.” – Rod Gillis, on Thursday – This is precisely what I feel about the necessity of a defence of the ‘liberal position’ re the ordination of women on this blog. – That, while we argue the ‘nicety’ of accommodating the anti-women faction in the Church, the World is aghast at the idea… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Savi I absolutely agree that the provision is generous. And, to be honest, I have a number of objections to any special provisions and am hopelessly torn on the issue, and the bizarre idea of untainted bread is one of them. But I can’t just dismiss people the way they’re being dismissed here and simply shout “me and I my view only”. Maybe it’s because I live in a country that teaches children about kilometres in school but still signposts in miles, where you buy petrol by the litre but your cars travel miles per gallon. There’s a willingness to… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Erika: It is possible…though perhaps difficult…to convert Km to miles and liters to gallons. I think it is impossible, however, to convert duly consecrated bishops into something less than that. And I have to wonder just who in this discussion is not willing to live and let live. After all, it’s not the majority who support women’s ordination and consecration who are asking for special consideration, who are saying–in American parlance–“my way or the highway”. It is one thing to say “I will never accept a woman as my priest or bishop”…fine, there are many excellent male priests and bishops… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“I believe that unless opposing views are actually harmful (like the opposition to recognising lgbt people as equal is), any liberal person should be willing and able to make room for them.” – Erika Baker, on Thursday – Erika, I honestly do wonder why you have a special concern for those who identify with the rights of Gay people, while yet denying the same concern for the cause of Women in Ministry? Both causes are profoundly ontological and also theological, and both demand the integrity of the Church to recognise them as factors present in creation. One of these causes… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Pat “It is possible…though perhaps difficult…to convert Km to miles and liters to gallons. I think it is impossible, however, to convert duly consecrated bishops into something less than that.” Love that comment! Thanks for the smile! And I absolutely agree with your comments. Accommodation is only possible when there is a will to compromise on both sides, and this “I will never accept a male bishop who thinks a woman can be a priest” is one of those complete pieces of nonsense that cannot be accomodated. To be fair, when I asked on TA recently who actually does believe… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Fr Ron “Erika, I honestly do wonder why you have a special concern for those who identify with the rights of Gay people, while yet denying the same concern for the cause of Women in Ministry?” Because in practice, gay people are not being treated as equal in any part of the church. We are considered to be immoral, of lesser value and intrinsically unacceptable to God. We are not officially allowed to fulfil any functions in the church and many parishes would be happy if we didn’t exist at all. Our relationships are not blessed unless in secret. Also… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“They are seeking to minister in a church which has always accepted the integrity of priests who oppose women priests, that has made special provisions for them and has give no indication that these might come to an end at some time, and that even today still ordains men who do not believe in women priests.” This last is perhaps the biggest sticking point–how do you honestly seek to be ordained into an order of priests when you refuse to believe that a significant percentage of your fellow ordinands are really priests? This is where the church (and I count… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“They are seeking to minister in a church which has always accepted the integrity of priests who oppose women priests, that has made special provisions for them and has give no indication that these might come to an end at some time, and that even today still ordains men who do not believe in women priests.” – Erika Baker on Friday – One of the problems I find with your argument here, Erika, is that some of the most vociferous of the anti-women clergy are people who were ordained after the provision was made for the Ordination of Women in… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Re, Pat O’Neill, sticking point post of 3:46 pm,
Bravo, well said! Applicable in Canada too in some quarters.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Pat
“–if a prospective priest cannot vow that he will accept all those ordained by the church as priests just like himself, he should not be acceptable to receive orders.”

Yes, those special provisions should only ever have applied to people who were already priests at the time the first woman was ordained and they should have been time limited until the last of those priests had retired.

I am still astonished that this didn’t happen and I still don’t understand why it’s not being discussed again now.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Erika wrote ” Rod – with an “I-don’t-care” view about anything that might not agree with your ideas, why do you bother talking to others at all?” Erika, I don’t think logic is your strong suit. To repeat and reiterate, I “do not care” that sexists don’t understand the ordination of women as a gender equality issue.You cannot conclude from that that I do not care about “anything that might not agree with my ideas”. Participants to a debate can arrive at an impasse and reach a deadlock. There is an impasse between the position I’m advocating and the position… Read more »

William Tighe
Guest
William Tighe

Erika Baker wrote: “Yes, those special provisions should only ever have applied to people who were already priests at the time the first woman was ordained and they should have been time limited until the last of those priests had retired. I am still astonished that this didn’t happen and I still don’t understand why it’s not being discussed again now.” Is it really so surprising? If any such thing has been attempted than, the WO measure WOULD NOT HAVE PASSED. It’s as simple as that: the “entryist” proponents, or a sufficient number of them, were willing to “promise anything”… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Rod
Maybe I just come from a different place than you. Once I understand what those I disagree with truly mean, and once I konw that it’s not actually harmful, I tend to want to respect their position and accommodate it as far as possible without given up my own.
To me, that’s kind of what life is about.

It has nothing to do with logic, it has more to do with how you respond to others once you understand them.

We have to agree to differ regarding appropriate responses.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Fr Ron “Logic tells us that this double-mindedness on the part of the Church of England – which brought about the incidence of a new style of Episcopi Vagantes into it’s structures – was un-catholic to say the very least.” Yes, I agree. But again, the question now is one of interpretation. FiF would have agreed with your assessment but they so wanted to remain part of the CoE that they were able to compromise as long as they did not have to do so within their own parishes. You could, if you were so minded, see it as a… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

William Yes, thank you. I can see that it was utilitarian to make provisions appear permanent. Sadly, that also contained the seeds for the current malaise. If a church truly believes that the Spirit is calling it into a new direction it should simply follow that call. Doing what it can not to alienate existing priests is one thing, but saying that there are 2 differnt ways of looking at the issue is almost denying the perceived call. The real problem is that the split ministry was already un-catholic and not traditional. Codifying it even more now will not restore… Read more »

William Tighe
Guest
William Tighe

Erika Baker, To amplify what I wrote previously, the FIF/UK folks in England (as, earlier, the ECM-ESA-FIF/NA in the United States until 1989) probably accepted the honeyed assurances, false tho’ they have proven to be, that WO was in “a process of reception” in the “wider Church” that might just as well end in its rejection as in its acceptance. Of course, if they really did so, than they were remarkably blind to how such “assurances” were actually playing out amongst American and Canadian Anglicans by 1992/3, as well as among Swedish Lutherans — but who can really blame Christian… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

W. Tighe’s verbose obsession with antiquarianism is laughable. Your word salad isn’t fooling anybody Tighe. I have two questions for you. (1) What part of the Anglican communion do you belong to? and (2) What is your evaluation of views of Dr. King “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men [sic]are created equal.” ?