Monday, January 15, 2007

Anglican Communion Panel of Reference: traditionalist Episcopalians should be allowed to not accept women priests in violation of Episcopal Church canon laws
Me: who the hell do they think they are?

This has been in the news for a few days already. There are 3 dioceses in the Episcopal Church that do not ordain women, out of 110 (needless to say, those 3 are also upset over the consecration of LGBT clergy and bishops, as are some churches and dioceses that do ordain women). In 1974, the Episcopal Church allowed women to be ordained, but did not require all dioceses to ordain them. Many dioceses did proceed to ordain women. Barbara Harris was consecrated suffragan (assisting) bishop of Washington in 1989.

In 1997, the Episcopal Church modified its laws to state that “no one shall be denied access to the ordination process in any parish or diocese" on account of their gender. The Diocese of Fort Worth, under Bishop Jack Iker, was one of the hold-outs. In 1996, he initiated what his diocese calls the "Dallas Plan," which transfers potential female clergy candidates to a neighboring diocese.

Bp. Iker was concerned that he could potentially be deposed for refusing to ordain women, and appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who set up the aforementioned panel of reference. That panel in fact praised the Dallas Plan, stating that "non-acceptance" of women's ministry as a "recognized theological position." It asked the Episcopal Church to clarify its canon laws, and protect the rights of conscience of those who don't accept women's ministry.

I'm not going to mince words. There was a time when slavery was a "recognized theological position." That did not make slavery any less wrong, or the supporting theological position any less flawed.

The Panel of Reference has no binding authority on the Episcopal Church; they only can make recommendations, and that's the way Anglican polity works. Still, we should take their recommendations seriously. We should prayerfully consider clarifying our position by deposing Bishop Iker; the guy's probably going to leave anyway because he opposes the consecration of +Gene Robinson and other (gasp!!) homosexual clergy and bishops. Might as well get him out now.

This church ordains women. If Bishop Iker's conscience leads him to refuse women into the ordained ministry, then this is not the church for him. He can affiliate with any one of the small breakaway churches that have left over the ordination of women controversy, or over the homosexuality controversy. If he wants, he can affiliate with one of the foreign bishops who are trying to set up "missions" in the US; those are against traditional Anglican practice, but he can chance it if he wants to.

The canons are pretty clear: no one to be denied access to ordained ministry solely because of gender. We can and should debate whether Bp Iker's Dallas Plan is adequate. I could be wrong, but it does not seem adequate to me. If I am a woman with a call to the priesthood residing in Fort Worth, am I to journey all the way to Dallas to consult a discernment committee, go before a standing committee, and see the bishop of Dallas? It's about 33 miles each way. I would like to hear from people on the ground before making a judgment, but it could be that Bp. Iker's plan was subconsciously (or consciously!) intended as an obstacle for women. It smacks of a disingenuous ploy. I do not like it. If the rest of the church agrees with me, then let's show Iker the door.

Isn't it sad? This church waffled on the issue of slavery, possibly because we've historically been a church of the rich and privileged. There was no huge debate and we did not split. We quietly went our way. It's a stain on our record and an affront to God. Now, it's the 21st century, and there are still dioceses that don't allow women to be ordained. And this isn't exactly a new thing either. Other denominations, like the Quakers and Unitarians, have had female leaders since the 19th century.

In fact, there is good evidence that women played prominent leadership roles in the early church. There are questions as to the authenticity of Paul's letters to Timothy; in 1 Timothy 2:12 he says he does not suffer a woman to teach a man, which is one of the passagse the traditionalists use. These books, as well as some others, may have been written after his death and attributed to him, in the same way that Plato's writings about Socrates may or may not contain Socrates' actual words. Paul may have had writings against female leaders attributed to him in order to justify the deteriorating attitudes towards women in the early church.

After Metro Detroit's Council of Baptist Pastors voted to allow women on the council, the Rev. Johnny Ray Young, pastor of The Greater St. John Missionary Baptist Church, resigned. He commented: "After 2,000 years, all of sudden God is wrong -- I don't buy that." But no, God has always been right. It's Young, Iker, and people like them who have been wrong for over 2,000 years, only they were too blind and arrogant to admit it. And some still are.

News article on the Telegraph (UK):

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