Saturday, 7 June 2008

Women Removed from Clergy?

A little while back I wrote an imaginative piece which was to give the flavour of GAFCON and its aims accurate to what it presents itself and what those close to it were expressing as intentions.

Now read this, and ask if it is real or not?

The Church had just taken a decision at its General Council to discontinue the ordination of women to the Preachers - a similar decision having been taken in relation to ministry a few years ago. I visited one church, and I preached in another church where the last woman in pastoral charge is minister. She is hugely respected by her colleagues of all denominations and is greatly loved by her congregation. But she retires shortly. She has fought a lonely battle in defence of her calling and that of other women. One of the saddest moments in my year was when I asked why the church had taken this decision. Was it a growing theological conservatism? 'No,' I was told. 'It is worse than that. It is about purifying the church.' As a woman whose call to ministry has been confirmed by the church that has since called me to be its Chief Preacher, I found that very hard to hear and my heart went out to the women in the Church, ordinary, everyday women who are the backbone of any congregation, and who in their conversations with me were so clearly hurt by the decision of their General Council. And it goes out too to those men whom I met who also struggle with this decision.

The Chief Overseer has indicated to me that the decision taken at the Council was not about the ordination of women to the Preachers but about shifting the locus for decision-making about governance to the centre. He believes the Area Councils will not be willing to cede any more power to the centre and that the status quo will persist, including the practice of ordination of women to the Preachers. He believes that the Church is emerging from a period of reactionary conservatism into a more open position. This is clearly not a straightforward journey, given the messages I was receiving. It is important that we give supportive encouragement to the Church as it makes this journey...

Is it real or a fake: what it could be like if decisions were reversed?

It is real. Only the details have been removed. It is about the Presbyterian Church in Australia. The second paragraph is a note on the website beyond the speech. For Preachers read Eldership, which means, roughly, Preacher (or Reader), and then there are ordained ministers of Word and Sacrament. The first woman elder in the Church of Scotland was ordained on 19 June 1966. After an appeal and open letter to the 1967 General Assembly, the first woman to be ordained for Word and Sacrament in the Church of Scotland was in 1969 with the first woman minister of a parish taking office in 1972.

The address that included the above (with place details) was made by the Very Revd. Sheilagh Kesting in her end of year Moderatorial Address to the Church of Scotland General Assembly in May this year. She was the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 2007-2008.

Remember Rowan Williams, back in November 2006 in an interview with the Catholic Herald newspaper, when he said he did not think women priests had "transformed or renewed the Church in spectacular ways" nor had they "corrupted or ruined it"? Of course, he apologised, but with ongoing schisms likely to enlarge there could well be a rowing back of such progress in some separated quarters and indeed much continuing resistance to further progress in the Church of England towards a full and equal ministry.

1 comment:

Doorman-Priest said...

I find that deeply disturbing.