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Women Priests

women should keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. But if they want to learn anything, they should ask their husbands at home. For it is improper for a woman to speak in the church.1 Corinthians 14:34-35

Let a woman learn in silence, in all subjection.   And I do not allow a woman to teach nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in silence.1 Timothy 2:11-12

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Women reflect on 25 years in Episcopal priesthood


episcopal priests
Members of the "Philadelphia 11" reunite to celebrate their years as female Episcopal priests

July 30, 1999
Web posted at: 5:49 p.m. EDT (2149 GMT)

By Deborah Feyerick

PHILADELPHIA (CNN) -- Twenty-five years ago, Nancy Wittig began her life as a priest with an act of defiance against her church.

"There was a sense of fear as to what would be said," said Wittig. "We knew there would be objections."

Facing the threat of excommunication, Wittig and 10 other women defied the Anglican communion and presented themselves to three bishops in Philadelphia who also dared challenge a ban on women priests.

In that unauthorized ceremony on July 29, 1974, at the Church of the Advocate, the group known as the Philadelphia 11 became the first women ordained as Episcopal priests.

"It was very difficult to go against the patriarchy and the church we loved, but there was a sense of holy outrage that the church was preaching one thing and living another," said Wittig.

A quarter of a century later, nine of the original 11 women reunited Thursday at the crumbling North Philadelphia church to celebrate the sacred rebellion that became a catalyst for change.

"They indeed were prophets," John Peterson, secretary general of the Anglican Church said. "It takes prophets to do what they did."


1,800 women now ordained


The Philadelphia 11 became role models to women like Barbara Crafton, who is now a priest in New York City.

"It was an act of civil disobedience that needed to happen," Craft said. "It was not the first, and it's proved not to be the last.

The church did not recognize female priests until 1977. Since then an estimated 1,800 women have been ordained. Women now make up 14 percent of the Episcopal clergy.

But blazing the trail was not without sacrifice.

Of the 11 ordained back then, Wittig is the only one still in parish ministry. And it remains a rarity for women to serve a large congregation.

Even so, these priests believe in their call and say the struggle has been worthwhile.

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mcfadden.jpg (41168 bytes)

While the number of men who are ordained as priests in the Episcopal Church dropped by almost two thirds since women priests were ordained, it is notable that the total number of Episcopal priests who were ordained was 72.4% higher before women priests were ordained than it is today.  If the current trend continues, there will be no men priests by the year 2009 and there will be no women priests by the year 2001.

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#1086 - Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) - 17 January 1997



(CT) Ordinations of the first women priests in the Church in Wales took place last weekend. Services took place in the Cathedrals of St Asaph, Bangor, St David's, Monmouth and Llandaff on Saturday 11 January, and in St Asaph's (a second service) again and Brecon on 12 January. A total of 64 women were ordained priests over the weekend with more ordinations later in the month.

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'Are Anglican Women Priests being Bullied and Harassed?'

My reaction to the recent report in a number of national newspapers, 'Are Anglican Women Priests being Bullied and Harassed?' was one of sadness. If indeed women priests are being abused, as is alleged, by male clergy, then that is a cause for great concern.

According to the reports 'up to three quarters of women priests surveyed are said to have experienced problems with bullying, harassment or isolation'. But of the 2,000 ordained women in the Church of England, only 107 from six dioceses responded to a questionnaire.

Nonetheless, every one incident of abuse of any sort is one too many. As Director of Womens Ministry in the Ely Diocese, I have to say that I know of no evidence that would suggest any of the women clergy in this diocese have been subjected to forms of abuse such as this report shows, although it is not impossible that some have on occasions met up with difficulties in relationships with male colleagues. Certainly I would support the production of a Code of Conduct which attempted to spell out what constituted good and bad behaviour in cross-gender clergy relationships.

What saddens me most about this report is that once again it is bad news that gets the headlines, and that women priests are cast in the role of victim. The truth we experience in the Ely diocese, is that the 43 ordained women currently in post, are making a significant contribution to the life, growth and witness of the church and its ministry, and that really is Good News!

Canon Christine Farrington


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Women's Ministries


      In the Anglican Communion, there are still 10 Provinces (of 35) which do not ordain women as priests and three about which information is not available:*

No Women's Ordination Central Africa
Jerusalem & Middle East
Papua New Guinea
Southeast Asia

Deacons OnlyIndian Ocean
Southern Cone

Deacons and PriestsAustralia
Hong Kong
West Africa
West Indies

Deacons, Priests, BishopsBrazil
Central America
New Zealand
Southern Africa
United States

Status UnknownCongo

*From the Blue Book Report to the 73rd General Convention of the Committee on the Status of Women/Executive Council, 2000. Chart prepared by the Rev. Canon John L. Peterson, Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council.


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The Second Reformation, Really?
By John M. Brown

"God and Women: A Second Reformation Sweeps Christianity" (Time, Nov. 23, 1992). The article on pages 52-58, entitled "The Second Reformation," is a report on what is currently underway in several major Protestant denominations regarding the role of women. All quotes that follow are from the article.

Not since King Henry VIII broke with the papacy 458 years ago has the normally decorous Church of England known such passion as it did last week, when it swept away by a margin of two votes the rule that only men may serve as Anglican priests (p. 53).

According to the report, the Church of England (known in the U.S. as the Episcopal Church) is embroiled in controversy over the role of women. Division is threatened. Already in the United States the Episcopal Church has ordained three women bishops, and so temperatures rise!

Note the reason the Anglican Church will allow women priests. They do not say, "We have examined the Scriptures and find this is as it ought to be." Rather, in a close election (a margin of only two votes) the old prohibition was "swept away." From where, then, comes doctrine and practice? Not from the Scriptures but from politicking to see which "side" can get the most votes. One astute Episcopal lady, saying she would leave in protest, makes this observation:

I have become more and more disillusioned with the Church of England. Its doctrine is doubt, its creed is compromise, and its purpose appears to be ... politics. This was just the last straw (p. 53).

If religion, doctrine, and practice, are no more substantial than what can be "voted in" or "voted out," as the wind blows, then honesty would demand a change in the words of the song, "How Fin-n a Foundation."

Biblically, of course, there is no firm foundation for the Church of England (nor any other human denomination) to begin with. Structures built on sand are destined to collapse!

The story continues that certain Roman Catholic prelates are watching the developments in Anglicanism wondering what the future may hold for them:

Just as interested are the American Catholic bishops gathering in Washington. For nine years they have tried to produce a coherent document on women to straddle the demands of conservatives in Rome and of feminists in the U.S. (p.53).

It is almost with amusement that we watch this evolution. For nine years, the bishops have been engaged in formulating a statement that will appease both sides. What politics! Did they consider following a document that dealt with these matters nearly 2,000 years ago? Regarding the manuscript the bishops are creating, the reporter asserts,

The document has been diluted so thoroughly that reformers hope that the hierarchy will throw it out and start all over (p. 53).

Now that sounds like a great idea! A further suggestion: why not throw out all the creeds, manuals, theories, opinions, disciplines, and traditions of men, and just take the Bible, and it alone, as the only authority in religion? It is a matter of authority: the tide of popular opinion vs. biblical instruction.

Once the authority of God, speaking through the Scriptures, is undermined, all else is being considered:

Then there are issues that go beyond ordination. .... Words to prayers and hymns, cherished since childhood, are changing. Denominations that once would not tolerate divorced ministers now find themselves debating whether to accept avowed lesbian ones. Feminist theologians are searching for new ways of conceiving God himself - or herself - as Mother, Wisdom, Sophia, Goddess (p. 54).

Whew! Can you believe it? You've come a long way, baby!(?)!

The Church of England, the Episcopal Church, the Catholics, various Baptist groups, and others have had a vitriolic debate, dissension, and division over the role of women in the church.

Great pressure has been, and is being, put on various denominational leaders to change practices and adjust doctrines to fit various feminist groups. Thus, it becomes not a matter of "the faith" but whatever is popular, or desired, at any particular moment in time. Whichever side has greater political ability and arm-twisting skill can alter the practices to their own ends. One lady, who was a Catholic nun but wanted to "do more," decided to leave her Catholic vocation and become a Methodist minister. The article reports that she misses her Catholicism, but to be a minister was "her dream." So, her recourse was to find the "church of her choice" that would adapt to her wishes. Is the doctrine of Christ that unstable?

Some are saying that the Bible is chauvinistic; Paul is a woman-hater; the church simply reflects the antifeminist attitudes of earlier cultures. To modernize, the church must rid itself of any archaic female prohibition. Even the Pope, considered a Catholic traditionalist, has attempted to oblige, according to the article:

Examining Genesis, the Pope blames Adam and Eve equally for original sin, and says the famous curse 'your husband ... shall rule over you' is not God's will but evidence of humanity's fall into the sinful state. The Pope also declares that in marriage husbands and wives must be in equal submission to each other (p. 58).

In the same modem theology, God must not be male ("Father"); there must be no differences made between the sexes. There must be no restrictions placed upon women in their public role in the church. What does the Bible say?

In I Timothy 2:11-15, Paul writes:

Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

Let us note first what Paul prohibits. The woman is not to teach nor exercise authority over the man but to learn in silence with subjection. Silence is from the Greek word, hesuchia, meaning "quiet, tranquil" (Thayer) or "causing no disturbance, quiet, peaceable" (Vine's). Subjection is from the Greek word, hupotage, meaning "to arrange under ... to subject oneself'(Thayer). The woman is not to teach nor have authority over the man.

God's instruction regarding leadership is: Woman is not to have the authority over the man in the realm of the church or the home, for that matter (Eph. 5).

Notice the reason for the prohibition (Gen. 3: 1 19). To the woman God said, "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee" (Gen. 3:16).

Because of sin, God placed a curse upon the serpent, the man, and the woman. The woman would not be the leader in God's spiritual arrangement. In what Paul says about the woman's not taking the leadership in the church, he appeals not to culture but to the Garden of Eden - all the way back to the beginning.

We properly understand that the guilt of sin cannot be passed from one generation to the next; sin is not inherited. That is Calvinism and is as false as can be. An innocent party can experience the consequences of sin. Suppose that I murder you. Do you bear the guilt of my action, that is, are you guilty of murder? Of course not! But, would you bear any of the consequences of my action? You would be dead!

No man today bears the guilt of Adam's sin. For consequences, we must labor for our living and die physically, because of Adam's sin (Gen. 3:17-19; 1 Cor. 15:22). For consequences, ladies, God says there will be pain in child-bearing, and your husband shall rule over you (Gen. 3:16). It is a curse because of sin.

Notice again: Paul's prohibitions have not a thing on earth to do with superiority, spirituality, or culture. He goes back to Adam and Eve and speaks of the transgression. Regarding I Timothy 2:12 and I Corinthians 14:34, the article from which we have been quoting reports,

A sizable body of (Protestant) leaders hold that the commands were not universal, but related to specific first-century situations (p. 55).

Wrong! Paul appeals not to culture nor tradition, but to God's order because of his curse on humankind! It is God's arrangement, not Paul's culture or Moses'.

A reverent understanding of, and respect for, the Scriptures will forever keep godly women from assuming authority over men in God's sacred order. We will never have problems over this matter in the Lord's church as long as we follow Jehovah's standard.


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Female Bishops May Strain
Church of England's Fragile Unity

LONDON, England (CNS) -- The Church of England may soon decide to consecrate women as bishops, a move that would deepen the existing gulf between "modernizers" and traditionalists and strengthen the growth of a "church-within-a-church" made up of those opposed to the ordination of women.

A 1994 decision allowing women to become priests in Britain's established (Anglican) church was regarded by opponents - who total an estimated one-third of the church - as a serious compromise of biblical teaching. About 500 priests and many more congregants left the church, most becoming Roman Catholics. But a large core of traditionalists chose to remain in the church, forming a parallel structure called "Forward in Faith."

Approximately 1,000 Anglican parishes have expressed opposition to women's ordination and some 300 fall under the umbrella of "flying bishops," each of whom oversees a dozen or so Forward in Faith dioceses. Forward in Faith Director Stephen Parkinson Wednesday told that, following the ordination of women priests, the consecration of women bishops was an "inevitable" next step.

The subject of women as bishops will be debated at the church's General Synod next February. Parkinson noted that other Anglican provinces already have female bishops. Rather than split from the church, however, some opponents are seeking recognition of Forward in Faith congregations as a separate, non-geographical "free province" within the Church of England. They also oppose calls to liberalize the church's position on homosexuality.

Already the "free province" is larger than the autonomous Anglican provinces of Ireland and Scotland. "Parliament could make the necessary changes now [to recognize a "free province"] with a minimum of legislation," says a Forward in Faith document. "Such changes would have the advantage of freeing for mission and evangelism both parties in the present unedifying dispute. They could facilitate the appointment of women as bishops for those who wanted it. They would give to opponents of women priests and bishops a secure continuance within the church."

Parkinson said the use of words like "rebel," "schism" or "breakaway" were inappropriate. "We're not breaking away. We're looking for a re-ordering of what exists, so that we - and the church - can get on with the task we're supposed to be doing, the publication of the Gospel."

He said, "In the end, one side or the other will be proven right or wrong. If after a period of discernment, the entire church agrees on one position, those who lost the intellectual argument would have to be reconciled."

Parkinson acknowledged that there would be some who would never accept they were wrong, and who may ultimately decide to leave the church. If found to be wrong, he said, Forward in Faith would be prepared to admit it. He noted that the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the church, had recently agreed he would also be ready to concede this.

Because the church is established in England, decisions of Synod have to be passed by parliament. Given the sensitivity of the issue, Parkinson said he expected the consecration of women bishops issue to be tied up in committee, perhaps for years.

In the meantime, Forward in Faith is planning talks with Catholics and Eastern Orthodox leaders about possible future ecumenical links. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches are firmly opposed to the ordination of women.

The traditionalists wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, last week, informing him of their decision formally to approach other groups. Meanwhile the Archbishop of York, second in the church hierarchy after Carey, has indicated he will resign if the consecration of women as bishops is agreed upon. Carey addressed a meeting of some 800 traditionalists last month, calling for unity and appealing to them not to leave the church.

Since 1994, around 2,000 women have become priests. Some have reached senior positions and are frustrated that they cannot become bishops, despite the fact women serve as bishops in Anglican churches elsewhere in the world.

The most senior female cleric, Archdeacon Judith Rose, has tabled a private member's motion calling for the House of Bishops to study the theological implications of women bishops and report back. The church in the United States, which has ordained women as priests for 25 years, now reportedly denies office in the church to those who cannot accept the priestly ministry of women.

(� 1999, Maranatha Christian News Service)
(Post date: November 15, 1999)

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