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June 19, 2006



Hi Happy Feminist-

You've touched on an important point- I think many women liken the male only priesthood to a slap in the face, almost like saying "you're not good enough for this vocation". While I think that response is understandable, I don't think that's what it is meant as.

I'm probably going to make a botch of explaining further, but here goes- not being able to say mass does not make you less of a Catholic, or less of a person. Most men are not called to be priests. Although my gender does not present a hinderance to ordination, much else does- my desire to have a family, my current profession, etc. I have been effectively excluded from this sacrament, despite my being male.

I think I've probably hijacked this thread enough- the Episcopalians have, as far as I can tell, acted appropriately within their ecclesiastic system of elections, so I offer Bp. Schori my congratulations, and well wishes. Just in case she was looking for them:-)

Lynn Gazis-Sax

Is it really 'progressive' to continue to press further and cause disunity?

Is it really 'progressive' to alientate other churches (esp Catholic)?

I don't get it. The ECUSA has been ordaining women priests since 1976. They've been ordaining women bishops since Barbara Harris was consecrated as a bishop in 1989 (New Zealand got a woman bishop the same year). A majority of Anglican provinces now ordain women, and eleven women bishops attended the 1998 Lambeth (see http://www.religioustolerance.org/femclrg3.htm). Sure, having a woman Presiding Bishop is a first, and an important one - but hasn't the bridge about alienating Catholics long since been crossed?

The Gonzman

but hasn't the bridge about alienating Catholics long since been crossed?

I know that I have been witness to many Anglicans "swimming the Tiber" in recent years, having given up on ECUSA as being irredeemably modernist, just as many people left The RCC when HH Benedict XVI became Pope, because they saw that as the triumph of a return to older tradition they were hoping to be excised from the Church after JPII's pontificate.

It took me a while to leave my old Protestant denomination years ago, even though it and I didn't believe anything together; likewise, it took me a long time to abandon my atheism. People tend to grow sentimentally attached to things that they identify with in their younger years, and often have a hard time moving out of their comfort zone.

The Happy Feminist

Thanks Mike and Sam for your explanations. In one sense, it is none of my business since I have never been part of a denomination that does not ordain women. In another sense, it never fails to impress me that there still exist denominations that foreclose women from administering the sacraments. Regardless of the justifications for it, it always strikes me as a poignant reminder of how little we women have been thought of throughout history and in many quarters today.


Perhaps I should not comment on this, being raised in the comfortable protestant Luthernism in my youth, and now firmly anti-Christian in my current life BUT...

You're missing a big point. It isn't that the church "won't let" women take certain roles; in the theologies that don't ordain women, the argument is that women CAN'T take those roles. A good parallel is marriage. The issue isn't that my wife won't let me bear children; it's that I can't. It's by being part of the marriage that I can have children--the question of "why do you want to be married if your wife won't let you fill the most important role in the marriage" is incoherent to the point of being nonsensical.

Guys cannot bear children (with the current technology). It is physically impossible. But as far as I can tell, there's nothing the requires an XY chromosome to lead or interpret theology or hand people dried crackers. So I don't see the "Can't" in being a female-leader


I have always strongly rejected the idea that since women can't be priests (or pastors or whatever) this means that they are somehow "little thought of", oppressed and have no power. This does not square with my experience either of the Anglican or the Pentecostal churches, where women have Clout with a capital "C". Because of the gender gap in many churches, women wield considerable power, even when excluded from holy orders. Offend the President of the AAW in an Anglican Church, or the women who set out the coffee, run the Sunday School and the Outreach Programme, and see how long you last. Some of the women who have been "merely lay-people" make Mrs. Rachel Lynde look like Mary Poppins. They are tough. And you annoy them at your peril, as many pastors have found out the hard way. :-)

The Happy Feminist

Sorry -- not buying. I don't doubt that women in traditionalist churches are tough (the toughest woman I ever met was herself an adamant opponent of women's ordination) and I don't doubt that they are respected. But whoever made the rules, whether God or man, thought of women as "less than." And it's tough for me how, say, children brought up in these churches don't take away a message of women being "less than" when there is no role of equivalent importance for women in the church.

But I should shut up because it really isn't my fight.


Well, that depends on what you think a "role of equivalent importance" is. Obviously we have different definitions of importance.


I find, Hugo, that progressives seem invariably convinced that prejudice and perhaps patriarchy motivate anyone who objects to women's ordination. That's not true, however, of those people I know who oppose WO; I've never found them to be prejudiced, much less patriarchal or (for heaven's sake -- although, yes, I know you're not the one saying this, Hugo) "sexist trogolodytes" in the least. Their convictions are based primarily on Scripture and tradition. Additionally, over the past few general conventions, I've had the pleasure of working with godly, thoughtful, and highly intelligent laywomen from traditional Anglo-Catholic dioceses, and they love their bishops and don't support WO themselves.

Progressives really don't seem to be able to grasp that many Christians are motivated in their beliefs on this issue by their understanding of Scripture and tradition. They never hesitate to bring up the "sexist troglodyte" charge seemingly because they cannot conceive of any other motivating factor. (While it's always possible that some do understand this but want to attack anyway, I don't like to assume false motives of anyone.)

The minefield for orthodox people that you outline really is not there, Hugo. Why? Well, speaking out of my own experience, I have met few evangelicals in TEC (to use the new acronym)who disagree with women's ordination (although I do know several Episcopal evangelical women who used to be strong proponents of WO and now oppose it because they feel it has produced only bitter fruit). There's by-and-large a considerable difference between evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics on this issue ... but not enough to break communion between us.

Speaking personally, I agree with John in that I have the utmost respect and admiration for Bishop Keith Ackerman. He is a man of true godliness who radiates humility and holiness, and who with his Franciscan way of life advocates simplicity. Stories that I have heard suggest that he is much derided among others in leadership in TEC, and that grieves me. He is a man who is strongly dedicated to Christ and his church, and I know that many in the Diocese of Quincy love him and consider him to be an absolutely incredible bishop. He is also very warmhearted; I spoke with him for about five seconds at the last convention (my first time meeting him, and my only one prior to this convention), and when I approached him last week, he greeted me with a huge bear hug (no mean feat for a man who is so short).

Anyway, for such people, experience and an easing of any discomfort won't cause them to change, Hugo. Their convictions are far too strong for that; it would take a different understanding of (at the least) Scripture and tradition for them to change.

Peace of Christ,

Chris T.

Chip, I would respond to your comment by saying that being not-sexist is not a passive thing. One doesn't become not-sexist by passively agreeing that women should have this or that right. It is an active process, just as respect for men is an active process. We display our respect for others by being actively self-critical of our attitudes toward them.

In the case of women's ordination, opponents who are not at least willing to be self-critical are sexist because they passively accept the sexist status quo.

What some of the conservatives above have been trying to get at, especially through the marriage metaphor, is the idea that just as men are physically incapable of bearing children, women are spiritually incapable of consecrating the bread and wine during the Eucharist. However, it only takes a single example to disprove this general rule -- just one woman who is truly spiritually capable. And it is the experience of literally millions of people that women ARE spiritually capable of celebrating the Eucharist.

For me, that's really the end of the argument. I grew up in the Missouri Synod and definitely DO understand that opponents of WO ground their beliefs in Scripture, because I used to be one of those people. But I have also been to Mass with a woman celebrant and taken in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the bread and wine. That was years ago. I am (as are many people, thankfully) incapable of blaspheming the Spirit anymore by proclaiming women spiritually deficient for Holy Orders. That active process of being self-critical and searching out (in this case) the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of others is what defeats sexism, not a passive attitude.


"Women are spiritually incapable of consecrating the bread and wine during the Eucharist."

I've never heard the word "incapable" used before, Chris. I have heard those who find WO unscriptural stress the different roles of males and females as given in Scripture. Consequently, from that POV, it does not matter at all that a woman can say the words of consecration. Experience doesn't matter; it's a scriptural/traditional issue for our Anglo-Catholic brothers and sisters, grounded in an understanding of passages in 2 Timothy and other biblical books, and the tradition of the church. I doubt that those you heard use the word "incapable" mean the term in the sense of not being able to perform the physical actions or consecration. Rather, I would expect they meant it in the sense of it not being permissible in Scripture and not supported by tradition.

It might help to think about this in comparison with same-sex blessings. Susan Russell and others like to stress the love, fidelity, and other "gospel values" that you can see in some same-sex unions. But most of us on the orthodox don't doubt that such relationships can be loving, caring, and non-exploitative. That's not our issue; the motivating factor for us is Scripture's boundaries of blessing such relationships to one man and one woman in marriage. For us to change our position, it's not experience that would make a difference -- it would have to be a different understanding of Scripture and tradition. We can have wonderful experiences with same-sex couples until the cows come home (and almost all of us can point to gays and lesbians who we love and respect), but because we don't give the same weight to experience that progressives do, and give Scripture greater authority than most progressives do, they won't change our stance.

Peace of Christ to you,


Ick, Timmothy...if ever was a book I wish was stricken from the Bible, that be it along with anything Paul ever said. Well, probably Job too. And Hosea. And Leviticus. And...screw it, I'll keep Mark, John, and the Sermon on the Mount and ignore everything else.

The point of the matter is, no matter HOW conservative you are, you still pick and choose from the Bible. You have to, there are too many contridictions for it to be the exact or inspired, literal word of god.

I bet people who firmly believe in Timothy 1 2:11-15 still will ignore Timothy 1 6:17, if it suited them. (I'm pulling this out of The King James Version, fyi).

Likewise, if people agree with Leviticus 18:21 I'll bet they still ignore Leviticus 11 food laws. So, everyone picks and chooses which parts of the Bible they wish to practice. The question is: are what you picking moral? Obviously, morality doesn't come from the Bible, it comes from our own experiences.

WAY OT, but reading Leviticus again (and now I feel unclean and need to boil myself) and seeing all of the "unclean" laws about women and their period I wonder: did Aaron and Moses write those laws because blood squicked them out, or did their wives pressure them to say that stuff so they could get some alone time? (Oh honey, I'd love to lie with you tonight, but ah...I'm unclean and need to go to the unclean tent).

The Gonzman

In fact, we don't ignore it; but we regard it as an obligation of the individual and not something that should be demanded of them at swordpoint - or gunpoint.

A lot of us also follow the exhortation in Matthew 6:1-4 to not give publicly, but quietly, and don't even claim it on our taxes.

Chris T.

Chip, to be clear, I used the phrase "spiritually incapable." That is, the argument goes that ordination will not take if a bishop tries to ordain a woman, and/or nothing will happen if she then tries to consecrate the Eucharist, simply because she is a woman.

And I'm not telling you that I've sat in a sanctuary and listened to a woman speak some words. I'm telling you that I have gone to a table presided over by a woman and taken in the real body and blood of the risen Christ. Women can and do actually consecrate the Eucharist (not just pronounce some words), and that proves the anti-WO folks wrong. If they want to keep on blaspheming against the work of the Holy Spirit, they're welcome to, but the fact remains that God made women as capable of being priests as men.

The Gonzman

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the unforgivable sin which will land people in Hell, with no repentance possible in this life, and no salvation. (“Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” Mark 3:28, 29).It also means that you yourself are consigning to hell people who have followed that tradition for 2000 years, denying the Holy Spirit's power to redeem them.

Sure you want to use that, Chris?

Chris T.

I'm not consigning anyone to anything -- it's not my place, but God's, to judge. But I don't know what else to call it when someone says God is not working where God is working, except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

The Gonzman

Well, gosh, I guess all those over the top pieces of rhetoric from left-types about "Jerry Falwell" and other boogeymen "consigning people to Hell" are out the window, then.

The scripture itself refers to those who, upon seeing Jesus cast out demons, claim that he does it not by God's power, but it is by Satan's power that it is done - a much higher bar than merely saying someone is not properly ordained, and the sacraments they administer are invalid.

Hmm - but those who deny women ordination are damned, so by that logic their power to ordain cannot possibly come from God, so it must come from Satan - interesting argument could be made there, methinks...

Well, you've outdone Robertson, Falwell, and that lot in one thing, at least. Even they agree that homosexuals and others they classify as unrepentant sinners can be saved if they repent. And they are routinely excoriated for hateful speech.

Hmm. Congratulations. Rather exclusive club you've joined there. Even Pat and Jerry can't make the grade for that kind of rhetoric.

Chris T.

Again, I do not have the right either way to judge the eternal state of someone's soul.

But I do not have a literalist interpretation of Scripture. If you read my blog, you'll see that I have a fairly expansive understanding of God's grace that would suggest even blasphemy against the Spirit is forgiven by God.

But it is a pretty dangerous position to put oneself in, regardless.


Chris, while I may not have been clear, I did understand your point about spiritual incapability. I still have not myself encountered that argument per se. I HAVE heard argument made about such ordinations (though not eucharistic consecrations) being invalid, but on the basis of Scripture and tradition, as noted earlier. I have never heard/read anyone argue that women are "spiritually incapable," or any other kind of "incapable" for that matter. (That's not to say that such an argument isn't out there, but that I haven't seen it.) Are those their words, or your summary of their argument? The people I know who believe that women's ordination are unscriptural or untraditional would not use the description "spiritually incapable." They would instead talk about the boundaries that Scripture provides and talk about how WO violates the Vincentian canon. The ones I know who take this POV are not/would not be persuaded on the basis of experience, because they hold Scripture and tradition in higher esteem.

Peace of Christ,

Barbara Preuninger

I don't understand the whole concern about tradition. In fact, didn't Jesus promote defying tradition when it stood in the way of doing the right thing? The parable of the Good Samaritan is pretty famous. Didn't those Pharisees pass by the bleeding man because they were sticking to scripture/tradition? And then the "enemy" (i.e. Samaritan) actually did the right thing and helped? Do you think Jesus would accept the argument that "even though our immediate experience here is telling us that this guy needs help, God is clearly telling us (through scripture and tradition) that we should pass him by."

Here's a hint: The right thing to do is to treat women as spiritual equals.
Women and men ARE spiritual equals because our souls have no sex (only our bodies do), and God is not male or female.

You know what gives me the most doubt about the claims against WO? It's that I've read very similar arguments from Buddhist monks about why women can't participate at the same level as the men. Oh, and from Orthodox Jews and from fundamentalist Muslims too. It's simply amazing how God is so consistent on that particular message to all the worlds religions!


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