years of women priests
The (Lutheran) Church of
Sweden is about to mark the fiftieth anniversary of its decision in 1958 to
ordain women as priests, and cathedrals in all of the church's thirteen dioceses
are to hold services to celebrate the anniversary.
'With our jubilee, we wish to
celebrate that the Church of Sweden is a church of equality, and that we can
deepen this conviction together in the future,' said the Revd Boel Hossjer
Sundman, the church's project manager for the commemorations.
A special celebration service
will take place at Uppsala Cathedral on 23 September at the beginning of the
denomination's governing church assembly. A seminar the previous day will focus
on church leadership in a changing world. The events will culminate with the
diocesan services on 27 September, the date in 1958 on which the Church of
Sweden took the decision to open its priesthood to women.
The first three women ordained
on 10 April 1960 were Elisabeth Djurle, Ingrid Persson and Margit Sahlin. Now,
1915 of the church's 4386 priests are women, according to April 2008 statistics.
Opponents of women priests in
the church set up their own breakaway diocese in 2003 for like-minded Lutherans,
who believe the ordination of women is against Christian faith and tradition.
'There is no place for us any longer in the Church of Sweden,' Bengt Birgersson,
a Lutheran priest, who was the prime mover in setting up the new grouping called
the Mission Province, said at the time.
The Church of Sweden is
encouraging parishes and dioceses to take part in the celebrations to mark the
anniversary of its ordination of women. An anniversary book will be presented to
the church assembly. In the publication, writer Lina Sjoberg and photographer
Sanna Sjosward depict in 20 portraits the 50 years of history since the
'The 1958 decision is
something to be proud of, but life has not always been easy for the ordained
women. They have faced bullying and harassment as well as encouragement and
appreciation,' the Church of Sweden said in a document about the anniversary.
'Ever since 1960, many women
have faced opposition and
discrimination, but even more have received support from elected
representatives, bishops and colleagues, and experienced great joy in their
work,' it further noted.
The Lutheran church is also
cooperating with the Museum of Work in Norrkoping, and an adult educational
organization to produce an exhibition on women as priests, while a documentary
film has been produced to provide a starting point for discussions on career
choices, the situation of professional women, discrimination and leadership. This
piece originally appeared in Ecumenical News International
historical fiction of The Episcopal Church
There's a lot of pressure on
Episcopal middle-of-the-roaders these days. With traditionalist dioceses lining
up like planes on the tarmac waiting for takeoff, the pressure is on the Left
Behinds to define their own Episcopal identity. Because doctrine is off limits,
the only thing left to rally around is the church as institution. Not an
institution with a purpose or even a variety of purposes, but simply as an
institution pursuing its own survival.
A faithful Episcopalian is no
longer one who faithfully stands by the Creeds, the Prayer Book and (heaven
forbid!) the Scriptures. A faithful Episcopalian is now one who stands behind
the Presiding Bishop and the General Convention. To paraphrase the jingoist
sentiment of another era, 'My church, right or wrong!'
longer one faith
It is troubling to note the
shift of TEC from an institution centred around a long religious tradition to
one centred around rules, regulations, and real estate. Even more troubling is
watching the leadership of The Episcopal Church act more and more like this is
the way it ought to be - the way it has always been - and to watch them feign
indignation at those who cling to an historic faith as the proper object of
Christian loyalty. There is no one 'faith', they retort. And even if there were,
to make demands about it is to be divisive and exclusive. Today's loyalists have
no stomach for standing
on principle. It is sobering
to watch the bishops and clergy of TEC pretend a new history into existence, and
then equate conformity to this fabrication with faithfulness to the Gospel.
The programme of pretence has
engulfed the laity as well. In the Fort Worth area alone we hear of Via Media,
Steadfast Episcopalians, North Texas Episcopalians, North Texas Remain Episcopal
and Mid Cities Episcopalians, all lining up to oppose the traditionalist bishop,
his clergy and the lay majority. Similar organizations, or branches of the same,
pop up throughout the remaining enclaves of Episcopal conservatism in Albany,
South Carolina, Central Florida, Pittsburgh and elsewhere.
Not since the Viet Nam era
have we witnessed such a dramatic display of wrapping oneself in the
institutional flag. 'Hell no, we won't go!' comes readily to the lips of the
greying clergy, only now with a biting irony. The American Counter Culture,
firmly embedded in the mainline denominations, must now call itself the
Establishment. Worse, it must wax indignant at the protestations of a new
The new majority came to power
championing the cause of every minority it could add to its letterhead. Like the
generation that surprised itself by coming of age, they were not prepared to be
a majority, to become the Establishment. They were certainly never prepared to
see themselves as driven by Establishment concerns, power and property. But what
else is there?
The causes espoused by the new
majority are calculated to grant legitimacy to the new Establishment. The
Millennium Development Goals project (to cite the most recent example) is an
obvious fit, precisely because MDG's are unassailable by popular criticism. They
are politically correct and thus culturally orthodox. Their popular enthusiasm
certainly has no relation to the UN's track record in practical solutions to
global problems particularly on such a grand scale.
Take the rest of the 'causes'
championed by the mainline churches - female clergy, environmentalism, gay
liberation, opposition to war, just to name a few -which of these was not
pre-certified to mediate approval by the secular establishment? Who risks
anything to back the
The new church has become the
old Establishment, and it's embarrassing. Still, that is not what puts pressure
on Episcopalians today as the steady trickle of defections threatens to
haemorrhage. The real pressure is on for TEC to pretend that it stands in
historic continuity with the Christian Church across the ages, the Church of the
Bible and the creeds. What is the only possible evidence TEC has to make such a
claim? Well, we hold deed on the old properties, and we have attached our name
to some worthy projects. So we must be the Church of the prophets, apostles, and
most to be pitied
The new Episcopal loyalists
have redefined loyalty based on the only thing left, the institution. Doctrine
is divisive. Morality falls under the general category of public relations. The
political shell of the American Church is now a social advocacy group in
vestments. Its adherence to its own creed is dismissed as superfluous.
One can argue the merit of
subscribing to the Christian faith in our time. One can argue that Christians
are 'the most to be pitied' after all (or just plain stupid) based upon what we
know today about history or biology or physics. One cannot argue that the
institution that goes by the name 'The Episcopal Church' is the same historic
movement that formerly called itself by that name. Such a statement is
historically indefensible. It is a fiction.
As the House of Bishops
prepares to expel Bishop Bob Duncan for 'abandonment of communion, they
must put forward the absurdity that leaving the communion of the Episcopal
Church and aligning with a church with which the Episcopal Church is presently
in communion is abandoning communion.
Here it is hard to fathom what
'communion is purported to mean. Whatever it means, it does not mean standing in
continuity with those churches who received the same faith that the Episcopal
Church received when it separated from the Church of England. It refers to the
Episcopal Church as a national, legal entity, which traces only its development
as an institution to the Church of England.
Institutional succession is
not the same as communion. Here the Lutherans have an important corrective to
our doctrine of succession. Apostolic succession' must refer primarily to the
succession of the faith of the apostles, with the succession of hands being
secondary. In our tradition we assume the succession of faith but only insist on
the succession of hands. And increasingly we wink at the reference to faith and
acknowledge only the power of the apostolic office. The succession of hands is
good theatre in support of an important principle - the need to pass on the
faith from generation to generation. Take faith out of the equation and all you
have is theatre. It's all for show.
Notice the word 'communion'
hasn't yet entered into the equation. The apostolic communion would be the
church's claim that, by standing in communion with the apostles through sharing
the faith they received from the Risen Lord, one is standing in communion with
the Lord himself. Abandonment of communion is a serious matter because it
implies the abandonment of the apostolic faith and, by extension, the Lord of
the Church. In the case of Bishop Duncan abandonment of communion means - you
guessed it -abandonment of the institution.
Episcopal Church leaders are
becoming hardened in their pretence that the Ordinal is really a 'living
document' -that reference to 'the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as
this Church has received them' are traditional words that borrow divergent
meanings from novel 'contexts'. I hear more and more clergy defending this
position, with feigned outrage at those who rebel at the church's abandonment of
historic doctrine. I know how the clergy are drilled in the critical analysis of
texts. They know the historical background of the Prayer Books. They know that
'received' does not refer to the legislative fiat of the most recent General
Convention. If they have grown dull, it is
The Episcopal Church has
become a legal shell with timid survivors who cannot make anything but
institutional statements in support of institutional ends. Doctrine has been
bargained away. All that remains are familiar phrases, emptied of meaning,
retained for occasional use in public relations. Even these have largely fallen
out of use, replaced by secular hot button phrases like 'justice' and
'inclusiveness' - words which never mean anything in particular but always adapt
themselves to institutional ends.
Today's Episcopalians are
under pressure to pretend that nothing of substance has changed over the
centuries. For the most part they are not wearing it well. The
Revd Canon J. Gary L'Hommedieu is Canon for Pastoral Care at the Cathedral
Church of St Luke, Orlando, Florida, and a regular columnist for www.virtueonline.
org where this piece first appeared
After nearly two days of
prayerful and solemn closed-door sessions, the House of Bishops on September 18
voted by a two to one majority to depose Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh. The
vote authorizes Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to remove Duncan from
The vote total was 88 to 35 in
favour of deposing Duncan, according to Episcopal Church spokeswoman Neva Rae
Fox. There were four abstentions. 'The House of Bishops worked carefully and
prayerfully to consider the weighty matter of Bishop Duncan. The conversation
was holy, acknowledging the pain of our deliberations as well as the gratitude
many have felt over the years for their relationships with, and the ministry of,
Robert Duncan,' Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in a statement
after the meeting.
'The House concluded, however,
that his actions over recent months and years constitute 'abandonment of the
communion of this church' and that he should be deposed. Concern was expressed
for the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in the face of leadership
which has sought to remove itself from the Episcopal Church.
'In the days and months ahead,
this church will work to ensure appropriate pastoral care and
provision for the members of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, so that mission and
ministry in that part of Pennsylvania may continue in the name of Jesus Christ
and in the tradition of the Episcopal Church,' she added.
Duncan did not return
telephone calls seeking comment. A statement on the diocesan website said the
'purported deposition...will not change the agenda for the October 4 Diocesan
Convention, or change Bishop Duncan's status as a bishop in good standing within
the Anglican Communion. 'The action of the House of Bishops, which was taken in
a closed meeting... contravenes numerous canons of the Episcopal Church,' the
Bishop Jon Bruno of Los
Angeles in a statement said the vote was not a referendum on Duncan's beliefs,
but a direct result of his attempts to 'lead large numbers of people out of his
diocese' and into affiliation with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone
(of South America) even after Jefferts Schori and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan
Williams called for an end to such actions. He noted that a Title IV Review
Committee certified in 2007 that Duncan has abandoned communion of the Episcopal
Church, defined by the canons as '.. .an open renunciation of the Doctrine,
Discipline, or Worship of this Church...' [Title IV.10.1].
Duncan characterized the
deposition as unlawful, but added that he will not challenge it prior to the end
of the diocese's October 4 convention unless 'forced to do so by the leadership
of the Episcopal Church,' according to the statement on the Diocese of
Pittsburgh's website. Pittsburgh convention delegates will be asked to consider
the second reading of a constitutional change that would realign the diocese
with the Southern Cone. 'With the passage of that constitutional change, the
diocese will be free to welcome Bishop Duncan back as its bishop,' according to
'This is of course a very
painful moment for Pittsburgh Episcopalians. The leadership of The Episcopal
Church has inserted itself in a most violent manner into the affairs and
governance of our diocese. While we await the decision of the diocesan
convention on realignment... we will stand firm against any further attempts by
those outside our boundaries to intimidate us,' said the Revd David Wilson,
president of the Standing Committee.
The Revd Jim Simons, also a
standing committee member, said in an interview he opposes the realignment and
chairs a group known as the Across the Aisle
Steering Committee (AASC), so
named because of a diversity of membership, both conservative and progressive,
who reached across the aisle to one another because of their commitment to
remaining with the Episcopal Church.
Simons said he was surprised
and saddened by Thursday's vote. 'I thought it would be much closer,' said
Simons, who is also rector of St Michael's of the Valley, Ligonier, Pa. 'I'd
have thought there'd be more bishops who would have waited until our convention
vote to make this decision.'
He said he expects that some
members of the diocese will regard the action as premature, even 'heavy-handed
and they are going to say they cannot stay in a church which acts this way' Rich
Creehan, a media advisor to the AASC, said Duncan and his family remain in the
prayers of the entire diocese.
He estimated that as many as
30 of the diocese's 66 recognized congregations will remain with the Episcopal
Church. About 325 people attended a recent gathering to show support for the
church, he added in an interview. 'There are a lot of anxious feelings about
where we'll be after convention, but we're sticking with the image of a big
tent, in which everybody will be welcome.'
Revd Pat McCaughan is .
.She is based in Los Angeles
piece for the Episcopal News Service first appeared September 18, 2008
of women: pastoral provision -A Statement by the Bench of Bishops
At the time of the Governing
Body's decision in 1996 to enable women to be ordained to the priesthood, the
Bishops of the Church in Wales agreed to the appointment of an assistant bishop
to provide additional episcopal care for those who could not in conscience
accept that decision. This Bishop came to be known as the Provincial Assistant
Bishop [PAB]. The role of the PAB was to minister with the express permission of
the Diocesan Bishop, and parishes were issued with guidelines about the exercise
of that ministry. At that time there was concern in some parts of the Province
about the implications of the ordination
From 1996 to the end of June
this year, Bishop David Thomas served as the Provincial Assistant Bishop. At the
last Governing Body meeting, the Archbishop expressed the gratitude of the Bench
for his faithful ministry, and in particular for the way in which he worked
closely with the diocesan bishops. The diocesan bishops have continued to
provide support for all clergy and parishes, regardless of whether they had
asked for the ministry of the PAB, and consequently clergy and parishes opposed
to the ordination of women have continued to play a full part in the life of
their respective dioceses and in the life of the Province.
We are now twelve years on
from the Governing Body decision to allow women to be ordained as priests.
Bishop David Thomas retired at the end of June, and the Bench has now reviewed
the need for a continuation of additional episcopal care. Our discussions have
focussed on the needs of the Church in Wales, not on the personal ministry of
Bishop David Thomas. Consequently our conclusions should in no way be seen as a
reflection on his ministry as PAB.
We reaffirm as diocesan
bishops our commitment to securing a continuing place in the life of the Church
in Wales for those who cannot in conscience accept the ordination of women to
the priesthood. However, we no longer consider that the continuation of
additional episcopal provision for one part of the Church on grounds of belief
or doctrine on one particular issue is either necessary or consistent with
Anglican ecclesiology. All Church in Wales clergy and parishes are in communion
with their respective diocesan bishop, regardless of whether or not they agree
on every issue. Episcopal oversight and care for all within each diocese is the
responsibility of the diocesan bishop.
There remains a continuing
place in the Church in Wales for those unable to accept the ministry of women
priests, but we do not believe that this is contingent upon appointing another
Provincial Assistant Bishop and it is therefore our decision not to appoint.
Whilst bringing a particular arrangement to an end, we remain committed to
serving every person and every parish within our respective dioceses and we will
continue to be sensitive in our appointments, both in terms of the views of
parishes and in ensuring that clergy from different parts of the Church are
given the opportunity to progress in their ministry.
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