Open Letter to all Bishops of the Anglican Communion

From The Very Revd Canon Pierre J Dil

Dean of Lusaka, Zambia. Date : June 26,1997

Introduction: The past years have witnessed serious upheaval in our Communion as a result of changes made in the Ministry of the Church. It is no exaggeration to state that our branch of the Catholic Church has never before in its history of nearly 500 years seen so much destruction of internal unity. Many hundreds of priests and tens of thousands of laity have left the Anglican Communion, worldwide, as a result. Many more are poised to leave. In many countries the Communion has broken up, and some independent Anglican Churches and Continuing Churches have sprung up. While it is accepted that the ordination of women is not the only cause of this unhappy situation, it has been a major contributory factor. Under the circumstances we believe it is fair to ask the following questions of those who have supported, and continue to support, the innovative practice of ordaining women to the priesthood

(a) What justification from Scriptures can you offer for this innovation?

(b) What justification from the writings of the early Church Fathers can you offer for this innovation?

(c) What justification from the Thirty-Nine Articles can you offer for this innovation?

(d) What justification from the Preface of the Ordinal and from the text of the Ordinal, in the Book of Common Prayer, can you offer for this innovation?

(e) What claim can you make that this innovation is the will of the Holy Spirit, rather than man's will, in view of the contradictory directions the Holy Spirit appears to have given in this matter at various times and in various places?

(f) What justification can you offer for this innovation when there have been no consultations with others with whom we share this sacred Priesthood?

(g) What reply have the innovators made to the one major textbook in defence of the traditional Ministry, "Women in the Priesthood" by Manfred Hauke, (lgnatius Press,1 988)?

(h) What justification do you offer for allowing an issue, which has been declared to be of the essence of Faith & Order, to be discussed and decided upon by unlearned Anglicans, clerical and lay, instead of competent theologians of all branches of the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church?

(i) What justification can you offer for proceeding with an innovation which was bound to produce departures from the Church and continuing serious divisions of those remaining in the Church, indicating it is not of the Spirit?

(j) What justification can you offer for this innovation when all too frequently it has been associated with both doctrinal error and moral heresies, as identified in the recent Kuala Lumpur Statement?

(k) How is "Reception" to be honestly defined? Who will be the judge? How will the ancient Christian principle of "Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est" be applied to the concept of "Reception"?

(1) How will you justify, to God and to fellow believers, the demotion, exclusion and/or excommunication of Christians who, before this innovation was introduced, were considered models of orthodoxy?

Your response to these questions is sought. Since no platform was created for Anglicans from all Provinces to seek comprehensive theological advice, to consult among ourselves and with those with whom we share this sacred priesthood, and to debate the wisdom of acting unilaterally in this matter, it can not be said that a genuine attempt at consensus has been made. Dispersed authority should not have been exercised in a matter so closely related to Faith & Order, not if we wish to see the Anglican Communion survive as a Communion.

It has been pointed out to me that many bishops, already committed to ordaining women, will simply ignore this Letter. To do so will regrettably have be interpreted as their having no answers to give to these questions, and their having no interest in the survival of Anglican unity.

With fraternal greetings, Yours in Christ, Pierre j Dil / Dean of Lusaka, Zambia.

Founder-Chairman Makeni Ecumenical Centre,
P 0 Box 30477, Lusaka, Zambia, Tel-Z60-1-250 484 Fax 260-1-250228 E-mail: cathdil@zamnet.zm

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