Saturday, May 05, 2007


A familiar "urban myth" has resurfaced in recent discussion on the House of Bishops/Deputies listserve. The myth goes something like this:

Back in the halcyon days of yersteryear there were to be two allowable theological positions in the Church concerning the ordination of Women. One "No women", and the other allowing Women. The two were to be considered valid, and one could take no vengence on the other. In 2000 those who disagreed with the ordination of Women were made heretics.

So let's play now ... TIME TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT:

1974 was year eleven women were ordained in Philadelphia

1976 was the General Convention where those ordinations were "regularized"

1977 was when the bishops met at Port St. Lucie and came up with their "conscience clause" suggesting that individual bishops had the right to refrain from ordaining women as a "matter of conscience"

I've never -- in all my increasingly-long years of doing this church stuff -- met anyone who argued that bishops who did not believe in the theological efficacy of the ordination of women should be "required" to ordain them.

Rather our position has been -- and continues to be -- that parishes within a diocese where the bishop held a position contrary to the canons of the church on the ordination of women should be allowed to receive the ministry of ordained women if they are so inclined.

What happened in Denver 2000 was about conforming to the canons of the church ... not about turning people into "heretics."

After 30 years there continues to be a theological minority of folk within the Episcopal Church who do not accept as valid the orders of women in ministry. It is their prerogative so to do. They are and continue to be welcome at the table -- they just can't expect to be agreed with. And they can't expect their re-writing the history of this church to conform to what they wished would have happened to go unchallenged.

Here endeth the history lesson.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Susan, I find it amazing that for twenty years the opposition insisted the canons were permissive. Then, when the Rowley Committee proposed that what was always true be spelled out in detail in the canons in 1997 all of a sudden this is persecution somehow. Sigh.

Christopher+ said...

Please let's do set the record straight, read the Statement on Conscience that you linked to. It is a statement concerning the matter of conscience, not a "conscience clause" just for the bishops. It addressed everyone in the church. It applied the general principle of conscience to the particular case of the acceptance of the ordination of women. It wasn't voted on because it was understood to be an articulation of the received doctrine of the Church's understanding of the limits of conscience

I hope you will let this comment be published. Thanks.

Susan Russell said...

Christopher ...

"Spin" all you want to ... the bishops in the Episcopal Church do NOT "speak for the whole church."

And "understood" by whom? The presumptive arrogance of that kind of assertion should cease to surprise me ... but it does ... and happy to post your comments, Chris. Any time. (So long as they're pertinent to post and stay out of ad hominem land.)

Lauren Gough said...

Years ago the HOB should have repudiated the 'conscience clause'. The fact is that the HOB has not taken responsibility for the actions of their own house for some years.

The failure of the election in So. Carolina may be the beginning of the Church calling the HOB to account for who they accept as members. We must be willing to hold bishops to account for not supporting the constitution and canons.

David said...

Lauren wrote, "We must be willing to hold bishops to account for not supporting the constitution and canons."

Boy, wouldn't that be nice. But does the HoB have the cojones to tell +Iker, et al. to shape up ?

I'm not holdin' my breath, as I don't look good in blue ;)