Wednesday, July 29, 2009

July 29, 1974

Remember the last great schism that was going to split the Anglican Communion and Destroy Western Civilization As We Know It?

From the archive pages:

On July 29, 1974 eleven women broke the barrier so long in place against the ordination of women to the priesthood of the Anglican Church when they were "irregularly" ordained to the priesthood in Philadelphia. These women are often referred to as the “Philadelphia 11”

Although there was no specific canon that specifically prohibited ordaining women to the priesthood, the canons required a recommendation from the standing committee. Many were upset because these women did have such a recommendation. While others were ready for change and ventured into new territory for the Episcopal Church.

On August 15, 1974, the House of Bishops, called to an emergency meeting, denounced the ordinations and declared them invalid. Charges were filed against the bishops who ordained the women and attempts were made to prevent the women from serving their priestly ministries.

In September 1976, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church approved the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate.

Philadelphia 11:
Merrill Bittner
Alison Cheek
Alla Bozarth (Campell)
Emily C Hewitt
Carter Heyward
Suzanne R. Hiatt (deceased 2002)
Marie Moorefield
Jeanette Piccard (deceased 1981)
Betty Bone Schiess
Katrina Welles Swanson (deceased 2006)
Nancy Hatch Witting

Ordaining Bishops:
Daniel Corrigan
Robert L DeWitt
Edward R Welles
Assisting: Antonio Ramos
That was then: this is now.
From the Archbishop of Canterbury's response earlier this week to the actions of GC2009:
12. When a local church seeks to respond to a new question, to the challenge of possible change in its practice or discipline in the light of new facts, new pressures, or new contexts, as local churches have repeatedly sought to do, it needs some way of including in its discernment the judgement of the wider Church. Without this, it risks becoming unrecognisable to other local churches, pressing ahead with changes that render it strange to Christian sisters and brothers across the globe.
17. Clearly there are significant arguments to be had about such matters on the shared and agreed basis of Scripture, Tradition and reason. But it should be clear that an acceptance of these sorts of innovation in sacramental practice would represent a manifest change in both the teaching and the discipline of the Anglican tradition, such that it would be a fair question as to whether the new practice was in any way continuous with the old. Hence the question of 'recognisability' once again arises.
And then let's try reading this part with a little "contextual editing:"
In other words, the question is not a simple one of human rights or human dignity. It is that a certain (choice of lifestyle) GENDER has certain consequences. So long as the Church Catholic, or even
the Communion as a whole does not (bless same-sex unions,) ORDAIN WOMEN, a (person living in such a union) WOMAN cannot without serious incongruity have a representative function in a Church whose public teaching is at odds with their GENDER (lifestyle.)
So as we celebrate the 35th anniversary of the gift of the Philadelphia Eleven -- and give thanks for the courageous bishops who stepped forward in faith (in spite of "significant arguments" and "the question of 'recognisability") -- let's all "recognise" that we have been here before leading the way on women's ordination ... we are ready to do it again on the LGBT baptized ...


JimB said...

As then, now events have passed the institutionalists by. The ABC is busy throwing our and his own clergy under the bus to conciliate the bullies who are already lost to him.
He is looking rather pathetic and he will fail.



Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Power never gives away any power without a power struggle.

Fr Craig said...

you are correct, absolutely. but hypocrisy will never surrender, for (in their minds) their position can never be undermined!! Reason has nothing to do with prejudices. all we can do is what YOU are doing, and all the others who have stood up and refused to shut up. Thank you, and God bless -
a privileged white straight married male, who coasted through the 'process.'

Ann said...

And who was that woman priest who got up at GC to say they were illegal -- where did she study her history? or should we say herstory.

Caminante said...

"And who was that woman priest who got up at GC to say they were illegal"

That to me was one of the saddest moments of the entire GC: to see a young woman priest (from Northern Indiana) contesting the date of commemoration, wanting it to be moved to 1 January 1977 in lieu of today... if it weren't for those women 35 years ago, she would not be standing on the podium with a plastic collar. It really was discouraging.

Alla Renée Bozarth said...

Oh, Thank you so very much, Susan, for honoring the Philadelphia Ordinations on your wonderful blog! I truly do feel honored to be on the same page (in every sense) with you in your ministry of liberty and justice for all. With the inclusive action of our recent General Convention, the Episcopal Church stopped comprising its integrity by trying to placate the upholders of discrimination in the Anglican Communion, and took the prophetic lead into a more Christ-like paradigm. The old paradigm could not be allowed to continue, though it was rationalized by homophobic patriarchy’s abusive interpretation of Scripture for too long, any more than once biblically rationalized slavery could be allowed to continue once the scales fell from human eyes by the persistence of the Holy Spirit. As that same Holy Spirit has always inspired prophetic members of Integrity in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual communities of our tradition, a new integrity has entered and eventually will permeate the institution of the Episcopal Church. Enough suffering, enough rejection, enough malice~~ in fact, way too much for us all.

Today a dear friend thanked me for enduring the sacrifice of all that my ordination to the priesthood cost me on a personal level, all the cruel prejudice that was overtly hurled at the eleven of us for years to come. She said, “your gift knocked down walls so the rest of us could have more room for our own dances.” Her affirmation was more than enough reward, as demonstrated in the action of General Convention, thanks to the work of countless persistent people of vision, many of whom are part of your community of readers here at “An Inch at a Time.”

I was honored to be presiding celebrant for the Integrity liturgy at Gethsemane Church during the 1976 General Convention in Minneapolis, the one that finally acknowledged the full humanity of women and affirmed our full membership in this cell of the Body of Christ. There were about 30 people present. We prayed for the day to come which we have now witnessed. It took women forty years of persistence from the time the first group petitioned General Convention to allow women to be seated as Deputies in 1934 until their seating in 1970, women in the priesthood in 1974, and now when our Presiding Bishop is a woman. The persistence of the people of Integrity among us has brought parallel transformation to the Church in fewer years. What joy to see the great numbers of participants in the liturgy this year, and so many beloved faces! Your prophetic parish, All Saints, Pasedena was one of our main supporters even before the Philadelphia Ordinations. You and your spiritual forebears are dear to my heart. May you and all your Beloved know that there IS more dancing room for you, and give yourselves whole-heartedly to the dance, as I do with you, in Thanksgiving for you!

Loving Blessings in the Holy One, Alla Renée Bozarth (Bozarth-Campbell)

Obie said...


Thanks for the anniversary reminder. A few years ago, I read the memoir of one the eleven, Alla Bozarth, and your post spurred me to comment on that inspiring book in my own blog,

The parallels that you draw to the current LGBT struggle are apropos: "I had no thought of leaving the Church; I felt that it had already left me. The denial of my calling to the priesthood was the denial of me as a child of God," Bozarth writes.

Finally, a criticism. Your blogger comment section requires me to sign in under my Google account instead of my Wordpress, OpenID.

Kirstin said...

Alla, if you're reading this, I read Womanpriest when I was in college. Over time, it changed the direction of my life. Thank you.

Cameron Partridge said...

Thank you so much for this piece. When I was in my first year at Bryn Mawr College in the fall of 1991, I stumbled upon Alla Bozarth (Campbell)'s book _Womanpriest_. A plaque inside the cover indicated it had been donated to the library by a BMC alum, Jeanette Piccard, who was one of the Philadelphia 11. Although I'd grown up in TEC, I'd never heard this story before, and it completely rocked my world. I'd felt the stirrings of a call to ordained priesthood before, but reading this book utterly clarified it.

When I came out as transgender 10 years later, I wondered how TEC in general and my ordination process in particular might respond to this new gender frontier. I took so much comfort and inspiration from the story(ies) of the Philadelphia 11, and the way the Spirit moved our church.

And I very much still do.

Alla Renée Bozarth said...

Oops. Thanks for e-mailing me a copy of my note to you. Reading it from a little distance allowed me to notice a typo: the word "comprise" in the third sentence should be "compromise." It changes the meaning, but I trust that your readers' inner editors understood what I meant.

Thanks also for Obie's, Kirstin's and Cameron's lovely, affirming comments. For the last, Jeannette Piccard who was the eldest among the eleven is clapping her wings in heaven for this sweet message from her fellow "Bryn Mawree"! Jeannette was 79 and had felt called to be a priest since she was eleven. I was the youngest among us at 27. We were the granny and baby of the group, and at that time, the only "docs" on board. I'd earned and received a Ph.D. at Northwestern University only a month earlier. Both from the Diocese of Minnesota (though I'm a born-and-returned-home Oregonian), Jeannette and I called ourselves the western bookends of the eleven. As a space scientist married to Jean Piccard, she piloted the first hot air balloon (which Jean had invented) to enter the stratosphere, making history forty years earlier in 1934, when she became the first woman in space. Of July 29, 1974, she said, "I flew higher that day." . . .

And speaking of dual vocations and flying higher, do you know that one of the eleven, Emily Hewitt, used our years in ecclesiastical limbo (1974-77) to earn a degree at Harvard Law School? She served as a legal aid lawyer and later was on in-house counsel staff for the Clinton Administration White House. This year, President Obama appointed her Chief Judge of the United States Court of Federal Claims. How's that for a positive transformation of institutional invisibility (our season in limbo) to the fulfillment of human potential and optimal service ANYWAY?

On a much lesser scale, on the morning of my interview with him to plan my course of study while I earned a doctorate at Northwestern University across Lake Shore Drive, the dean of then Seabury-Western Seminary had a tantrum because Deacon Phyllis Edwards' photograph solemnizing a marriage was on the front page of the Chicago Tribune. He concluded, "Do you think I want another woman here after this display? Come back in four years and we might reconsider you." I'd already been officially admitted, and he un-admitted me. I came back in two years as an ordained deacon who'd married a seminarian and lived under the dean's nose on campus, thanks to him freeing me to study at my own pace and take the canonical exams early. The trick is always to turn a flat "no" into a Positive No by using it in a positive way, recognizing the hidden gift that it offers.

Susan, if you have a copy of WOMANPRIEST or STARS IN YOUR BONES or either of the two new poetry collections it's in, this might be a good time to print any portion of "Passover Remembered" that you feel is appropriate on your blog, with my permission. It's too long for this format, so I'll e-mail you an attachment. It was commissioned by THE WITNESS MAGAZINE for the tenth anniversary of the Philadelphia Ordinations, and those still in space-time from the Philadelphia Eleven and Washington Four read it aloud during the Silver Anniversary liturgy at the Church of the Advocate ten years ago. I offer it to your readers to encourage them ever Onward in their spiritual journeys and life adventures.

Blessings Abound~~
Alla Renée Bozarth

Obie said...

Alla, if you follow these comments, please note that I blogged extensively on your book on my own blog at Maybe you've already seen it, but if not I invite your review and comment.