The End of the Affair
I am sorry to write once again about the committee charged with deciding what to do with those of us who cannot accept the ordination of women, but it is the most important matter facing us. Or, I should say, the most important political matter, as the real work of the Kingdom keeps us quite busy.
The committee held its second meeting at the beginning of July, and a long parade of women _ where do they get the money for all this travelling? _ expressed their pain, their anger, their pain, their indignation, their pain, their passion for justice, their pain, their inability to tolerate the evil of institutionalized sexism, their pain, their loyalty to the doctrine and discipline of the Episcopal Church, their pain . . .
I am not being flippant or insensitive, for the previous sentence describes the alternation in the exclusive feminists between their feeling of exclusion _ which is really a sort of emotional blackmail _ and their ideology of liberation and equality.
One can’t argue with them, because they do not let anyone question their feelings or their ideology. These are both, they think, undeniably true and anyone who does not agree with them must be deliberately putting out the light. This explains the consistent cruelty of their rhetoric, which was on display at the hearing as intensely as it has ever been.
“To continue the talk is to cooperate with evil,” said the vice-president of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus. A former president of the Caucus said that merely by understanding the traditional position, for 18 years the bishops have given “the extremists in this Church” a “green light.” Rejecting them, she said, “creates a possibility for real dialogue, negotiation and change.” (Change, meaning ‘to come to agree with me’, being the only important word in that sentence.)
A woman priest who moved to the Diocese of Fort Worth said that “We have to state unequivocally that the Holy Spirit has acted and the Church has spoken.” The Church should no longer consider opposition to women’s ordination as even a recognized theological position.
Another woman priest said that bishops who will not ordain women “have excommunicated themselves.” Bishop Wantland, the one bishop on the committee from the Episcopal Synod, the American Forward in Faith, has “put himself out of the Church.” Several members of the committee itself, including the chairman, implied that traditional Anglicans might be happier in another Church.
The homosexual activist Louie Crew added his support. “It seemed to me almost a blasphemy yesterday to hear, again and again, bishops say, ‘Women priests, for those who believe they are’,” he said.
Crew, the founder of the homosexual lobby Integrity, argued that requiring circumcision was a recognized theological position in the early Church, “But the Church decided to invalidate that position.” It is an argument he has used repeatedly for the approval of homosexuality, which raised an interesting question about the future of the “moderates” _ who have tried to remain traditional Anglicans while priding themselves on “affirming the ministry of women” _ in a Church purged of “extremists.”
If, as seems obvious to many of us, the treatment of Scripture necessary to deny its teaching on headship also denies its teaching on marriage and chastity, a Church which denies the former will eventually have to deny the latter. And then what will the “moderates” do?
For example, just three years ago the committee’s chairman, Bishop Robert Rowley, told a meeting of Synod members in my diocese that if the Episcopal Church approved homosexuality, he would have to leave the Church. Now he is going to present to September’s meeting of the House of Bishops, and I expect support, a resolution that “It is the mind of this House that Canon III.8.1 is mandatory in all dioceses of this Church.”
But what will he do, five or ten years from now, when another “moderate” presents a resolution that “It is the mind of this House that people shall not be prevented from marriage or ordination solely because they are homosexual”?
At the end of three days, the committee voted 5 to 4 (the Synod members all opposed) to ask the 1997 General Convention to change to canons to forbid anyone from denying ordination or placement to a woman. I think these changes will pass, and easily.
The Episcopal Synod of America was not pleased, calling the vote “unjust and unacceptable.” The official response noted that “The contrast of this totalitarian method with traditionalist behaviour, when that position was in the ascendancy, could hardly be greater.”
After the ordination of women was defeated at the 1973 Convention, “there were no demands that the proponents of such a strange and novel doctrine should leave the Episcopal Church; or that the prohibition of that doctrine should be enshrined in canon law.
“Instead, these proponents of change remained free to think and to act as they believed themselves led to do and, as a result of that freedom, they achieved the changes they sought. These same revisionists have now come as close as ever they have to an open and honest command to those who hold fast to the classical constitution of the Christian ordained ministry to ‘leave the Episcopal Church’.” The Synod’s national council meets outside St. Louis in late August. I really have no idea how its members will respond to this latest attempt to deny them a place in their own Church.
David Mills is the editor of the Episcopal Synod’s journal, The Evangelical Catholic, and the director of publishing at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry. He is grateful to Douglas LeBlanc of Episcopalians United for the use of his reporting on the meeting.