Back in March, 30Days reported that the Open Episcopal Church had lost Archbishop Richard Palmer to the United Episcopal Church in The Province of Great Britain and Ireland (A Home for Open Evangelicals and Catholics in Inclusive Ministries and Witness) and that the former was then under the control of Cardinals Jonathan Blake and Elizabeth Stuart. A recent visit to the OEC website reveals that Bishop Liz has flown the nest and our old mate Blakey is now the sole proprietor (although, in his rise to Archbishop, he appears to have mis-laid his red hat).

Readers who are worried that this might all be too much for him need not fear, though. As we go to press, a new bishop – for Scotland – is due to be consecrated and a further three will be consecrated in the new year. The website also tells us that another six bishops are ‘in the process of being appointed’. Thankfully, two additional priests were being ordained last month, which will at least mean that the eleven bishops will have a grand total of seven priests between them!

Queer promotion

So what has become of Bishop Liz? Well, she has clearly moved up in the world, for she is now Regionary (sic) Bishop of the Province of Great Britain and Northern Ireland of the Liberal Catholic Church International and, what is more, she is an archbishop, no less! The LCCI website is coy as to how many parishes Her Grace has under her ample wing, but it must certainly be an extraordinary number for it to be so secret! But she apparently still finds the time to continue as Professor of Christian Theology at the University of Winchester, where she specializes in ‘feminist and queer theology’.

Palmer’s Progress

Meanwhile, what of Archbishop Palmer? In March, we reported that he had left the OEC in a spirit of ‘amity’. 30Days was shocked to read, then, on the website of the UECITPOGBANI(A HFOEACIIMAW), that the split came about because of ‘certain disagreements and personal antagonisms’! Still, with three bishops and a whole nine parishes, the UECetc is obviously the happening place, as the website of one of its parishes testifies. At Holy Angels, Portsmouth, the Reverends Paul and Brizz Miles-Knight are respectively parish priest and curate; they are apparently chaplains to ASDA in Fratton, to the Old Vic public house in Southsea, to say nothing of the Hovercraft Museum in Lee-on-the-Solent. Their website includes a charming series of photos taken at their recent civil partnership celebration for, if you hadn’t already guessed, ‘Brizz’ is apparently a boy’s name.

Meanwhile, along the M27 at the parish of St Francis, Southampton, the Very Reverend Monsignor Martyn Douglas, the Reverend Elizabeth Tombs, someone called Paul and the Archbishop himself took the ‘booze cruise’ to St Malo for Our Lady’s Assumption; the parish website has a feast of photos of all the events in and around the great Cathedral of St Vincent, but inexplicably the UECetc party all forgot to pack their clericals and are dressed as laity. What can it mean?

Water on the brain

The United Church of Canada, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, with 3 million members, has added another ‘immoral’ act to a list including the Iraq war and gambling: drinking bottled water. The church says water is ‘God’s sacred gift’. ‘It carries great spiritual strength for communities of faith,’ said spokesman David Hallman. ‘Water is an essential element of life, and so is considered as sacred as life itself By way of contrast, the Church supports same-sex marriage and wider access to contraceptives.


Talk of water leads us naturally on to Water – the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual. Water’s website (a curious URL, if ever there was one) has goodies galore on sale, the pick of

which is Women’s Rites – Feminist Liturgies for Life’s Journey. At just S21, it is an essential text: ‘New voices are calling for new rituals. Communities need liturgies to honour women’s biological passages: menarche, menstruation, miscarriage, abortion, childbirth, menopause, and later years (called ‘croning’). This collection of twenty-two liturgies pays tribute to women’s physical, spiritual, and emotional rites of passage.’

Help the aged

‘Croning’ was a new one on 30Days, so we naturally rushed to to find out more. Few of us were welcomed into the maiden phase of life, celebrated the first flow of blood in our monthly cycles, initiated into women’s mysteries. We likely viewed menstruation as a curse or an obstacle. If we became mothers, we may have received special attention until we gave birth, but then the focus shifted to our children. If we mothered projects, careers, creative endeavours, we might have been celebrated for what we produced, but seldom for ourselves. Now, for the first time in our lives, we have an opportunity to be celebrated for who we are – crones.

The croning ceremony honours a woman’s passage into the third phase of life. Often celebrated at age 50, ceremonies range from spontaneous cronings at birthday parties to pre-planned ceremonial rites of passage. Some ceremonies are personal, others are shared, some are convened by an ongoing group for new crones, and others are large rituals at women’s conferences and gatherings. Being initiated into the ancient sisterhood of wise old women involves response-ability We have an opportunity to personally reclaim the once-honoured designation of crone, to take a special name, and to make commitments to ourselves, our communities, and the earth. Intention is primary and that is what we declare, our intention to be true to ourselves, to walk our talk, to become a link between the crones of the ancient and recent past and the women of the future.

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