Saturday, September 9, 2017

Women in Holy Orders

This week, the College of Bishops for the Anglican Church in North America met in order to make a long anticipated recommendation for the church concerning the role of women in Holy Orders.  When the church formed, it was decided that it would not divide over the issue of women in Holy Orders, but would allow the various dioceses to determine for themselves whether or not women would be ordained to the diaconate or to the presbytery within that diocese.  From the very beginning the church operated with some bishops (notable, but not exclusively, those from the Reformed Episcopal Church) denying that women should be ordained, and other bishops supportive of women being ordained as priests.

From the beginning, the ACNA determined to put forth a study of this matter.  Recently, the study concluded and presented its findings to the bishops, and the bishops met together this past week in order to address where the church stood on this matter at this time.  Now, if the ACNA were to change its position in any fashion, it would take more than the word of the bishops.  (Of course, all of the bishops could have decided to refrain from ordaining women, and that would have, for all practical purposes, changed the position, though not dogmatically so.)

Not surprisingly, the bishops decided to continue as they have since the beginning.  Bishops who do not believe that women should be ordained will not ordain women and not have them serve as priests within their diocese.  Those who believe that women should be ordained, will continue to ordain women to the priesthood.  Additionally, it was determined that women would be barred from serving as bishops in the ACNA. 

You can read the statement, here.

Frankly, as I've stated elsewhere, I'm not sure what else they could have done if their goal was to keep the ACNA together.  Nor am I sure that this decision will accomplish this in the long run.  I have been told that those who oppose women in Holy Orders out number those who are in favor of ordaining women as priests.  Thus, if they were to try to make this practice province wide, they would likely not have enough votes to do so, and if they were able to, many would leave (all of the REC and others).  On the other hand, if they were to entirely bar women from being ordained, a good section of the ACNA (and that section, I am told, that is growing) would leave.  So, as long as they can live together with this decision, they hope to stay together.

My hope in this is that those who favor women's orders will be able to live with such passion and conviction for the orthodox faith, that those who are opposed to it will eventually find their fears allayed.  My hope is also that those who favor women's orders will continue to grow at such a rate that they become the vast majority within the province.  (Of course, if this happens, I wouldn't be surprised if those who are opposed would eventually split.)

At best, this is a compromised position.  I am thankful that my own denomination is in a different place on this matter.  In contrast to the episcopal statement by the ACNA college of bishops, listen to the following introduction by an episcopal leader in the Church of the Nazarene.

Below is a picture of the Board of General Superintendents (i.e., Bishops) for the Church of the Nazarene, taken at this Summer's General Assembly.  While I would prefer that they be in purple (or at least clericals!), I am thankful for my global denomination's diversity reflected in our BGS.

(Now, I wouldn't be surprised if, among the comments I may receive, there would be some about how women may preach but cannot be priests since there is a difference between the role of the prophet and that of the priest.  Let me just request that, if you are so inclined to comment, please demonstrate this distinction by pointing to support from the New Testament's understanding of the Christian priesthood.  Thank you, in advance.)

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