28.1.10

Being a mother, wife and priest

The comments to this article by Rosemary Lain-Priestley make for interesting reading. Some of them are very sweeping. There is one that stands out for its graceful critique of the objections to women's ordained ministry, which I reproduce below:



This was written by Carrie Ford:


What you are pressing for is for the full humanity of the person who is priested to emerge - a form of incarnation of the sacred in however limited, hesitant or broken a mode which it emerges.


The fact is that the domestic humanity of maleness - as fathers, husbands, sons has disappeared historically. 'Doing life', reproducing the next generation, caring for childen and congregations was undertaken by 'clergy wives' who made the 'priestly household' work within Anglicanism, at zero cost to the organisation. Unsung and now in needing of being reframed.


I was in the first raft of women ordained as deacons in 1987, and at the time I had just given birth to my son, from whom I was separated for my pre-ordination retreat. My Bishop concluded that paid employment as a woman clergy-person would not be an option. I should not seek to undertake stipendiary work in any form, I was told by my Bishop, my 'vocation' was to stay home with my children.


So much has changed. Maternity benefits and job shares, the church is slowly, in its organisational framing, coming to terms with the implications of having ordained women to the Priesthood. But the full equality of women proclaimed in the Scriptures - and agreed by General Synod has real implications. When a woman is ordained she is not a surrogate man, nor an androgyne, there is a social context to her life which has not been taken on board. Nor have the implications of what Priesthood means in the 'domestic' realm - that of mother and of wife, and the dangerous realm of sexuality 'the totty' you mention now has been unveiled - and needs to be addressed.


This, of course, is an opportunity for re-imagining and living modern Anglicanism. The question is how many questioning women, and women are roughly 40% of the ordained clergy in the CofE today, does it take to bring in real lasting change.

I like Carrie's challenge to us all at the end.

Carrie also writes:

The General Synod of the Church of England went to enormous expense in terms of people's time and theological reflection to hammer out the argumentation from the three perspectives of Anglicanism on this - Scriptures Tradition and Reason. From Genesis through to the first ressurection appearance to the (Apostle) Mary who was told to go and tell her fellow disciples that Christ was risen, along to the Baptismal cry of Galatians 3:28 that in Christ ALL are equal, and equal inheritors of the charism of God's blessing and empowerment. The Church of England House of Bishops and Laity have settled this issue. As Christ said on the Cross - It is Finished.

Now we need to get on with the business of realising that equality in the life of the Church and its potential ministry into wider fractured communities.

This is why ongoing bickering within the Anglican Communion once that debate has been completed (as has gone on around 'permitting' women into the Episcopacy is deeply frustrating and completely diversionary.)

The challenge for the church today is to realise quite what it means to say that in Christ all are radically equal, and to work through what paying attention to the full reality and implications of our differences really means. That is the revolutionary pattern of Christ. It impacts on ethnicity, sexuality, gender, class, abilities, all those areas which the Equalities and Human Rights Commission are now paying attention to. If the Churches will not pay attention then the Secular arm of the State will - and for that we should marvel and be grateful.

That is why paying attention to Christ's modeling of what the kingdom of God means, is So tough. It is truly revolutionary to any world which chooses to make maleness the site of authority, the font of all wisdom, or the sole pattern of how the sacred is to be mediated.

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A little background reading on the two theological integrities in the Church of England regarding women in ministry.