Extraordinary Measures

Today three ex-bishops from the Church of England were ordained priests into the Roman Catholic Church.

Ostensibly it is a matter of faith -they do not believe that women should be priests and certainly not bishops.

The reasons are varied:

Some are faintly biblical- (providing you focus on one particular understanding of some parts of the Bible e.g. 1 Corinthians 14:34 and studiously ignore others e.g. Galatians 3:28)…NB: Unlike most women, in my marriage vows I chose to say the old words, that I would ‘love honour and obey’ my husband… And he thinks I am supposed to be a priest too -so ‘submission’ verses like (1Peter 3:5) are water off a ducks back to me… And curiously in ‘conservative evangelical’ churches and those who fundementally oppose the ordination of women – women are NOT silent in church as Corinthians suggests -but make announcements, sing songs, say prayers, do readings etc… still, as I say -it’s how people pick and choose to understand them.

Recently I heard someone say that women should not preach or be priests because ‘Adam came first and God gave the word of authority to Adam’. That I’m afraid was the worst excuse I’ve ever heard -partly since the Law was given to Moses -and partly coz ‘first’ does not equal BEST or most important in the Bible -look at King David -youngest brother, Joseph -youngest brother until Benjamin- Isaac -second son after Ishmael… Jacob -younger twin after Esau -if anything God tends to use those who aren’t the obvious choice to inherit responsibility. Also -God may have given the ‘word of authority’ -whatever that is- to Adam -But he gave the Word of Life -Christ… to Mary.

Some think it’s wrong coz it’s not historical: women didn’t used to do that so they shouldn’t do it now… I’m not even going to bother arguing with that coz… well… (Though of course in the very early Christian history they DID lead churches -like Priscilla for example- and they led countries -like the Queen of Sheba- were judges-like Deborah… there’s even a possible female Pope -Pope Joan -though that may be apocryphal… ) still history is not what Christians are supposed to live by.

Some think its wrong coz it’s not traditional -that’s like the one above, except with a bit more of the sense of ‘it’s wrong coz we just don’t like it’.

Some think its wrong coz it doesn’t follow ‘apostolic succession’ -many large mainstream denominations (though far from all) believe they can trace a line of successive bishops back to the first Apostles -and particularly to St Peter (disciple of Christ and commissioned by the risen Christ) and St Paul (Persecuter of Christians but then commissioned by the risen Christ)… strangely no mainstream denomination as yet claims to trace their line back to the very first person commissioned by the risen Christ -Mary, who encountered him outside the tomb and was sent (apostelo in Greek -yes, that is what Apostle means -Sent) by him to tell Peter and John and all the other disciples.

Of course in practice -everybody who has ever become a practicing Christian within a church could eventually trace their succession back to the first disciples -since they were the ones who started spreading the news in the first place. And equally -no-one at all, not even a pope, can firmly prove their apostolic succession historically -so it’s all very arbitrary indeed.

What it really comes down to is whether you truly believe that God is in charge and that it is by his love and grace that human beings are brought to faith and saved. Or whether you think it is something that depends on human beings doing it right. God or Man… who’s at the top of your pyramid?

It’s God at the top of mine -so though I try to be obedient to authority (only because God lets it be the authority), I don’t have much truck with the idea that if human beings get it right, God pours out his grace; but if human beings get it wrong, God will cease to pour out his grace -like some divine gumball machine which only operates if you put the correct traditional apostolic conservative coins in. Also -God called me -so I know God calls women -but that’s not a persuasive point unless you are me.

Oh-I forgot to mention the reason some people have -that priests are to be like Christ -and the most important aspect of that Christlikeness they consider to be a willy. It doesn’t matter if you are a complete sadist -a selfish and malicious egomaniac- or just a drunken thief… God can apparently still use you as a priest but only if you also have a willy… there are no specifications on circumcision, size or completeness -but the XY chromosome combo is all-surpassing. I can’t see the sense in that myself -though I agree that God can succesfully use all sorts of strange and flawed people… after all, here I am.

Anyway, these three, undeniably angry old men, have decided not to wait and see what the Church of England was going to do next, but to hedge their bets and jump ship to the Roman Catholic church -taking their wives and families-and priesthoods- with them… nice for them but tough for faithful unmarried Roman Catholic priests who have been denied the opportunity to have families. And tough for those who they leave behind, who are still unconvinced about women priests -but who sincerely hoped there would be a way to work it out.

As for me -I won’t mourn their passing any more than they would hail my arrival -but I think it is fast and foolish behaviour… And I think the Pope has been less than loving and unifying about the whole business –but he may be secretly scouting urgently around for a few more militantly anti-women figureheads… since many in the Roman Catholic church are campaigning vigorously FOR the ordination of women Roman Catholic priests.


About Jemma

Learning to be both a priest and a human being in the Anglican Church
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