Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Priestesses in Plano (Part I)

Just when it seemed a safe bet that the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) had made a final decision about priestesses in the Church, and one that took the right decision even if for incomplete reasons, along comes Fr. David Roseberry, Rector of Christ Church Plano, Texas, to make you hold on to your money. The message is, do not bet on that horse after all. Along with one Fr. Clint Kerley and one Toby Eisenberg, Fr. Roseberry and Christ Church have presented a position paper in favor of women “priests.” The paper is far too long to post here, but can be read in PDF format here. It is worth taking the time, however, to read some of their paper interspersed with commentary by Fr. John Hollister, Priest Associate at Christ Anglican Catholic Church, Metairie (New Orleans), Louisiana. Because of length, we will present Part I now, and follow up with Part II in a few days. Also, please note that we do not hold the AMiA accountable for the error and poor reasoning expressed by a mere handful of individuals.

Do you know this riddle? A father and his son are in a car crash. The father is killed instantly but the son is only injured and is taken to the hospital. He is rushed to the operating room, the doctor comes in, looks at the patient on the operating table, and says, “I can't operate on him, he's my son.” How can this be? If you are stumped on this, you are not alone. It is not easy to figure out. But did you get it? It is deceptively simple: the doctor is the boy’s mother.

Comment: This opening is a disingenuous attempt to start the discussion off with the acceptance of false assumptions and invalid analogies. Medicine is (a) a secular occupation and (b) a form of “employment”, as secular society understands that term, while the ordained ministry is neither of those things. Thus what may or may not be true of secular callings in our society is utterly irrelevant to the Church’s consideration of who may or may not be admitted to its formal ministry. Thus to begin this discussion with an example that is so inapposite to the issue at hand is to set a completely inappropriate tone and frame of reference.

It goes without saying that the times are changing rapidly... It would seem only natural that the church would not escape the relentless wave of change.

Comment: Socially-assigned sex rôles may be changing but divinely-created ontological differences between men and women are not. Thus, for example, we live in a society in which some pretend that men may marry men and women may marry women but their erroneous belief in that, and even their success in persuading almost all of the chattering classes and many legislators and jurists to accept their opinion, does not make that opinion any less absurd.

Further, to say that changes in the secular culture must necessarily change the Church is to place the Church in a subsidiary rôle vis-à-vis that culture. The essential mission of the Church, as handed over to it by Our Lord, is to transform the world into a Christian society, not to be transformed by the world into a pagan religion. This initial assumption of society’s supremacy over revealed Faith operates to delimit in inappropriate ways the discussion that is to come and is, in and of itself, a non sequitur. Those who believe the Church is a voluntary human association created by its members to promote their own interests may find this line of argument persuasive. Those who believe that the Church is a divine institution, created by God and handed over to us for our temporary stewardship, into which we are called by God’s initiative rather than our own, will find this entire proposition nonsense and will likely lay this paper down at this point, finding that it comes from such an alien world view that it has nothing to offer them.

Any change we make to tradition or roles or common understanding should have a clear biblical rationale…

Comment: “Any change we make to tradition or roles or common understanding should have a clear biblical rationale and should, in the end, be either allow[ed] or proscribed by our Scriptures…” If the authors really believe this, then they should simply begin with 1 Timothy 3:2-5 and Titus 1:6 and explain how Scripture either allows or prescribes that a female may be an “husband” or “a man”.

As to how we can reach this world with the hope and power of the Gospel, we should begin by attending to the canonical Scriptures that accompany that Gospel and to the universal Tradition of the Church that is
both author and custodian of those Scriptures.

As an Anglican church, we are not left to interpret Scripture by ourselves but are part of a worldwide communion that helps us understand God’s word and our particular belief in how we live out our faith together.

Comment: One assumes the “worldwide communion” referred to here is the Lambeth association of churches. Historically, that association and its progenitor, the Church of England, always defended Anglicanism from attacks both from extreme Protestants and from Rome by arguing that it held no unique doctrines of its own but only held, taught, and practiced the universal Faith of the Undivided Church of the Apostles. It was only late in the 20th Century that some member Provinces of the Lambeth Communion began to develop idiosyncratic doctrines that are at odds with the otherwise universal consensus of the Catholic Church in all of its branches. It is this late-developing faith, a sort of congregationalism writ large in defiance of all previous Anglican understandings of the nature of the Church, that is being described here. Just look at that key admission, and likely Freudian slip, “our particular belief”.

Yet, after more than thirty years spent studying the issue of women’s ordination, a consensus in the Anglican communion still has not been reached.

Comment: Prior to the 1960s, the Lambeth Communion did share a consensus on this issue. Over 25 years the Lambeth Communion may have managed to undermine that consensus to which it theretofore always adhered but the entire Church Catholic still adheres to the consensus on this issue that it has maintained for 2,000 years. So there is a fundamental lack of perspective, if not an outright intellectual dishonesty, inherent in the suggestion that somehow this is an open question which the wider Church has been unable to resolve and on which, therefore, one parish in one place has been called to lead billions of Christians to enlightenment.

This reveals quite starkly one of the fundamental problems of this approach. Anglicanism, if it has any reality or value as a unique way of “doing Church”, is and must remain, at bottom, the branch of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church that is native to the English-speaking peoples and that has been adopted by others who were introduced to Christianity by those peoples. As such, Anglicanism in the days of its health claimed vociferously that it had no doctrines that were its alone but only the doctrines that it shared with the rest of the Catholic Church.

From this perspective, what may or may not be done in the various Dioceses and Provinces that call themselves “Anglican” is irrelevant; all that counts is what the rest of the Catholic Church does as authorized by the immemorial organs of Catholicity, the Œcumenical Councils. Thus also from this perspective, there is no discussion of women’s ordination that may legitimately be had until the other three-quarters of the Catholic Church – the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox Communions – have joined Anglicanism in a new Œcumenical Council to discuss and authorize the innovation.

While we wait for that consensus, our call to mission requires us to take a position on the matter.

Comment: This is a non sequitur. Please explain precisely why a “call to mission”, that presumably is a mission to spread the Gospel, requires the instant adoption of a new way of viewing and interpreting that very Gospel, and the abandonment of the entire Church’s immemorial methods of Scriptural exegesis and application.

To be frank, there is just a touch of narcissism in the proposition that one parish in Plano, TX, at a time 2,000 years after the Church began evangelizing the world, is somehow uniquely called to develop and show that Church a new approach to that Gospel. Either the message revealed in Scripture is ours or it is God’s. If it be ours, it is scarcely worth listening to. If it be God’s, then we have no power to alter either it or its fundamental presentation, yet that is precisely what the attempt to change the application of St. Paul’s clear words amounts to.

Our goal in this paper is to explain our position on women’s ordination and why we think it is the most faithful position Christ Church can take as it seeks to live out the Christian mission in Plano, Texas. Our position is that women can serve as deacons and priests (including as rectors), though the office of bishop must be reserved for men.

Comment: That is rank and opportunistic sexism. St. Paul makes clear, in his Epistles to Timothy and to Titus, that the ontological requirements for the lower clergy and for the episcopate are identical. Thus if a woman could be either a deacon or a priest, then she could likewise be a bishop. There is no principled way to create a new ministry into which women may be installed and then to impose a “stained glass ceiling” on their advancement through the ranks of that new ministry.

Of course, this is not only another non sequitur but it rejects, without any discussion or explanation, St. Paul’s directive, contained in what we are taught is canonical, i.e., inspired Scripture, that the qualifications for the lower clergy and for the episcopate are identical. And as admitted here, the deacons and priests are simply the bishop’s delegates for carrying on portions of the bishop’s ministry in a particular location, so on what basis can one conclude from that that the qualifications for the delegate are fundamentally different from those for the delegator?

It would seem much more logical to conclude that, where the most characteristic function of the bishop’s ministry has always been the celebration of the Eucharist for his diocese, then each person to whom he delegates part of his rôle in that celebration should meet the same ontological qualifications as he himself does.

Yet we are here given absolutely no justification for this, only the vague and unsupported assertion that violating this principle somehow furthers some undefined “mission”.

Our approach to the issue of women’s ordination is perhaps best described as a “mission-oriented” approach because it attempts to bring Scriptural teaching on how to carry out the call to mission into the discussion on women’s ordination….

Comment: Curiously, nowhere in this paper is this “mission-oriented approach” defined or explained. “Reverse engineering” of the arguments here, however, shows that this approach consists of essentially these elements:

1. An unsupported but not unlikely assumption that elements in the society around us are made uncomfortable by some of the Church’s teachings and practices; and

2. The inference that these dissatisfied elements have declared that this discomfort is the reason they do not attend church and have rejected the Church’s attempts to reach them; coupled with

3. A determination to change the Church’s teachings and practices in order to conform to the prejudices and preferences of those dissatisfied elements.

Quite apart from the complete misunderstanding of the Church’s rôle in mission that this displays, it has practical implications as well. It offers us no reliable guidance as to which of the Church’s beliefs and practices are so essential that we dare not think of altering them and which are so temporary and merely instrumental that we can amend them at will. As a result, any group in society may demand changes to suit itself just as legitimately as any other group already has. Thus, for example, many feel the Church is not as successful as it should be in reaching adolescents and young adults. Those efforts would certainly be facilitated if only the Church would stop insisting that these potential targets of evangelism maintain chastity, and in particular that they postpone sexual activity until marriage. These young people live in a culture that has decided free and unfettered sexual expression is a basic human right, as well as an element of good health; “the best scholarship” of Margaret Mead and her disciples supports this ethic of hedonism; these youngsters are not going to church because there they will be told things they do not want to hear; so, according to the logic of this paper, there clearly is a “missional” imperative for the Church to “get with it” and “loosen up”.

Nor need we be stayed from making these essential changes just because Scripture is quite clear on what sexual conduct is demanded of Christians, for we are shown here how, once something is argued to comport with the “missional approach”, that deconstructs Scripture and replaces it with whatever is seen to be the need of the moment.

Then there are the sexual deviates and their fellow-travelers who tell us that “the best scholarship” holds that sexual perversions result from organic predispositions, etc., etc., etc. ….

There is also the small matter of who it is for whom the Church’s practices are an obstacle to the faith. What Christ Church, Plano TX is doing may well garner the approval of the world around it, but what about the fact that, just by introducing these innovations in its ministry, it has severed communion with large parts of the Christian world and has utterly destroyed any possibility of communion with three-quarters of Christianity. This is in clear defiance of Our Lord’s command that we “be one”, so what is it that privileges the hedonistic Western society so that its wishes are followed and deprives all of traditional Christianity so that it is thrown under the missional bus?

In considering this, remember these facts:

a. From 1930 until 1976, the Lambeth Communion and the Old Catholic Union of Utrecht were partners in communion under the “Bonn Concordat”.

b. In 1976, the Eastern Orthodox Communion was preparing to enter into mutual recognition of the Lambeth Communion, very much along the lines of that “Bonn Concordat”. (“Preparing to enter into” means the documents were already drawn up, the decision to sign them had been made, and all that remained was for the formal meeting at which they would be signed.)

c. Also in 1976, prior to the scheduled Eastern Orthodox/Anglican meeting (which was to have been in Moscow), the DFMSPECUSA (
The Domestic and Foreign Mission Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, i.e. the full legal name of the Episcopal Church) held its General Convention at which it passed, on first reading, the canonical amendments that would formally approve the concept of women’s ordination d. Still in 1976, after that General Convention and after seeing that the Lambeth Communion was taking no action to reign in or discipline the DFMSPECUSA, the Union of Utrecht unilaterally withdrew from the Bonn Concordat and, at the same time, the Eastern Orthodox cancelled their meeting and tore up the documents that would have recognized Anglicanism. Note, too, that this destroyed the Bonn Concordat not just for DFMSPECUSA but for the entire Lambeth Communion; this denied Eastern Orthodox recognition not just to DFMSPECUSA but to all of Anglicanism worldwide.

Therefore the question now remains to be answered, just in the light of these ruptures in inter-Communion relationships, what “missional” opportunities were lost, what united Christian witness to the unchurched of the world was foregone, solely by DFMSPECUSA’s smug unilateral “prophetic” act?

If the “mission” in question is to bring the world to a knowledge and acceptance of the Faith set forth in the canonical Scriptures, and if those same Scriptures set forth specific requirements for how that mission is to be carried on, and by whom specific parts of it are to be performed, why are those Scriptural prescriptions not the beginning and the end of the inquiry? When some people are dissatisfied with the results of that determination, what legitimately authorizes agents of the Church to depart from those conclusions in order to search for alternative principles that might yield answers more in keeping with their own personal predispositions?

There are a great many things about Christianity that some of us might wish were easier, more socially acceptable, less onerous, less demanding on us, or simply had been arranged differently. Unfortunately, if we are to be faithful Christians, we do not have the option of changing those things. The only choice before us is to accept what the Church teaches and does or to reject it but it is not an option for us to change it.

While few people would disagree with our view that God’s mission to redeem humanity stands as the central theme in Scripture, many do make the mistake of attempting to address women’s ordination without reference to whether mission has any relevance to the issue. Our approach sees mission as of great relevance to the issue of women’s ordination and attempts to orient the discussion in terms of Scriptural teaching on mission.

Comment: The implicit assumption here is that somehow the Church’s historic male ministry is an obstacle to its spreading of the Gospel, at least in the parochial and highly-secularized context of the U.S.A. The facts, however, do not bear this assumption out. In the 30 years since the DFMSPECUSA adopted women’s ordination, its membership has fallen by half. The “mainline” Protestant denominations that followed DFMSPECUSA’s lead have likewise experienced shrinkage in membership. In that same period, other church groups with somewhat similar liturgical traditions, but which do not ordain women, such as the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church in America, have experienced growth in absolute terms. So, too, have other nonliturgical bodies which do not ordain women, such as the Southern Baptists and most Pentecostals. What evidence is there, then, that the traditional male ministry is hindering the growth of the Church?

Christ Church’s reasoning on women’s ordination can be summarized as follows: Scripture clearly teaches that we ought to take a mission-oriented approach when determining what teachings and practices we adopt as we proclaim the gospel to a particular culture.

Comment: Scripture nowhere says that we can develop valid principles by which we may disregard the plain and prescriptive words of Scripture itself. The implication is quite to the contrary: we are commanded to carry out the Church’s mission only by adhering to the Church’s characteristic teachings and practices.

Traditional teachings and practices should be presumed correct unless a culture has changed so much that it is at odds with those teachings.

Comment: Once again, we see the concept entering in, that the secular culture may, under the right conditions, trump the plain words of Scripture and the universal Tradition of the Church as it has interpreted and applied those words. To the contrary, the authentic Christian position has always been that the Church exists to transform the culture, not the culture to transform the Church.

As to “necessity”, it is the Church that is empowered to determine what is adiaphora (“things indifferent”) and what is essential. Here “the Church” means the entire Church of the Creeds and the Œcumenical Councils, not one parish in one U.S. state...If something was done in the days of Our Lord and those who were personally taught by Him, then we should probably do that same thing today and certainly should do it until we are presented with the strongest evidence that it was not in fact His will for us. In other words, a very high burden of proof rests squarely on the proponents of change, not on the proponents of Tradition.

The best understanding of Scripture’s teaching on male headship in marriage is that it is rooted in God’s different ordering of men and women (i.e., innate gender differences). While the scriptural teaching on male headship in ministry is perhaps less certain, a strong enough parallel between headship in ministry and headship in marriage appears to exist so that we are not prepared to part with the traditional teaching of male headship in ministry.

Comment: One has already departed from it if one is not following the clear commands of canonical Scripture: the ordained ministry is restricted to males who are eligible to be “husbands”. The connection between male headship in the family and male headship in the ministry is a close and essential one, each of which illuminates the other. Thus Our Lord’s own chosen metaphor to describe His relationship to His Church is “the bridegroom” (e.g., St. Matthew 25:1-13) and a bridegroom must be male. If we were in any doubt that the rule implied in this metaphor applies to the parochial clergy, St. Paul removes that doubt when he declares that an Apostle or Bishop is to choose the ordained leaders of local congregations by examining their performance as actual husbands and fathers.

Instead, we will wait for this issue to be resolved through the process of reception.

Comment: Just what is meant by this concept of “reception”? It sounds remarkably like, “Our Lord didn’t do it, His Apostles didn’t do it, but if all of us now decide to do it, our consensus trumps His example.” Like erring children, “it’s O.K. so long as we all do it.” To the contrary, if something is wrong, it remains wrong regardless of how many join in doing it.

Jesus reached out to the Samaritan woman at the well. It was rare that a Jewish man would engage in a conversation with a strange woman, but to talk to a Samaritan was especially unbelievable because Jews considered Samaritans to be half-breeds and unclean. Not only was she a woman and a Samaritan, she was also notoriously sinful. Jesus broke through all of these barriers to bring the gospel to her (John 4). Examples like these are numerous throughout the New Testament.

Comment: And His Apostles certainly understood what He was about when He broke those “rules” of Palestinian society and themselves had no hesitation in following His example. Thus St. Peter accepted and confirmed Gentile converts, in clear contravention of all prevailing Jewish social principles and thereby moving the nascent Christianity away from being merely a Jewish sect. Thus St. Paul, at need, appointed Lydia of Thyatira as what we would call the “Senior Warden” of one of his new missionary congregations, which would have been unthinkable to both the Jews and Greeks of his day, but he never ordained her to preside at the altar.

[Editorial addition: The actual text makes it clear that the only surprising thing Jesus did was to talk to a Samaritan (John 4:9 being the key to unlock this aspect of the text); the fact that she was also a woman is much overblown in our own time, and not supported by any honest translation of the text or known facts of history.]

Our mission-oriented approach attempts to follow Paul’s own missionary mindset and example as we seek to understand what he taught about women in ministry and how we are to engage our culture with the gospel.

Comment: It was precisely his mission in which St. Paul was engaged when, in order to provide for the local Sacramental leadership of his new missionary congregations, he told two of his immediate followers (perhaps the very first “missionary bishops”) that they were to appoint – in our terms, select and ordain – men to serve those local groups. And, in doing so, he told those followers that they were to select these local leaders from among the husbands and fathers of those communities. Had he intended this local ministry to have a unisex character, he could easily have written “spouses” and “parents” but he did not. The Church, consistently and for two millennia, has followed what he actually said and did, not what 1960s and ‘70s social activists wished he had said and done. Recall in this connection that it is an article of Christian belief that when the Church consistently does something intimately related to its nature and function, it is doing so under the promised guidance of the Holy Spirit, Who is after all also the Third Person of the Trinity and, thus, God.

(To be continued)


Anonymous said...

I clearly recall the occasion when I first heard that silly riddle about the lady doctor. The year was in 1965 or 1966. In their efforts to be super-contemporary, these neo-Anglicans are really a generation behind.

We must applaud Canon Hollister for his labors in analyzing this document. The thing is so poorly reasoned that I would rather take a beating than follow its tedious path.

RSC+ said...

I think Canon Hollister makes an important point when he emphasizes the parallelism for qualifications of deacons and bishops. It's something we should have no fear of acknowledging: Yes, of course, it follows that if women can be deacons or priests, that they can also be bishops. Our point is precisely that it is not chauvanism or sexism in our case. It isn't a question of merit or a lack of proper skill sets, but rather, ontology.

Put another way, ontologically any guy is able to be a Father, whether he engage in the various biological acts or not. No amount of surgery or self-expression can make him a Mother. (And thank heavens for that.) He might have all the nurturing skills in the world, but it's still an ontological impossibility. By the same token, I think, a woman can be a mother, but not a father or a priest.

It also follows that if gender doesn't matter for one sacrament (Holy Orders), it doesn't matter for another sacrament (Matrimony).

This is why Anglicans of any stripe must strive to preserve our sacraments. They are by and large inter-connected, and tweaking one sacrament's proper form, matter, and intent will very quickly lead into the collapse of the other seven. Imagine the precedent of ambiguously defined "matter" of two sacraments -- Orders and Matrimony -- spreading to the others, especially Baptism and the Eucharist.

By the way, I have been prayerfully considering all the bully-hoo about participation, fairness, and "empowering the laity" in the liturgy, which is, I suspect, how much of the question of Women's Ordination got going. Some ask, "Why can only men do the Jesus Magic up on the altar?" Does anyone think we (being Liturgically Minded Folks) perhaps go too far in our raising up the liturgy, such that it becomes the focal point of what "power" and "participation" are in the church? Or rather, we that don't emphasize enough all the very important things that the laity can do that priests simply cannot do -- like invite people in their social networks to church, witness in the workplace or classroom (delicate matters, to be sure), mentor people outside the church, and on and on? Being a thurifer or a lay reader on Sunday is a fine thing, but living the Christian life outside the church building seems to me a far greater empowerment of women (and men, for that matter) who want to serve Christ's Church.

(As a side note, I think the riddle has less to do with gender stereotype and more to do with a given sex's tedency to identify with members of their own sex first. For example, my grandmother seems to think every cat or dog I have ever owned is female for reasons that elude me.)

RC Cola said...

The doctor analogy is so deeply flawed it is difficult to know where to begin. I like to ask women why I cannot have babies as women do, and claim (for the sake of argument) that God has mistreated me by making it impossible. I argue that society is narrow-minded for not allowing me to call myself "mother" even if I were the one to stay home with children, do all the laundry, the cooking, dropping off at soccer practice, etc.
Invariably, women reject the 'social construct' argument and will say that even though I can do the functions of a mother, that I can never in reality be the mother.

To which I then move in for the kill, " there is something different about being able to do the functions of a mother and actually being a mother?"

"Yes," she invariably responds.

"So then, according to your logic then, even though women can do the functions of a priest, they cannot actually be priest then, can they? Thanks!"

Let's put it this way: they are not happy with me when I smirk from ear to ear and they storm off in a huff.

poetreader said...

Yes, thanks are due to Fr. Hollister for a piece of good work -- and for the strong stomach that enabled him to read through such a tenedentious and illogical document.


RC Cola said...

Great point about ontology Shaughn, and coincidental that you should bring up the impossibility of a Male-Mother also.

One exceedingly difficult ontological problems is that men and women are substantially identical. That is the substance is "human being" while men are the accident of man, and the woman is the accident "woman." This poses the problem that there is not substantial barrier to women's ordination, but there must be an accidental barrier.

This, by the way, reveals the real necessity of having our Aristotelian-Thomistic categories down pat. Too many think of accidents as changeable like a set of clothes, Or that substance is a pin cushion and accidents are pins we can put in and pull out at will. Instead, accidents are a very real being that inhere in a substance to individuate it.

So accepting that the issue has something to do with "being man" or "being woman" our best contemporary school of thought may be Johl Paul II's "Theology of the Body". I'm not saying he explicitly discusses female ordination in ToB, but rather the discussion he engages in of what man is or what woman is may point the way for us to come up with a contemporary ontological argument against women's ordination.

I think that everyone here will appreciate John Paul II's very Lerinian statement when he said that the "Church does not have the authority" to allow women's ordination. Brilliant.

Anonymous said...

"It goes without saying that the times are changing rapidly... It would seem only natural that the church would not escape the relentless wave of change."

Who is writing this, Reverend Roseberry or Louis Crew? If it is Reverend Roseberry, he owes VGR an apology.
If it is Louis Crew, then we have heard it all before.

Brian said...

All this business about being "mission-oriented" is really evangelicalese for "the ends justify the means."

As Shaughn said, we must strive to preserve the sacraments. Once the traditional, sacramental view of ordination has been jettisoned, as the ACNA appears to have done, other errors are sure to follow. This why the pearl of great price for the Continuum is the Affirmation of St. Louis, which grounds the sacramental life and understanding of the movement in the catholic tradition.

Unknown said...

"Traditional teachings and practices should be presumed correct unless a culture has changed so much that it is at odds with those teachings."

What a truly frightening statement we have here. It would appear that Fr Roseberry was either not listening to or did not want to hear anything Metropolitan Jonah said to the ACNA in Dallas.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

It goes without saying that the times are changing rapidly... It would seem only natural that the church would not escape the relentless wave of change.

Taken to nothing but their simple and unavoidable conclusion by logic, yes, as Fr. Wells said, it means they owe an apology to VGR and need to affirm his episcopacy. What it also means is that "mission" is reverse evangelism. Instead of announcing to the world, "Repent, for the Kingdom of God has come," they announce to the Church, "Repent, for the dominion of Satan has come." And, repent of what? Simple faithful obedience to God.

I think Screwtape helped Fr. Roseberry and his two useful id..., well his two associates.

Anonymous said...

I have never taken AMIA's rejection of WO seriously in the least. The developments in Plano do not surprise, in fact, I wonder why it took them so long to drop the pretense of a "moratorium."

Living at close quarters with Neo-Anglicans, I can attest that they have no concept of how deeply entrenched the Continuum Churches are in our rejection of WO. They really expected Abp Haverland and all our bishops to come running to their recent conclave.
Since they do not grasp the issue, they naturally do not grasp the intensity of the objection. Poor silly people! They think it's just about our preference for Elizabethan English!

The Shrinking Cleric said...

Thank you, Canon Hollister, for your outstanding commentary on this deeply flawed piece of work from the pseudo-Anglicans in Plano.

If I understand their argument correctly, it runs something like this:

1. The world is changing rapidly.
2. It is up to Christians to resist change for change's sake.
3. There is no clear consensus in the Anglican Communion about the attempted ordination of women to the priesthood. (To which I say, big deal, there's no consensus in the Anglican Communion about anything.)
4. Since there is no consensus on this subject but the world around is changing, and since it is our duty to act in accordance with the Scripture, we are going to introduce a fundamental novelty into our church life that has brought nothing but poisonous fruit to every church that has attempted it.

I recognize that my training is more psychological than theological, but do I have the basics of that argument down?

If so, what about the author of Hebrews admonition: "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines." Is there some part of this message that is incomprehensible to the pseudo-Anglicans?

I've been accused of being a bit simplistic before. Maybe I'm missing the subtlety of the epistlers from Texas.

Sorry for the rant. It's been a long day.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

These folks in Plano are simply following the same path as TEC, from which they claim to have been liberated. As I said before, logic has its own gravity. No one can stand at the top of a thirty foot hill, and roll a ball down that hill a mere ten feet. Neither can he make it roll only so far as twenty feet. Once he lets go, it will roll all the way. This premise, "Traditional teachings and practices should be presumed correct unless a culture has changed so much that it is at odds with those teachings," once unleashed, cannot be controlled. It will role the entire distance, as it has already in TEC.

William Tighe said...

Fr. Bob,

You wrote:

"Still in 1976, after that General Convention and after seeing that the Lambeth Communion was taking no action to reign in or discipline the DFMSPECUSA, the Union of Utrecht unilaterally withdrew from the Bonn Concordat and, at the same time, the Eastern Orthodox cancelled their meeting and tore up the documents that would have recognized Anglicanism."

Alas, even Homer nods, for the reality of the Old Catholic response was much more tragic. The Polish National Catholic Church here in the States immediately severed communion with E"C"USA and the Anglican Church of Canada, while the bishops of the Union of Utrecht as a whole contented themselves merely with "deploring" the ordinations, but stating that they would remain in communion with Anglican churches that began to "ordain" women. By the early 80s the push for WO was beginning in the small European OC churches, and, beginning in 1996 with the Swiss they began to "ordain" women to the diaconate, and beginning with the Germans in 1996, women to the priesthood. In 1999 the Austrian OC Church approved the "blessing" of homosexual "life partnerships," and by 2006 others were following.

In 2003 the PNCC was expelled from the Union of Utrecht because of its refusal to recognize the "Orders" of "ordained" women, and today the OC Churches in the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland openly practice WO and SS, that of Germany WO only (so far); the Czech OC as yet only "ordains" women to the diaconate; and the Polish Catholic Church (an OC body of about 20,000 members, the daughter of the PNCC) refuses WO and SS and yet remains in full communion with the other OC bodies that do so. I wrote about these matters in this article, which appeared in 1999:

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Since the PNCC was slow in simply pulling out on their own, I consider it Divine mercy that they were set free by the heretics. I wrote to Dr. Laurence Orzell (may light perpetual shine upon him) around that time to congratulate them all for their new found liberty.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Fr. Hart, from their perspective, the folks in Plano are not following TEC. However, it is evident that they are following the path which their Protestant views take them down. Many things can be justified by those who interpret Scripture apart from Holy Tradition. It is very sad.

Accepting women priests but not women bishops is so strange.

John A. Hollister said...

Dr. William Tighe wrote, "Alas, even Homer nods, for the reality of the Old Catholic response was much more tragic..." and then went on to explain how the sorry story unfolded.

Alas, it was not Homer who nodded, or even Fr. Hart, but I. I appreciate the correction, for I only joined the liturgical church in 1983 and so received at second hand the accounts of the Continuing Church pioneers of 1976 about what they had experienced.

So I was unaware up until Dr. Tighe's comment that it was only the PNCC and not the entire Union of Utrecht that had severed its relationship with Lambeth Anglicanism, because I distinctly recall being told that after 1976 Old Catholics no longer participated in Lambeth-affiliated episcopal consecrations. Clearly, my informant was in error as to this detail.

As to the response of the Eastern Orthodox, I feel more confident of the accuracy of what I wrote because in that instance, my informant was one of the overseas Greek Orthodox periti who had been tapped to go to Moscow in attendance upon his Archbishop. (In fact, I believe the meeting there was held as scheduled, to discuss other matters, but with Anglicanism's having been removed from the agenda.)

John A. Hollister+
Veriword: "oxomof"

Anonymous said...

Please excuse my ignorance, but what does the "DFMS" mean in "DFMSPECUSA"?

Doubting Thomas

poetreader said...

A somewhat obscure point.
The full legal name of the the Episcopal Church under which it is incorporated is

The Domestic and Foreign Mission Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America


Anonymous said...

Thanks, ed

RC Cola said...

Going back and re-reading this yet again, I cannot even grasp why the folks in Plano sought to address the issue and why they appear to think that they have come to some "deep understanding"? I mean, this is the same pile of manure that we have already suffered through, but wrapped up in--well, I can't even say that it's wrapped in a new package, because its the same old stuff dragged out of the sewer.

There is nothing new, nothing exciting, nothing profound about their statement. It didn't even offer any fresh insight into the psyche of the women's ordination movement. I mean, they don't even offer any innovative reasoning to an old idea...just the same reasoning stated the same old way.

Oh why, why, why must we endure this nonsense?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Oh why, why, why must we endure this nonsense

I have come to see that things are old to me, but new to young adults. When the same old heresy pops up, even without change, it needs to be refuted again.

By the way, that opening line about the mommy surgeon is one I too remember from the 1960s. In real life everyone always got it: "Well, obviously the doctor is his mother." The only people who ever failed to get it right immediately were fictional characters in a 1970 episode of All in the Family. These social reformers have a real problem: They need fictional characters to live down to their presumption of common stupidity. It does not work in real life.

Canon Jerome Lloyd OSJV said...

Forgive me... But why are these gentlemen in AMiA?! Surely they would be more at home in TEC? Why did they move? For it would appear to me, not a huge leap in their "frame of theological logic", to accept same-gender marriage following similar rationale?!?!??!?!

RC Cola said...


There is an odd phenomenon among some self-styled conservatives who want to present themselves as moderates because they find that by caving into the liberals (while still calling themselves moderate-conservatives) they have become socially acceptable.

But their idea of being conservative is last decade's moderate, which is the prior decade's liberal, which is the prior decade's insanity. It's still insanity, but it's so socially acceptable now that it's conservative!

Here's an example of how it goes:

1970s: "We should allow gay clergy!"
reaction: "Oh, that's so radical it will never happen!"
1980s: "We should have gay clergy!"
reaction: "Oh, but only if they are celibate."
1990s: "We should have gay clergy!"
reaction: "Gay men have such wonderful gifts to offer the Church that it would be a shame to exclude them from ministry."
2000s: "We should have gay clergy!"
reaction: "Only if they are activists!"

See how that works? OK, c'mon now everyone try it!

Alice C. Linsley said...

It is neither helpful nor biblical to equate ordination of women and ordination of those involved in homosex. Anglican Evangelicals believe that all sex outside of marriage disqualifies for priestly ministry.

William Tighe said...

I may have nodded a little, too, Canon Hollister, for it is just possible that at their 1978 meeting the bishops of "the International Old Catholic Bishops Conference" may have decided no longer to participate in the episcopal consecrations of Anglican churches that had begun to ordain women. But even if they did so, it didn't stop the rapid advance of pro-WO sentiment among their laity and especially clergy (the majority of whom, in all the European OC churches save for the Swiss one, were former Roman Catholic priests, largely of the "the Pope and Cardinal ratzinger have betrayed 'the Spirit of Vatican II'" sort -- an "advance" that was most likely aided by their decision at that some 1978 meeting to remain in communion with Anglican churches that began to ordain women.

However, I may be confusing this with the decision of the bishops of the Church of England in 1960 no longer to participate in the consecrations of bishops of the Church of Sweden when that body began to ordain women in that year. That decision held until the resolution passed in 1975 by the General Synod of the Church of England that there were "no theological objections" to the ordination of women enabled some English bishops to agree to participate once again in Swedish episcopal consecrations. (The Union of Utrecht Old Catholics are currently discussing an "intercommunion agreement" with the Church of Sweden.)

I should add that my previous comment contained a slip of the finger: it was in 1987 that the first "female deacons" (or, as I term them, deaconettes) were ordained by an Old Catholic church (the Swiss; the others followed rapidly, but the Dutch only in 1997 and the Czechs two or three years ago) and in 1996 the first priestesses (the Germans; the Austrians followed in 1998, the Dutch in 2002, the Swiss in 2003).

The Austrian, the Dutch and the Swiss OC churches have formally endorsed the "blessing" of homosexual "life partnerships" and have drawn up rites for that purpose (but they insist that such blessings are not "marriage"); in Germany, while the OC church there has not formally approved of such blessings/rites, they are widespread and public, if "unofficial." The Czech OC church rejects such "blessings" and ordains women only to the diaconate, while the Polish (Old) Catholic Church rejects such blessings and rejects the ordination of women to the diaconate as well as to the presbyterate and episcopate, and yet inists that it is in "full communion" with all the other churches of the Union of Utrecht.

I might note, also, that at their 1978 meeting the Old Catholic bishops stated explicitly that as the ordination of women as deacons, priests and bishops touched "the essential order of the church," it could not be accepted by any Catholic church until or unless a "true ecumenical council" of Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Old Catholics and Anglicans had first authorized it.

poetreader said...

If temptation toward sin renders one unfit to be ordained, even the Apostles would not have been ordained, and the Church would be entirely without clergy. We are all tempted in one way or another, all hopelessly flawed, all entirely unfit for His service, and yet, He calls us. No matter the temptation, no matter, for all that, how strong it is, it is in the resisting oif temptation and in the living of a holy life that one demonstrates the grace of God acting in one.

The slippery slope in this case is found in succumbing to the homosexualist propaganda that there are two kinds of men, 'straight' and 'gay' and that different standards apply. As I've testified before, I certainly know same-sex attraction, but I also know that I am subject to the same moral code as all men. Therefore, like all men, I can either marry (which I did) or remain celibate (which I have done these 16 years since she died). It is in setting up two different standards based on how one is tempted that the church has often left itself justly open to accusations of bias in dealing with people. That (in my hu

In the "progression" given, the 1970 entry represents a head-in-sand attitude. There always have been clergy so incilned. the 1980 entry simply expresses a real-life reality well reflected in Scriptural attitudes toward difference. The later entries are not justified by that thought, but simply illustrate that men are always wanting to have their own way

mble opinion) is what has led to the homosexual activism. If those who, like me, are "differently tempted" are judged differently from those who are "normally tempted", a cry of injustice becomes reasonable. If, however, we are all treated in the same manner and held to the same standards, because we are not different kinds of beings, then there is no inequality involved.

To avoid slippery slopes, judge no man according to the way he is "different", but hold all men accountable to the same standards of behavior.


Fr. Robert Hart said...

Alice is right to say, It is neither helpful nor biblical to equate ordination of women and ordination of those involved in homosex, assuming that by "involved in" she means living in a state of willful sin. To equate the ordination of willful sinners and women is an error in logic, and a dangerous means of debate, in fact a forfeiture.

However, to say that "ordination" of women and "blessing" of same sex "unions" is one and the same error is true, at least in one respect: It presupposes that the sex of a person has no real place in his or her identity, and therefore no sacramental significance. The spread of this heresy is the reason, also, for embracing the very false science, or medical fiction of sex "change" (and, inasmuch as those who advocate for these rites of "blessing" know full well that the only role a priest exercises in a real marriage is to bless it, the man and woman being the ministers of the sacrament of matrimony, the use of the word "blessing" is a clever disguise for their heresy of same sex "marriage").

poetreader said...

Exactly right on, Fr. Hart!


John A. Hollister said...

Alice C. Linsley wrote, "It is neither helpful nor biblical to equate ordination of women and ordination of those involved in homosex."

Well, it is and it isn't. There is an essential difference between the two issues in that the state of being a woman is a biological and ontological given and moreover, as such, is an essential element of God's plan for humanity, while the state of being engaged in homosexual activity is simply a personal choice to behave in defiance of God's clear directives as expressed in Scripture.

On the other hand, there is a functional similarity between te two issues in that no woman and no openly and notoriously homosexually active man can be ordained without doing terminal violence to the clear commands of Scripture. Even though the two commands involved are quite different ones, the techniques used to deconstruct and denigrate Scripture so as to "permit" these novelties have more than a family relationship each to the other and, in fact, historically it was the Lambeth Communion's acceptance of women's "ordination" that led to its acceptance of the ordination of men and women who live in openly irregular relationships.

So, again, from one aspect the two issues are dissimilar and from another they share some similarities.

"Anglican Evangelicals believe that all sex outside of marriage disqualifies for priestly ministry."

It is not only Anglican Evangelicals who feel that way; almost all traditional Christians would, I think, hold that this is a character issue that is important enough to disqualify a postulant.

John A. Hollister+

RC Cola said...


If your comment was aimed toward my post, then please know I was not equating Women's Ordination with ordaining homosexuals.

Rather I was using homosexual ordination as an example of how unacceptable ideas become socially acceptable ideas over the course of years.

There is a tendency to shift leftward, and the culmination of that shift is that traditional/orthodox faith is pulled leftward toward innovation/unorthodoxy unless there is a very conscious decision and effort to remain grounded.

I witnessed it from within the RCC. I witnessed it from without and within the ECUSA. (From the RCC to about from the frying pan into the fire!) When looking to the Continuing Anglicans, I had to discern who seemed to be the least likely to make the leftward shift; who had made the decision to resist the temptation to "get with the times."

I looked at websites. Yes, I looked at AMiA and some of the language reminded me of what I heard in the ECUSA 20 years ago and the RCC 10 years ago and I thought, " won't be long now." So I was disappointed, but not surprised by the Plano Position Paper.

No Women's Ordination and Homosexual Ordination are not the same thing in and of themselves.

But they are the same phenomenon: They were both errors introduced by a small group of agitators who then managed to make these errors mainstream. These errors then became so prevalent that, well truth was seen as error by the majority and it required the Declaration of St. Louis so that Anglicans cut free themselves from the shackles of Marxian tyranny so that they could be free to live and worship as Anglicans, not like the secular humanists the ECUSA had become. WO and HO are both part and parcel of the Secular Humanist agenda.

Anonymous said...

Although this article has now accumulated 30 comments with only token assistance from me, I am surprised that it has drawn no attention from the neo-Anglican side. Perhaps they are too busy talking to each other at T19 and Standforminfroth. But it still seems odd, in view of their previous posture of "reaching out" to the reactionary troglogytes of the old-line Continuing Churches.

Fr Hart, Canon Hollister, and RC Cola have clarified the relationshiop between WO and the Lesbigay movement more than adequately.

Alice C. Linsley said...

RC said ""No, Women's Ordination and Homosexual Ordination are not the same thing in and of themselves. But they are the same phenomenon: They were both errors introduced by a small group of agitators who then managed to make these errors mainstream."

They are able to do this because they and the society in which we live reject the binary distinctions of the biblical worldview. To do so is to deny Reality and when we deny Reality we are insane.

I've written about this here:

Anonymous said...

Had an interesting telephone inquiry this morning. Seems the local neo-Anglican parson upset some people yesterday by devoting his sermon to the "new Prayer Book" which the ACNA is developing. Some people asked "What's wrong with our familiar 79 book, which you hve been telling us is perfectly fine?" and others asked "If the 79 book is not okay, why don't we just go back to ...." Good questions, IMHO.

John A. Hollister said...

Going back to the beginning of the original posting here, I note that Fr. Hart wrote, "please note that we do not hold the AMiA accountable for the error and poor reasoning expressed by a mere handful of individuals."

However, we also should not absolve AMiA of the necessarily questionable, and certainly unjust reasoning, whatever it may be, which AMiA as a whole uses to justify to itself and others its practice of ordaining women as deacons but then limiting them to that lowest grade of "Holy" Order.

While AMiA may not be guilty of precisely the same logical and historical lapses as are the officers of Christ Church, Plano TX, by lending itself to this intellectual disconnect AMiA contributes to the climate in which Plano-style "reasoning" flourishes.

That is, the essential theological and historical error is the same; there just may be different logical and rational errors used to explain and support it.

John A. Hollister+

Anonymous said...

I agree with Canon Hollister's last comment. Since I have had some opportunity to observe the local AMIA people up close (and honestly, they are good decent God-fearing Bible-believing Protestants, every last one of them), I can attest that they have no commitment to the apostolic ministry as it has historically been understood. Even during their purported "moratorium," they had priestesses on staff in local AMIA parishes. (I know whereof I speak.)

When my parish hosted a diocesan synod three years ago (at a time when it really looked like we old-line Continuers might find some commonality with them), I contacted their local leader (now a bishop elect in ACNA) and invited him to drop in on us. He told me he was already engaged that day, but pointedly suggested that he might send his curate, a priestess. That was a clear signal go me. I declined the offer and told him plainly why it was an unacceptible suggestion.

The Plano essay is probably a trial balloon just to make sure they have all their crew on board for WO. Little opposition, if any, to WO has been heard since they essay was released.
WO and probably female bishops are a "done deal" for ACNA.

Mark said...

As an AMiA clergyman, a few comments:

1) AMiA is not monolithic on this topic. Indeed, perhaps as much as 60% of the organization is scrambling to find out what comes next ("Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?") There are bishops who are unhappy about Plano's ham handed nonsense / extremely courageous move (pick one).

2) All other rhetoric aside, any AMiAs document that asserts its serious consideration of this matter (as Plano says) and yet never even begins to address the Rodgers Committee's work is very smart to ignore it / really quite ignorant of how empty headed it appears (again, pick one).

3) There is both fear and mercy in many of us. Fear - because this represents true Balkanization on the Rwandan front in North America. Mercy - because what ought one expect from people who went to terrible seminaries? I've come to believe that many honestly and truly don't know how to think theologically. I don't say this to be condemnatory. But my frame of reference (as a reformed trained type dude) is so vastly different from theirs (trying to get out of seminary with some kind of faith at all and being discipled in the charismatic based Renewal Movement), that it's almost impossible to think about how to bridge the gap!

4) The topic of women's ordination is, for me, at least, a benchmark topic on how one exegetes our culture, church history, and the Bible. So it's not just a matter of "order," as some insist. It's far more than that.

My own struggle is: how to be faithful to historic confessional Anglicanism (thems be fightin' words in some circles, I know), and at the same time be a brother who is truly diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. I truly tremble at this tension. And I'm pretty sure that I am by turns too weak and too harsh.

Lord, I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips.

Mark Rudolph

poetreader said...

Thank you, Fr. Rudolph, for a more balanced view than we usually hear from the components of ACNA. It is quite obvious how we the blog owners, and most of our commenters regard this issue, believing that both Scripture and Tradition require us to be quite inflexible in the matter. I believe it to be incumbent upon us to be clear as to just what those we desire to correct (and, God helping us, to restore unity with) actually are saying and thinking, and why.
That is difficult when everyone is either shouting or sneering. In this post you have performed a service.

I for one can repeat some of your words as if they were my own.

"My own struggle is: how to be faithful to historic confessional Anglicanism (thems be fightin' words in some circles, I know), and at the same time be a brother who is truly diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. I truly tremble at this tension. And I'm pretty sure that I am by turns too weak and too harsh."


Canon Tallis said...


I think all of us who were trained to be classical prayer book Anglicans feel quite the same. We know what the Bible teaches in both Testaments and remember that the New Testament existed for some time before the first word of that collections of gospels and epistles was written down, but with Elizabeth I believe that all of Holy Scripture is to interpreted in accordance with the "consentient mind and voice of the earliest bishops and Catholic fathers," the three creeds and the theological pronouncements of the universally received General Councils. That gives us little or no leeway to deal with those who would put the latest social or civil rights theory coming out of the universities on a par with Holy Writ. And yet we have those claiming to be either Christians or Anglicans (and sometimes both) who do. To twist an old Southern proverb, we must hate the sin and love the sinner, but someone must maintain the faith. Hopefully, that's us.

I feel for those in either AMiA or ACNA, but their problem is the result of living and worshiping with a deliberately heretical liturgy for almost thirty years and an even longer period of deliberate disobedience and abusing the previous orthodox one. And may we point out that it took two General Councils and a considerable period of time to cure the Church of Arianism. Neither our way nor theirs is going to be easy, especially as they believe that they can create a new prayer book entirely consistent with the theology of the English book of 1662 when they can not bring themselves to give up 1979. Perhaps this is the reason that we, using the 1928 book, continue to pray that God will "inspire continually the Universal Church with the spirit of truth, unity and concord.In doing so, we pray not only for ourselves but for all those who seek to do the will of our Father in heaven.

My hope is that the Reverend Mr Rudolph will continue to frequent this blog, reading the archives carefully, and commenting when he feels appropriate. I would also hope that he encourages his fellows in both AMiA and ACNA to do likewise. That way we may become unwittingly the DFMS of the Continuum to the profit of all.

John A. Hollister said...

I am deeply encouraged by Fr. Rudolph's very honest comment. That is, I am very encouraged that he, himself, will give due consideration to all of the complex elements of the situation in which he finds himself.

However, I am equally disheartened by his analysis of the causes of the theological confusion within ACNA. Not only do I accept his analysis as accurate, but I believe that, supplemented by Canon Tallis's observation about the corrosive effects of decades of suspect liturgy, it explains why we are unlikely to see much of ACNA's membership digging itself out of the pit into which it has fallen.

If anyone can suggest how we can effectively lower a ladder into that pit, I for one would listen with great attention. We, ourselves, are indeed men of unclean lips among people of unclean lips, but we are also in the blessed condition of being able to repeat the clean and saving words that are not ours but that have been entrusted to us by others.

John A. Hollister+

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Father Rudolph for his kind and wise words. I have been hoping all along for some dialogue with the ACNA camp, still believing that commonalities may be developed.