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Hallo again to all.

The Rev Florence Li Tim-OiSince becoming an Anglican, the seemingly settled acknowledgement of women as priests (the earliest modern occurrence being the 1944 ordination of Florence Li Tim-Oi in Hong Kong, regularised over 50 years ago) has been a blessed change, and one that was wholly in keeping with the evidence in front of our eyes. For all of the theological kerfuffle one might pose against ordaining women, none of it seemed particularly compelling given our many encounters with women who have been called by God, ordained into that call, and are excelling in it.

We did not expect, then, to see the news story as reported by Christianity Today, about Wakefield Cathedral and their choice to remove the names of presiders from their list of services. The Church of England's Independent Reviewer Sir William Fitall found in favor of a Mr. Dennis Belk, who felt marginalised as someone who would not receive Holy Communion from a woman. Towards the end of the 28 February report Fittall writes 'To expect someone whose theological conviction does not enable him to receive the sacramental ministry of women routinely to turn up to a celebration of Holy Communion when he cannot discover in advance whether he will be able to receive Holy Communion seems to me to be asking too much.'

The ruling is itself non-binding, and even the bishop of the diocese, who described the cathedral's decision as 'unfortunate', did not seem inclined to overturn the new practice. So, it is not as if this forces the issue. It seems in keeping with the same compromise of allowing parishes that cannot accept the oversight of a woman as bishop to have alternate oversight, and is—if nothing else—thoroughly in the Anglican tradition of a compromise that manages to please no one and offend everyone. It also simply seems to smack of the church endorsing, if not Donatism, something terribly similar, in permitting its communicants to judge the eucharist, duly-performed, somehow unworthy.

That, in and of itself, is not what grabbed our eye in this story. These are also arguments that have been made and will continue to be made. Rather, it was the language of victimisation and marginalisation employed by Mr. Belk and those sympathetic with him that drew our attention. That, and the willingness of the Church of England's review panel to accept his stance. What thought was given, we wonder, to the position faced by women who—as priests and bishops—must tolerate a church that allows some of its members to question the validity of their central vocation and God's call to them?  Surely they too are making a sacrifice in accepting this compromise. If a relatively minimal change to the schedule of services made the goodly theological point that the eucharist was the central thing and not the celebrant, and it protected the dignity of those presiding, how ought that to be weighed against the inconvenience of someone who absolutely must know that a woman is not presiding?

Clearly both the reviewer, and that diocese's notably regressive bishop, privileged one experience in this exchange, and which one they chose was telling. We at Anglicans Online value all who are called to serve God in his church.


See you next week.

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10 March 2019

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