35 years ago today: Episcopal Church on the road to becoming unrecognizable

Susan Russell reminds us of the last great schism threat when the Episcopal Church risked becoming unrecognizable to other local churches in the Anglican Communion (and threatened ecumenism to boot),

On July 29, 1974 eleven women broke the barrier so long in place against the ordination of women to the priesthood of the Anglican Church when they were “irregularly” ordained to the priesthood in Philadelphia. These women are often referred to as the “Philadelphia 11.”

Although there was no specific canon that specifically prohibited ordaining women to the priesthood, the canons required a recommendation from the standing committee. Many were upset because these women did have such a recommendation. While others were ready for change and ventured into new territory for the Episcopal Church.

On August 15, 1974, the House of Bishops, called to an emergency meeting, denounced the ordinations and declared them invalid. Charges were filed against the bishops who ordained the women and attempts were made to prevent the women from serving their priestly ministries.

In September 1976, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church approved the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate.

Read it all.

In a similar vein, Savitri Hensman responds to the Rowan Williams’ reflections on General Convention 2009:

Some historians have questioned whether church teaching on same-sex love has been the same at all times. Certainly, from the outset, the church has been beset by controversy about many matters.

Indeed, ironically, Williams’ own “choice of lifestyle” as a married bishop can be said to be divisive. The Roman Catholic hierarchy has long insisted on clerical celibacy. (But then, the Vatican has been less than happy with the Anglican church since it was founded!) Eastern Orthodox bishops are also generally expected to be celibate.

Moves towards greater inclusion, in the church and wider world, have often at first been met with strong resistance, then grudging acceptance and, at last, gratitude. The appointment of the first black Anglican bishop, Samuel Crowther, was met in the 19th century with strong objections from some quarters. The ordination of women to become priests and bishops has been hotly controversial among Anglicans. Future generations may wonder about why blessing those in same-sex partnerships, and recognising that some might be chosen by God as bishops, caused such agitation.

Read it in The Guardian.

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