In 1995 I resigned as a Vicar in the Church of England, and I and my family were received into full communion with the Catholic Church.
I left the Church of England along with nearly 800 other priests.
We joined the Catholic Church because the Church of England had voted to accept women as priests.
Naturally our reasons for leaving were widely misunderstood. Some said we were misogynists–women haters. Others said we were hopelessly chauvinistic and patriarchal–determined to keep women in their place. Others said we were psychologically ill, bigoted and hateful.
To be honest, I think there were some men who left the Church of England for those reasons. They didn’t like women. They didn’t want women in the boys’ gang. In my experience those men quietly returned to the Anglican Church after a short time. They became Catholics and didn’t like it much so they scooted back across the Tiber to the safety of Canterbury.
We left because we were opposed to women’s ordination, but it should be understood why we were opposed to women’s ordination, and the reasons are not what you would expect.
To put it in context I should first of all say that we listened very carefully to the debate that was going on and I, for one, could accept many of the good arguments in favor of women’s ordination. Let me outline them:
- Women can do the job as well as a man – I don’t think this can be disputed. Women can preach and administer, counsel and offer pastoral help just as well as a man. In many functions it is arguable that they perform better than a man. The women clergy I know are often more pastorally sensitive, caring and genuinely nice people-people than many of the men.
- In Christ there is no male or female – This verse from St Paul (Gal 3:28) was a very strong argument. Those in favor of women’s ordination acknowledged that it was a break in the tradition, but said it should be seen as a development in the tradition, and as the first Jewish Christians came to accept the Gentiles, and as the seeds of the abolition of slavery were locked in that verse, so the seeds of women’s equality and therefore women’s ordination were embedded there.
- Women priests bring complementarity to the ministry – With men and women functioning together there would be a new balance within the priesthood. Female and male gifts would both be exercised in a new and dynamic complementarity–thus fulfilling the priesthood in a whole and well rounded way.
- Positions of Power in the Church would be opened up – The all male priesthood means the men are still in charge because the priests and bishops are all men. Women are therefore ruled out of the decision making. Allowing women priests would bring representatives of 50% of the population into the decision making process.
- It’s fair – Why should women be excluded just because they’re women?
- It helps make the gospel credible to the secular world – Non Christians see the ban on women priests as being sexist, out of date, unfair and harsh. The church needs to adapt and be seen to be relevant and approachable.
I heard these arguments and considered them to be good arguments. I also listened to the arguments from the other side, and they too were good arguments. Here are five from those opposed to women’s ordination: Continue Reading
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