Monday, April 28, 2008

The licensing

Here is a comment I made on Peter's blog.


I was at the licensing of the Canadian Anglican Network clergy by Greg Venables of the Southern Cone yesterday afternoon. It was an excellent service.

I am not personally either supportive or non-supportive of this move, but went as an interested observer and as a friend and relative of others there.

There about 14 bishops from around the world. Venables, along with the two Canadian network bishops, Harvey and Harding, commissioned a group of about 25 men and 5 women from across Canada.

The Southern Cone does not ordain women but the Canadian female ministers whose churches wanted to join the network were accepted, and these women were licensed and commissioned today under Harvey and Harding.

Venables gave a heart warming and positive sermon, but the highlight was when someone’s cellphone went off. He said “Is that my pacemaker or your computer? I hope I remembered to put new batteries in my pacemaker after all the jumping up and down last night.” My daughter said that Venables was a big hit at the youth night on Friday.

And this is from my comment on John's blog.


The present events in the Anglican Church of Canada has little to do with the ordination of women. It centres around the disputed same sex blessing.

The Anglican Communion has several levels of governance - national, provincial, diocesan and congregational.

The Anglican Church of Canada has ordained women since 1976, when John and I were both at the U. Of Toronto. As far as I am aware this has not been an issue in Canada.

Anglican women ministers are as likely to be white-haired little old ladies as much as anything else. Women were licensed as layreaders in British Columbia during and after WWII so it was a common sight in isolated areas to see a woman in the pulpit and it was much appreciated.

Florence Li Tim Oi, ordained in China in WWII later lived in Toronto and was a testimony to the service that Anglican women offer the church. This has a long and continuous tradition and women have been highly respected in the Anglican Church.

In the local church that I attended women had also been welcome in the pulpit. One occasional speaker was Cathie Nicoll, a long-time Inter Varsity worker who received the Order of Canada. She was a mentor of my mother and a much respected Bible teacher.

However, about 10 years ago the local congregational climate changed toward women. The priest was from the diocese of Sydney and Jim Packer was an honourary assistant.

After Cathie Nicoll passed away, I believe that no other women ever stood in the pulpit on a Sunday morning. This was a deliberate decision of the priest although I am not sure that the congregation was ever consulted on this practice. It is contrary to the expectations of Canadian Anglicans.

However, the ministerial staff of this church made known their discomfort with women in positions of authority to the diocesan staff. Since Dr. Packer and the priest are both non-Canadians, I am sure that this played a part in their views on women not being found acceptable to the diocesan staff. It would normally be a condition of employment in the ACC to accept women as equals in ministry. It simply did not occur to anyone at the time that someone coming in from outside would bring with them a view of women not equal in function. When Dr. Packer came to Canada 29 years ago, women were already being ordained in all dioceses.

When a group of churches broke off to form the Anglican Network over same-sex blessing, churches which had women ministers were not excluded from joining. The two Canadian Anglican Network bishops have been overtly welcoming to women.

So this is the current situation.

The Province of the Southern Cone does not ordain women priests. The two Canadian Anglican Network bishops have accepted ordained women into the group and licensed them. The church which Dr. Packer attends does not ordain women.

We have yet to see whether women will be ordained in the Network. My expectation is that the bishops Harvey and Harding will ordain women, but Dr. Packer's church will not. The province of the Southern Cone gave a hand of fellowship to Canadian female priests yesterday.

What grieves me is that when I first attended the church which Dr. Packer also attends, women were allowed to preach there. That was one reason that I was happy to attend that church. In the time that I spent there I was distressed by the theological, although not social, marginalization of women as women were excluded from ministerial leadership. This is my personal view on this situation.

I am personally happy to now attend a small local Anglican congregation not in the Network where the scripture is read and the gospel is preached and secondary issues are not a matter of dispute.


Jane said...

What can I say ...
churches are tearing themselves apart over women and homosexuality and then we wonder why people don't hear us when we preach the Good news of Jesus Christ and we're durprised.
I've been asked to attend the Lambeth confrerence as an interpreter - for a non Agnlican ecumenical type like me looks as if it's going to be interesting!

Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne, thanks for the clarification.

Just one small point. Packer's church certainly won't ordain women because, in the Anglican setup, this is not a matter for individual congregations. What you mean, presumably, is that they will not accept the ministry of a woman. I guess that is true at least for the moment. But then presumably even in the ACC setup they would effectively have been able to veto a woman candidate if they had wanted to.

I wonder, would the Southern Cone accept a woman bishop, if one of the Canadian ones should want to join through the Canadian network?