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Stephen Colbert on Women Priests

Stephen Colbert, as reported in Sojourners

Stephen Colbert, as reported in Sojourners

Link  This life-long Catholic shares the impact of hearing an Anglican female priest declare, “This is my body”.  It is an insight into why women priests and pastors are an important and necessary element of our church future.

Most of us acknowledge that the world church and our LCA are flawed and human institutions.  We are capable of sin. A democratic vote, doctrines and documents of union are capable of embodying sin. Our exegesis, hermeneutics, theologians, seminars, Bible studies and conventions are all potentially less than ideal.  We are always a journeying people on our way to another time, restorying our faith in a changing culture.  We can only do our best with the information we have from day-to-day.  We have no other choice. Remaining static is not an option. Some days we will excel in serving Christ, other days we will go in other directions.  It should come as no surprise that some of our decisions will need to be revisited in order to be more faithful to the will of God.

May the discussion on women’s ordination at Rochedale, Qld embrace our changing Church and envision the blessings that the sharing of service will bring to us all.

We need to make this call this time around.  It will not always be easy, but ministry never has been.

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Posted by on September 15, 2015 in pastoral

 

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In my lifetime – my mantra and mission

Marybeth Redmond, Vermont Public Radio

Women’s ordination is a real issue in the Catholic Church, especially in the U.S.A.  The love that parishioners have for nuns suggests that this issue will not disappear.

The following story (link), from Vermont Public Radio, and partly a reflection on Father Roy Bourgeous, is another story of calling to ordained ministry. The link has an audio recording of the article.

(Host) For writer, journalist and commentator Marybeth Redmond, the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI has restimulated feelings of heartache, not for the Pontiff himself, but for a friend of hers who met the wrath of this church hierarchy.

(Redmond) A heartfelt postcard arrived in my mailbox recently.  On its cover – a photograph of a Catholic school girl dressed in her plaid uniform with hand raised high, as if to say “pick me.” On the chalkboard behind this earnest youngster are scrawled the words, “who wants to be a priest?”

I grinned upon seeing it, but winced as well.   Appropriate humor from my friend, Father Roy Bourgeois, in light of his present circumstances.  On the postcard’s reverse side he had penned, “Thanks for your good support at this challenging time.  You give me hope in the struggle.”

In 2008, Father Roy was excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church during Pope Benedict XVI’s reign. Then last October, Father Roy was dismissed by his religious society of 40-plus years, the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, for refusing to recant his public position on the right of women to be ordained priests. Most likely pressure from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith forced Maryknoll’s hand.

I recall a lunch conversation with this humble, soft-spoken priest a few years back.  We sat overlooking Lake Champlain eating crepes on a breathtaking day.  Father Roy was in town to speak at the Unitarian Church atop Church Street in Burlington about his decades-long campaign to close the School of the Americas, a military camp in Fort Benning, Georgia with a history of training Latin American militias in torture.

At that time, colleagues were advising Father Roy to stay a one-issue activist, so as not to dissipate his message of non-violent protest to close the S-O-A.  But his conscience was advising him otherwise-as a male clergyman-to decry sexism and discrimination against women in his own church.  To Father Roy, this was a matter of justice, and silence for him was complicity.  He wanted my opinion.  I listened carefully as he spoke, sure I was witnessing history unfold.

Maybe Pope Benedict didn’t personally demand Father’s Roy’s excommunication, but he certainly set up and supported the system that led to the ultimate decision.  I am immensely sad that this church I still call home definitively rid itself of a faithful, 75-year-old man who has trekked across this country with messages of peace and inclusion for decades.  At the same time, that Catholic Church has kept in its fold cardinals and bishops who protected priests responsible for the sexual abuse of children.  The irony is astounding.

I myself recall as early as 8 years old, having a compulsion to serve others, to bring mercy, to deliver words of hope – to become a priest.  I was told this vocation was closed to me forever because of gender-despite my own stirrings of conscience.

This day, I took Father Roy’s Catholic school girl postcard to my refrigerator where I can peer at it each day.  In my lifetime, becomes my mantra and mission now.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2013 in women's ordination

 

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It’s time

The more Church leadership attempts to fix the situation of women’s ordination in the LCA the further the Church gets into trouble.

Popular sovereignty or the sovereignty of the people is the principle that the legitimacy of the state is created and sustained by the will or consent of its people, who are the source of all political power.  Despite different systems of governance, most people would accept that ‘the will of the people’ is paramount, encapsulated by Abraham Lincoln in that significant Gettysburg Address, hoping “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

What is ‘the will or consent’ of the people of the LCA?  On the matter of women’s ordination we will never know.  In fact, we will never the will of the people on any matter, as we don’t have a structure, or the will, for conducting a nation-wide poll of membership.   As the LCA uses a synodical structure, the laity express their voice through congregational motions to General Convention and through elected delegates to General Convention.  While we might revisit the structure of governance within the LCA, such a constitutional change is a matter for another decade.

We have known since 2001 that Synod delegates are in favour of women’s ordination.  As very few young people become delegates or have the freedom to afford time off work and pay for travel and accommodation for the length of the Synod, it is a fair assumption that a larger proportion of membership are in favour of women’s ordination.  That vote was also affected by the President, when he gave serious warning to delegates to vote against the motion if they were at all concerned about schism.  In addition, the President decided that absentee votes would count against the motion, with no reference to the source of authority for this decision.  Even without the influence of the current President, it is presumed that the necessary 66% support would still not have been achieved (with an actual vote of 51%), however, if it was for example 58%, it would have been more obvious that this issue had to be treated with more tolerance and sobriety.

So, we have a situation where a majority of membership and the CTICR is in favour of women’s ordination (statements from 2000 and 2006), while we have a leadership, comprised of generally older and elderly men, who not only are against women’s ordination but obstruct it through a clamp-down on media and the regular creation of extra hurdles for the establishment of women’s ordination.  How long might be this situation be tolerated? How long until congregations begin to take their own initiatives?

Let’s revisit our opening definition of sovereignty: Popular sovereignty or the sovereignty of the people is the principle that the legitimacy of the state is created and sustained by the will or consent of its people, who are the source of all political power.

In the LCA we have a situation where the will of the people and committees is minimised or discounted.  While leadership is entrusted by the Church to lead, if trust is broken by losing the consent of its people, the Church can choose to withdraw its trust.    While women’s ordination may need a two-thirds majority vote, the removal of Pr Semmler as President only requires a 50% vote.   This will free up Church media, allow the national conversation to continue, give back respect to CTICR and CSBQ, and also give back respect to women who experience the call to ordained ministry.

It’s time!

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A Catholic woman’s open letter to the Pope

A post reprinted in its entirety from Baptist Women for Equality’s Blog | Claiming our equality by Shirley Taylor which reprinted a post from Phyllis Zagano [1] on Apr. 27, 2011

___________________

This may not be entirely legal, but I found the words of this blog so important and I want you to see what this Catholic woman has to say, so I have copied her entire blog post which was printed in the National Catholic Reporter.  The words in this post are not mine, but her words are our words.  Her frustration is our frustration. Her anger is our anger.  Her fight is our fight.  I trust she will understand as we connect with each other in righting a wrong.

Following is a letter she wrote to the Pope.  This is a lady who is fed up.  She is speaking up.

By Phyllis Zagano

Created Apr 27, 2011

by Phyllis Zagano [1] on Apr. 27, 2011

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
00120 Vatican City State, Europe

Your Holiness:

Forgive my presumption in addressing you directly, but the matter I bring is both urgent and pressing. Women are no longer walking away from the church. They are running away. They are running toward churches that make it clear women are made in the image and likeness of God.

I am not writing to argue for woman priests. But you told me many years ago in New York women deacons were “under study.” From 1992-2002, the International Theological Commission worked on that question, producing a report essentially repeating what you said: the Magisterium must decide.

When you met with the priests of Rome in 2006, you wondered aloud: could the church open more positions of responsibility to women? Were you then signaling the recovery of the tradition of women deacons?

In 2009, you changed Canon Law to echo the Catechism. Priests are ordained to act in the person of Christ, the head of the church; deacons are ordained to serve the people of God in and through the Word, the liturgy and charity. Since doctrinal statements only forbid women priests, and deacons are not priests, it seems you removed another hurdle.

You know it is not just me asking. Thousands of people sent Cardinal William Levada, your successor at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, e-mails and postcards about women deacons in a campaign organized by the US-based group FutureChurch. Several other organizations including the Canada-based Femmes et Ministères have claimed April 29, the feast of St. Catherine of Siena, as an international day of prayer for women deacons.

It is a new-old question. The only person in scripture with the formal job title “deacon” is Phoebe, deacon of the church at Cenchrae (Rom 16:1). Some see the start of the diaconate in Jesus’ washing the apostles’ feet at the Last Supper, but most see it really beginning with the apostles calling the seven to a more formal ministry (Acts 6: 1-6). There were many women deacons in the early church.

The bishops of the world were talking about women deacons at the Second Vatican Council. They are still at it. Most recently, the Swiss Bishop of St. Gall, Markus Bűchel, said women deacons were a good idea. Others before him — even Cardinal Carlo Martini when he was archbishop of Milan — wanted to restore women to the diaconate. Bishops from Australia to Ireland say more women in power would have stemmed the priest sex mess. I think they are correct.

I am told your curia knows women can be ordained as deacons, but does not want women in the clerical structure of the church. That cuts both ways, Holy Father. A lot of women do not want anything to do with clericalism. Some want the whole system to collapse. More say it has collapsed already.

Where is the church without women? I know you are concerned about the fading influence of Christianity in Europe. I write from the United States. Things are pretty bad over here, too. The country is over three-quarters Christian (with 68 million Catholics) but newspapers like The New York Times had no front page Easter story this year. Their ink is used on scandal.

The Christian message is lost in the daily drama of the sex abuse crisis. I fear, Most Holy Father, that bad priests and worse bishops will be your legacy. You will be remembered as the pope who belatedly started a laboring sludge pump to clear the swamp.

I know you love what God loves and hate what God hates, but I also know how bureaucracy can stymie even (maybe especially) the most brilliant person. Is the bureaucracy keeping you from doing the right thing? That goes for the crisis as well as women deacons.

Let me come to the point. The Catholic Church in developed nations is dying out. I am convinced it is dying because of the way it relates to women. Surely you see the numbers — declining membership and eroding donations — but do you have any idea how angry women are? And every woman you alienate extends her influence to several others — to her husband, her children, her friends, her neighbors — until the last person out the parish door closes the lights.

If I may, I think it is time for you to make a decision about women deacons.

It is an opportunity for you to state the Christian message in a way that can be heard. Yes, God is love and all persons are made in the image and likeness of God. But the world will not and cannot hear that until you have a woman deacon standing beside you and proclaiming the Gospel in St. Peter’s.

Again, pardon my presumption, but perhaps no one else will tell you.

Correction: An earlier version of this column gave an incorrect scripture citation for Phoebe, deacon of the church at Cenchrae. The correct citation is Romans 16:1.
[Phyllis Zagano is senior research associate-in-residence at Hofstra University and author of several books in Catholic Studies. Her book Women & Catholicism will be published by Palgrave-Macmillan in 2011.]

Won’t you join me, and this courageous sister in Christ, and speak up for equality by writing, and going to the top earthly person you personally can go to.  We can discuss the subject to death, and never get anywhere.  Now is time for courageous action.

Note to Readers:  Please respect the intent of this post, which is that women in various denominations are speaking up, and we have the same goal.  What we think about a pope or whether priests are the earthly representative of Christ is not relevant to this post.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2011 in history, theology

 

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A reply to Pr John Kleinig

 

australian lutheran college

Australian Lutheran College, Nth Adelaide

Pr John Kleinig, who is possibly the LCA’s key figure in opposing women’s ordination, has had a significant influence over Seminary (male) students, and therefore over the LCA.   His influence at ALC, along with that of Pr Andrew Pfeiffer, is highly strategic within the LCA, in the continued denial of women’s call to the ordained ministry.

While Kleinig is a highly respected theologian in traditional quarters, his loyalty to Luther’s courage of questioning Catholic status quo has no such credibility.   Kleinig has little enthusiasm for the Protestant tradition of grappling with continued revelation of Gospel truth.  Rather, his approach is one of elevating and delving deeper into tradition, focussing on fatherhood, and in doing so, hoping to find reason that contemporary Christians should forego modern means of worship and changing attitudes to groups in society.  Kleinig, not unlike the Amish, clings to traditions from ages past and gives them a status that Luther surely never intended.  Sadly, he has done a disservice to the LCA in its struggle to maintain relevance with contemporary society and its ever decreasing numbers in congregations and support for mission.

The following paper, Is the ordination of women church divisive? shows Kleinig’s approach to doctrinal matters and how he works for unity with Catholic tradition rather than honour those women who are called to serve as pastors within the LCA.

The reprinted paper below has my comments interspersed.

IS THE ORDINATION OF WOMEN CHURCH DIVISIVE?

John W Kleinig (date unknown)

1.     Confessionally speaking, it is true that those who advocate the ordination of women are not heretics. They may teach false doctrine, but they do not deny the Triune God and so sever themselves from the body of Christ.

K+M: No, those advocating women’s ordination do not teach false doctrine. In 1999 the Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relationships (CTICR) found, with a 2/3 majority, after a decade of study, that there was no theological objections to the ordination of women.  Again in 2006, with a 2/3 majority they reached the same conclusion.

2.     They do not thereby deny the teaching of our Lutheran confessions, but they do reject the confessional basis of the LCA as contained in the TA. On this level such a move would be divisive, for it would separate those who are committed to this as the confessional and legal basis for the LCA and its ministry from those who had departed from it.

K+M: Each denomination which has ordained women has stories to tell of the threats of church division prior to the event.  The reality is, when women are ordained, that they become a blessing for the church, often in the context of male systemic and domestic violence, and opponents are mostly won over.

3.     Ecumenically, it would be divisive in two ways. It would separate the LCA from the church catholic and the orthodox tradition from the early church until modern times. We would therefore move away from those churches which adhered to that tradition and align ourselves with unorthodox Protestant groups. We would ourselves forfeit the right to be catholic and become a sect. We would, of course, thereby separate ourselves from those Lutheran and Protestant churches which continued to uphold the orthodox teaching on ministry and the catholic practice of it.

K+M: It seems to me that this is the crux of Kleinig’s objection.  It is his heart-felt conviction that the Catholic tradition is something that we need to return to.  The question for the rest of us is whether or not we wish to become Catholics or adhere to the tradition that Luther laid out before us.

4.     It would inevitably lead to divisions within each congregation of the LCA. Every call meeting would lead to a battle between those who wanted to call a woman and those who did not. If a congregation did appoint a woman as a pastor, those who conscientiously rejected her authority would either have to leave or stay away from any services led by her. Every woman pastor would constantly face theological challenges to her authority from her opponents and so need to justify her position in the congregation.

K+M: The experience of other churches is that initial reservations are mostly overcome in the first few years through the pastoral care that these women give in times of need.

She in turn would be unable to exercise proper pastoral authority to maintain the divine unity of the congregation.

K+M: Pastoral authority is not male authority.  It is that given by the crucified Jesus, based on love and forgiveness.  Gender logic is a strange thing.  It is exclusive language, deeming women to ‘otherness’ and thereby disallowing them any right of reply.  ‘Otherness’ can play no part in Christianity.  It may play a part in patriarchy, tradition and conservatism, and certainly does play a part in sexism, racism, and homophobia, but it can never play a part in Christianity, where Jesus lays his life down for each of us in order that we are all brought to the fullness of new life and empowerment in the risen Christ.

5.     It would be liturgically and sacramentally divisive. Those who rejected the ordination of women would not in good conscience receive the sacrament from a woman pastor. They would therefore be excluded by the church from the sacrament and the fellowship created by participation in it. If they did receive the sacrament from her, they would do so with a bad or uneasy conscience, for they could not be sure that the sacrament was valid, since, for them, it had not been administered as Christ had commanded. They would therefore be deprived of its comfort and subject to the accusation and condemnation of the evil one.

K+M: Once again other churches would beg to differ. In the end the issue is not a liturgical or sacramental division but one of culture and tradition.  There are endless stories from those who can attest to the comfort received and the grace conveyed through women clergy.  The matter is an experiential one, where one at a time we experience Christ through the witness of a woman in a pastoral position, and one at a time are convinced of God’s calling to women.

6.     It would be synodically divisive. If a woman became a president, all the pastors who opposed the ordination of women would either refuse to recognise her or leave that district. People who rejected the ordination of women could not participate in any synodical service where a woman was giving the absolution, preaching, or presiding at communion. It would lead to the withdrawal of congregations from synod and the establishment of independent congregations – perhaps even districts- opposed to this doctrine and practice.

K+M: While there are many clergy who oppose women’s ordination, this is in no small way due to the influence that Kleinig and Pfeiffer have had at ALC over many years.  I understand that Kleinig has considerable charisma and influence, which would make it challenging for any student to resist his influence over years. It is interesting to note that Pfeiffer was theologically progressive before studying at Fort Wayne Lutheran Seminary, Missouri Synod, in the USA.  On his return to Australia, his theology was that of the conservative Missouri Synod.

Kleinig was also ‘outed’ on the anti-women strategies used when one of his letters to a Missouri Synod group was published on the internet, revealing the manipulation that had occurred at Pastor’s Conference in 2006.

It is not surprising that there may be synodical division, but Kleinig and Pfeiffer will need to take some responsibility for that.  Congregational withdrawals from the LCA may be inevitable.  If we ordain women some congregations may withdraw, and if we refuse to ordain women some congregations may withdraw.  We will need to deal with that, but as the years pass members will find the grace of God is conveyed as efficaciously as before and perhaps, even more so because the majority of our membership are women, who often communicate more deeply with another woman.

There should be no compromise on women as presidents or bishops.  To do so is having a bet each way on God’s grace.  If there is no objection to female clergy there can be no objection to female presidents.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome.  We’d love to get your comment.

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Posted by on November 12, 2010 in sociology, theology

 

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Gen Y and the LCA

It’s interesting to note that Generation Y is labelled as wanting to ‘pick and choose beliefs’.  Eureka Street’s article, Gen Y free for anything except belonging, report on a survey where around 75 per cent of young Catholics believe it’s OK to “pick and choose” beliefs without accepting the teachings of their religion as a whole.  My guess is that there’s no reason to think that young Lutherans are any different.

In the article, a Catholic researcher says that faith-based traditions have been replaced by, “a skeptical, cynical and narrowly empirical view of life”.  As a teacher of literacy, I would rephrase that to say, individuals are thinking critically for themselves, reading church practice critically and deciding for themselves on what they believe.  No longer does church dogma dictate what the individual believes.

Critical Literacy is a component of education these days.  Students are required to think beyond the superficial layer, to look at power structures, to look at what is implicit, what is unspoken in the text, to look at who is exercising power, who has no voice, whose agenda is being served, who is being oppressed, how the reader is being persuaded by non-textual components of images, colours, movement etc.  Readers are encouraged to form an opinion, to disagree with authors, and to view things from another perspective.  Viewing things from other perspectives is common-place in primary school today.

We are people who are trained to think critically and progressively.  Faith is no longer a matter of accepting or rejecting our parents’ faith.  There are other nuances.  Where do I sit on the fundamentalist / progressive spectrum? How much am I driven by law / grace?  How much am I motivated by authority / freedom in Christ, and tradition / change?  Eventually the big question that we all have is, “How much do I feel a part of this congregation, faith community or denomination?”

Generation Y (born ’77-’91) answers these questions differently to Gen X (born ’62 – ’76), Baby Boomers (born ’42 – 61) and The Builders (born before ’42).   This paper, from the 2006 National Church Life Survey (NCLS), provides a brief introduction to some of the generational differences among church attenders.  The main differences focus on opinions of how they think church ‘should be done’.

Older generations are more likely to:

  • attend worship services weekly
  • prefer traditional styles of music in worship services
  • spend regular time in private devotional activity
  • have a strong sense of belonging to their denomination
  • be involved in church-based community service, justice or welfare activities
  • be involved in community-based service, care or welfare activities

Younger generations are more likely to:

  • be involved in small groups
  • prefer contemporary styles of music in worship services
  • feel that their gifts and skills are encouraged
  • have helped others in a range of informal ways
  • value outreach, be involved in evangelistic activities, and actually invite others to church
  • be newcomers to church life, have switched denominations or transferred congregations in the previous five years

Is any of this relevant to women’s ordination in the LCA?  Certainly!  We are dealing with generations which have fundamentally different outlooks on life.  Gen Y is immersed in electronica: iPods, DVDs, internet, social networks, mobile phones, sms etc.  They have a myriad options in their life.  They are not compliant consumers of tradition and old methods of doing things.  I predict, in the same vein, that young Lutherans are not passive acceptors of Lutheran exclusivity.  Older readers will be painfully aware of how isolationist the LCA has historically been, as demonstrated by its reticence to embrace ecumenism.   While conservative theologians may still propose that we should preserve Lutheran purity in this manner, Gen Y especially will scoff at such an approach.

The NLCS asks the question of Gen Y, “Will they change as they age? Not likely… Some may hope that as younger attenders age, their preferences will change, to become more like those born pre WWII, who currently make up the majority of church attenders. While time will tell, the trends to date do not support the idea that younger generations will, en masse, decide that they like traditional worship or music. Even if the volume gets turned down, do not expect they will take up these styles of music.”

It is plain that Gen Y will make up their own mind.  They will vote with their feet and their wallet to create a different social and Church world.  While young women may not talk about women’s liberation, they argue strongly for the same opportunities in leadership as any of their male friends and colleagues.

The implications for the LCA in 2010 are clear. We can ordain women now and risk offending some older generational members or we can postpone women’s ordination indefinitely, and risk losing Gen Y and many other groups who decide to find a setting that better meets their needs.

As our budgets grow smaller and smaller I suggest that the accountants of the LCA may eventually provide the final push that has the LCA re-examining its options.

The old Australian slogan, ‘populate or perish’ may still be relevant for the LCA as we determine what level of membership we are willing to live with.  Might that be, ‘ordain or perish’?

Feedback and suggestions are welcome.

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Posted by on September 20, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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