Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Settled Question (Gerns)

A Settled Question (by the Rev. Andrew Gerns)

[Andrew Gerns is a priest in the Diocese of Bethlehem and rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Easton, Pennsylvania. He is a clerical deputy to General Convention, and he blogs at Andrew Plus.]

For the benefit of the Panel of Reference, let me clarify what seems to have eluded them about the teaching of the Episcopal Church regarding the ordination of women: a priest is a priest is a priest.

What language would you like to use? We believe that the priestly (or diaconal or episopal) personality is found in both women and men.

We believe that women are not immune to the grace of ordination. We believe that the ordination of women and men is consistent with the teachings and example of Jesus Christ. And in our practice our ideal is that a priest is a priest is a priest.

And over thirty years we have found that it not only works, but that the Gospel is forwarded and the Church has benefited.

I cannot see how one could call the Dallas Plan a success or a model worthy of repetition in the Church. The Dallas Plan is a short term solution to a deeper problem: it proposes (and practices) a separate but equal approach to ordination that is incompatible with our theology on two grounds.

The Church has taught for thirty years (nearly forty if, as certain folks are wont to do, you count Lambeth Conferences) that there is no theological barrier to opening the ordained offices to women. There is nothing about gender per se that blocks that charism of the sacrament of ordination from one sex but not the other.

The Church has also taught that the practice of setting up parallel jurisdictions for purposes of discrimination is incompatible with the Gospel. The Episcopal Church had to learn that one the hard way.

In our history, to salve the threatened and wounded consciences of white people, we set up in many dioceses parallel but separate ministries for blacks and for whites. We had "colored" bishops so a white bishop would not have to go to "colored" congregations. We had "colored" camps so white children would not have to share summer camp with "colored" children. This was both the law of the land and the culture of the time. But both the law and the culture were backed up by terrorism (buttressed by the Ku Klux Klan and "Jim Crow" laws) that we may have disapproved of, but did damn little to stop.

The Dallas Plan is a sorry admission that not only is Fort Worth willfully refusing even to consider the doctrine of this church that the charism of priesthood is not immune to femininity, but is a salve to wounded and threatened conscience by avoiding a deep engagement with the teaching of the Episcopal Church. Instead, Fort Worth chooses to send women called to ministry away to another land never to return. It is a concession not to theology, but to feelings.

The arrangement between the dioceses of Dallas and Fort Worth is nothing more than a private arrangement between two bishops and two standing committees. We should in no way confuse this private arrangement with the teaching and discipline of this church as a whole.

Does the Panel of Reference seek clarification? Let’s save the floor time at the next General Convention. The teaching of this church is that a priest is a priest is a priest. And for clarity's sake, we should name the Dallas Plan—and Fort Worth’s continued refusal to engage the ministry of ordained women—for what it is: a concession to sin and human pride.

Update (Jan. 14): The Reverend Gerns offers additional comments at his own blog. Click here to read them.


Anonymous Dennis said...

very sensible.
well written.
worth a few links from other blogs.

1/15/2007 1:41 AM  
Anonymous Robin Rhyand said...

At last, a well written essay that speaks volumes... Will someone PLEASE send a copy to Bishop Jack Iker of Fort Worth? I was always taught that in Christ, there is no male, no female!

1/16/2007 10:52 AM  

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