Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Women's ordination: not all consequences were positive

From Episcopal Life Online-

It is interesting to me, as a theologically educated lay woman and a former lay woman church worker, that the observations of the 35th anniversary of women's ordination (see Episcopal Life Online story here) are positive. There was nothing from the critics of the action and, while there was acknowledgement that much remained to be done, nothing to suggest that not all the consequences of 1974 and 1976 were positive.
There were few of my church worker colleagues who wished to be ordained, once it became possible, not because they didn't approve of women priests, but because we felt secure in our own vocation as theologically educated lay professionals. What we found offensive was the complete lack of respect for our own work and vocation on the part of the women who sought ordination and were committed to their own vocations as ordained ministers. Moreover, once ordination became available for women, most of us were no longer able to work in the church. The church's clericalism saw to that.

Many of us felt pushed aside, unappreciated, and -- to bring it all home -- we had to scramble to find jobs in other sectors or had to fight to find paid work in the church and other ways to continue to express our own vocational calls in ministry. More than a few left the church altogether and even more were embittered or close to despair.

Years after all these events, I learned about a woman who had graduated from my training school (St. Margaret's House, Berkeley, California) a number of years before me, and I invited her to speak at a seminary class on the history of women in the church. She refused at first, saying that that whole chapter in her life was so painful, she didn't want to re-open it. She added, "No one would be interested anyway and I couldn't bear to go through that again." I prevailed, however, and she was warmly received in what I hope was a healing experience for her.

More here-


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