Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Anglicans 'can reject women priest'
Telegraph - U.K.
Anglicans 'can reject women priests'
By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent
Last Updated: 1:47am GMT 10/01/2007
Traditionalists won a victory against the liberal American branch of Anglicanism yesterday when a panel set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury ruled that they could not be compelled to accept women priests.
The “panel of reference”, a body created by Dr Rowan Williams to adjudicate in international disputes, said that the “non-acceptance” of women’s ministry was a “recognised theological position”.
The panel’s findings followed complaints from an American diocese that does not ordain women that it had been undermined by the national Episcopal Church, which had effectively made female ordination mandatory.
Though the panel’s recommendations have no binding legal authority, its decision to uphold the rights of opponents of women priests will have implications for the whole Church.
The findings will also come as a blow to the new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katherine Jefferts Schori, the first woman head of an individual Anglican province, and they were angrily condemned by fellow liberals.
But traditionalists said that the panel had recognised that they had a continuing place in the Church.
The panel’s ruling came in response to a 2005 appeal by the Diocese of Forth Worth and its traditionalist Bishop, the Rt Rev Jack Iker. Bishop Iker argued that when the Episcopal Church originally decided to allow women to become priests in 1974, it permitted, but did not require, dioceses to ordain women.
However, in 1997, the Church modified its laws by stating that “no one shall be denied access to the ordination process in any parish or diocese” on account of their gender. Bishop Iker said that as he could not, in good conscience, ordain women, the new laws made him liable to be removed from office and would prevent Fort Worth from electing future bishops opposed to women clergy.
The Bishop argued that the rights of women who sought ordination in his diocese were adequately protected by the “Dallas Plan” he created in 1996, that transferred prospective women clergy to the neighboring Diocese of Dallas.
In its report yesterday, the panel praised the Dallas Plan and asked Dr Williams and Bishop Jefferts Schori to commend it. It also asked the Episcopal Church to clarify its canon laws and protect the right of conscience of opponents of women clergy.
Lambeth Palace had no immediate comment, but Bishop Jefferts Schori offered a muted response to the Daily Telegraph, saying that “we recognise that women do have access to ordination under the Dallas plan at present, which seems to address the intent of the canon.”
But the Rev Elizabeth Kaeton, the Episcopal Women’s Caucus president, said that the panel’s ruling “not only calls for flagrant disobedience of the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church, but also preserves and promotes a system of institutional sexism and misogyny.”
Bishop Iker said that he was “gratified that our conscientious position has been vindicated by this impartial, international body of Church leaders.”
Another leading conservative, the Bishop of Pittsburgh, the Rt Rev Robert Duncan, added: “It is clearly up to the leadership of The Episcopal Church to choose either to continue pushing faithful Episcopalians who disagree with the majority on this issue out the door, or to accept the constructive work of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Panel of Reference.”
Fort Worth is one of three Episcopal dioceses which do not ordain women to the priesthood. The worldwide Anglican Church as a whole is committed to “open reception” of women’s ordination.