WOMEN CAN BE PRIESTSheader

Responsive image

HOME

REASONS

DEFY THE POPE?!

DEBATE

MENU

Nederlands/Vlaams Deutsch Francais English language Spanish language Portuguese language Catalan Chinese Czech Malayalam Finnish Igbo
Japanese Korean Romanian Malay language Norwegian Swedish Polish Swahili Chichewa Tagalog Urdu
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>The Continuing Need for Dialogue from 'Ordination of Women in Ecumenical Perspective:Workbook for the Church's Future' edited by Constance F. Parvey. Faith and Order Paper 105 World Council of Churches, Geneva, 1980

The Continuing Need for Dialogue

from Ordination of Women in Ecumenical Perspective:
Workbook for the Church's Future

edited by Constance F. Parvey
Faith and Order Paper 105
World Council of Churches, Geneva, 1980, pp. 20-28

its concepts and practice of ministry and priesthood. New questions are being asked about the ministry of women and new solutions must be sought within the wide community of the Church.

A. What do we expect from the ecumenical movement?

1. The process

The issue of the ordination of women is a challenge before the ecumenical movement. It raises the crucial subject of its function, an essential part of which is to provide a platform for discussion of controversial topics. Statements surrounding the ordination of women reflect not only differences in concepts of ministry and/or priesthood, but also differences in attitudes towards women and in understandings of women/men relationships. The concrete results of these discussions are not pronouncements, but processes of dialogue, mutual consultation, reflection and action. Churches come with different expectations of the movement and their levels of commitment vary, but the ecumenical process itself is one of development and evolution for the partners involved.

2. The meeting ground

The ecumenical movement functions as a meeting ground for churches from widely divergent traditions. For example, on the question of women’s ordination, one pole may see it as a chairos for the churches, while another may see it as a sign of the apocalypse; for one it is an indication of God’s promise, and for the other it is a judgment. The ecumenical movement is also a place where a wide spectrum of attitudes and positions within and across the churches can be expressed.

Ecumenical dialogue functions significantly, not only in changing attitudes, but also in clarifying unsolved problems. It is evident that various churches give diverse reasons for ordaining or not ordaining women, but in an ecumenical context each church must, in the light of the contemporary debate, make more precise

3. The partners

The issues surrounding the ordination of women are even more complex when viewed in an ecumenical setting. Not only does it take time to understand the perspective out of which another speaks, but often persons do not speak from positions equal in power and decision-making. This is particularly true when such a dialogue involves both women and men for, as yet, few women have influence in policy-making. In the churches, whether or not a woman should be ordained is still largely a decision made by men.

There are also signs of a new ecumenical movement emerging from within the churches themselves. Steps actively to engage people who live in situations of racial and economic oppression, who are handicapped or poor, and to recruit women are signs that a new community in Christ could look much different from what has sometimes been envisioned. This changing situation makes it all the more important to underline that the ecumenical movement is more than the sum total of the member churches. It must also reflect a broad base of present Christian experience. Only by so doing can it provide a means for the churches and for Christians in varieties of leadership roles to (1) support one another in what is found to be in common, (2) learn from one another through discovering their differences, and (3) continue to meet together sharing a community life in order to be further challenged by the Gospel as new circumstances are met.

4. The goal

As its primary commitment, the ecumenical movement must facilitate the churches’ work towards unity. Yet, even as this work continues, a tension must be held that respects both the great diversity surrounding the prayer for unity and the necessity to equip the whole people of God. From the perspective of the fuller partnership of women and men in the Church, there can be no unity of the Church that neglects the full humanity of women. This voice was heard more than half a century ago when the Faith and Order movement was founded, and it still resounds today.

As recognized at the 1971 Louvain meeting of the Faith and Order Commission, the unity of humankind, of which the women/men relationship is a part, must be intrinsic to the developing stages of consensus in ministry leading towards a shared eucharistic and conciliar life.

B. Historical traces:
ordination of women in ecumenical perspective

1. From Lausanne to Uppsala

Since the beginning of the Faith and Order movement, the issue of ordination of women has been on the ecumenical agenda. Already in 1927 at its First World Conference in Lausanne, where seven out of 400 delegates were women, a statement was drafted by the women delegates urging the movement to consider introducing questions of women’s role in ministry and in the Church. The motion stated that “the right place of women in the Church and in the councils of the Church is one of grave moment, and should be on the hearts and minds of all”.(1) Regardless of this prompting, the early period of Faith and Order was largely silent on this issue. It was twenty years before the question was again raised, this time in the context of the founding of the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam, 1948.

At the Amsterdam Assembly a report was made in plenary, highlighting for the delegates the fact that churches are “not agreed on the important question of admission of women to the full ministry”. (2) Thirteen years later, at the Third Assembly in New Delhi, when the Orthodox churches joined the WCC, the Faith and Order Commission was mandated to study this issue in cooperation with the Department of Cooperation of Men and Women in Church, Family and Society. In response, the Faith and Order Commission prepared a study document for its 1963 Montreal meeting, entitled “Concerning Ordination of

Women". (3) Little progress was made on the issue at Montreal, but as part of further work it was recommended that “the ordination of women receive further attention in Faith and Order”.(4)

At its next meeting in Bristol, 1967, the Commission concluded that because of the connection between ministry and ecclesiology, the churches should be asked to study questions of baptism, confirmation and the ordination of women “especially in view of the questions at present arising in church union negotiations”. (5) As part of the whole study on ministry, a consultation was held in Geneva in 1968 and produced a working paper entitled “The Meaning of Ordination” (6) which was sent to the churches for their consideration. At the WCC’s Fourth Assembly in Uppsala 1968, the issue was further highlighted when the Assembly urged that studies on the subject continue, especially “taking into account the experience of the increasing number of churches which now ordain women, so that in the light of this experience there may be further theological reflection on the ecumenical implications...” (7) This 1968 mandate is still to be implemented.

2. Beginning of the ministry discussion and consensus process

The 1971 Faith and Order meeting in Louvain did focus on the issue of ordained ministry, and within this context a preparatory document was discussed, entitled What Is Ordination Coming To?(8) prepared by the Department of Cooperation of Men and Women in Church, Family and Society. The Louvain report concluded with the comment: “The force of nineteen centuries of tradition against the ordination of women cannot be lightly ignored. But tradition has been changed in the Church. This question must be faced, and the time to face it is now." (9) This Commission meeting, although it made considerable progress on the question of mutual recognition of ministries, stated that there are still additional questions “to be taken into account” such as the ordination of women. It was also at Louvain that the issue of the participation of women and men in the Church was raised in the context of “The Unity of the Church and the Unity of Humankind” study. (10) Relationships between women and men were singled out as one of the focal points for discussion of what it could mean for the Church to become a sign of true community. Expanding on the progress made on the ministry discussion at Louvain, a Faith and Order consultation was held at Marseilles in 1972. Its purpose was to develop a preparatory document on “mutual recognition of ministry” for the Accra meeting of the Faith and Order Commission in 1974. In considering the issue of ordination of women, the consultation stated: “The perspective in which this issue must now be confronted brings into view the question of what the deeply relational character of humanity (Gen. 1:27) means for the form of our response to the Gospel...” The consultation further stated that “for most communions the role of women in the ministry is a matter of discipline and not of doctrine, although there are doctrinal positions relevant to the question”. It further stated that “ecumenical considerations need not restrain a full and frank facing of this question”.(11) It is these two poles, the nature of this “deeply relational character of humanity” and the multifarious disciplines of the churches, that mark the sphere of present discussions.

At the 1974 Accra meeting of the Faith and Order Commission, shape was given to the consensus statements on “One Baptism, One Eucharist and a Mutually Recognized Ministry”. The document on ministry, under “Ordination”, has a section called “The Ordination of Women". (12) The topic also emerged at Accra in a recommendation relating to the study on “The Unity of the Church and the Unity of Humankind” and the need for a study on the community of women and men in the Church. In this second context it was recommended that the overall issue of women/men relationship in the Church be explored in cooperation with the WCC Unit on Education and Renewal, and particularly with the Sub-unit on Women in Church and Society.(13) In relation to the consensus process on baptism, eucharist, ministry, the issue of women’s ordination is one of Church discipline and doctrine, while in the Community of Women and Men in the Church Study it is explored within the expanded theological context of a search for the unity of humankind.

3. Nairobi and Assembly follow-up

At the WCC Fifth Assembly in Nairobi, the issue of ordination of women emerged in both Sections II and V. It was raised in Section II under “Unity Requires a Fuller Understanding of the Context” and in Section V, “Women in Church and Society”, a specific recommendation regarding this question was brought before the Assembly and passed:

In cooperation with the Commission on Faith and Order the Sub-unit should urge:

a) all member churches to encourage fuller participation of women in decision-making bodies;

b) those member churches which do not have theological objections to the ordination of women not to be deterred from action by ‘ecumenical considerations’; (14)

c) those member churches which do ordain women and those which do not to continue dialogue on the full participation of women in ordained ministries of the churches according to the measure of their gifts.

As part of the Assembly follow-up the Sub-unit on Women held a consultation in Agapia, Romania, in September 1976. The report, entitled Orthodox Women Their Role and Participation in the Orthodox Church , recommends that “the question of the ordination of women be studied in the light of the Orthodox tradition for a more effective articulation of the Orthodox positions in the ecumenical dialogue”. (15) In February 1978, at a Sub-unit sponsored meeting of European women, the issue of ordination of women was again discussed and deep concern was expressed that “the questions surrounding the ordination of women reveal fun- 1 damental attitudes towards women in general”. It was recommended that the churches “actively promote the study of women’s ministries on all levels of the Church”. (16)

Following the 1977 Fiftieth Anniversary of the Faith and Order movement in Lausanne, a consultation was held at Cret-Berard, Switzerland, to reflect further on the responses by the churches to the baptism, eucharist and ministry consensus statements (Paper 84). Out of this meeting came a working paper, “The Ordination of Women”, which identified six issues needing attention:

1. Some traditions say that women, although through baptism they share fully in the ministry of Jesus Christ and the people of God, do not share fully in the eucharistic ministry. What is the the theological basis for such a distinction?

2. Churches which have decided to ordain women and those which have decided not to do so could contribute constructively to the debate by explaining the biblical interpretations on which they base their position. What general issues for the interpretation of biblical and Church tradition would be raised by this debate?

3. In what ways are the interpretations of the nature of priesthood affected by the experience of women functioning as priests or bishops? The actual experience of churches which have ordained women is important here.

4. What can be said about the ways in which men and women respectively exercise the ordained ministry? How can the sexuality of women and men be understood in relation to the issue of ministry?

5. How can churches deal creatively with these issues and at the same time benefit from continued bilateral, multilateral and ecumenical conversations concerning this aspect of ministry?

6. Can we find a way towards mutual recognition of ministries which would allow for mutual acceptance between churches which ordain and those which do not ordain women? (17)

At the 1978 Faith and Order Commission meeting in Bangalore, India, the Commission again affirmed that within the baptism, ministry, eucharist study the issue of ordination of women is one of the controversial topics that still needs special exploration. Among the recommendations coming from Bangalore that relate to this subject are that:

1) the Faith and Order Commission bring together a group of scholars representative of Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Old Catholic and Protestant traditions to examine the evidence of Scripture and tradition as it relates to the role and participation of women and men in the Church;

2) a document be prepared on the stated positions regarding ordination of women in the various church bodies over the past few years; the document would print the actual texts...(18)

4. The Klingenthal consultation

It is nearly a decade since the last ecumenical consultation on this question. Meanwhile the literature and discussion have vastly expanded and the situation in many churches has considerably changed. The Klingenthal meeting was a response to the growing attention this issue is receiving in many churches and areas of the world since Accra 1974, when it was placed on the working agenda of Faith and Order. Some ask why it is taking so long to get women’s ordination on the ecumenical agenda. Are the churches afraid of deeply controversial issues? Is the desire for a consensus in ministry such that the partners are willing to settle for an agreement that uses silence to cover disagreement? Is the vision of Christian unity so fragile that it cannot sustain this confrontation as it has sustained others in the past? Or might it be that the issues related to women and ministry are still considered peripheral, and rather than talk about ordination of women, the energies of the churches might better be focused on the nature and tasks of ministry itself and whether or not, as now practised in many of our churches, these are compatible with the vocation that God has for the diakonia, male and female, of the Church?

| These are not cheap or easy questions. At the same time that there is a growing desire for shared eucharistic life, there is a| parallel desire — across the churches — that they manifest more seriously in leadership roles their concrete, representative character, and further that they live more fully as a sign of the ethical, “as if”, character of the messianic promise. Some chur-ches fear that to take up with theological integrity and moral seriousness these societal and ethical dimensions of faith as they pertain to women and men in ministry will lead to new forms of opposition. Why has it taken so long to get on the agenda? Again, the resonance of “a burning issue” reminds the churches that to follow the pathway to unity can be — en route — a costly and precarious pursuit.

(1) Faith and Order: Proceedings of the World Conference, Lausanne, 3-21 August 1927, ed. H.N. Bate, New York, 1927, pp. 372-373.

(2) The First Assembly of the World Council of Churches, Amsterdam, 22 August to 4 September 1948, ed. W.A. Visser ‘t Hooft, New York, 1949, p. 147.

(3) Concerning the Ordination of Women, Departments on Faith and Order and Cooperation of Men and Women in Church, Family and Society, WCC, Geneva, 1964. For a summary of Faith and Order documents on the issue between 1964-1973, see Women and the Priesthood, ed. Patricia A. Kendall, Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1976. On a related issue, the Faith and Order Commission held two consultations on the deaconess, 1964-65: the results are published in WCC Studies No. 4. The meetings were an attempt to reach a common definition on this issue of “women’s ministry” in the ecumenical movement.

(4) The Fourth World Conference on Faith and Order, Montreal, 1963, p. 65, No. 1

(5) “New Directions in Faith and Order, Bristol, 1967, Reports, Minutes, Documents”, Faith and Order Paper No. 9, 1968, p. 148.

(6) “The Meaning of Ordination: a Study Paper of the Faith and Order Commission”, Study Encounter, Vol. 4, No. 4, 1968

(7) The Uppsala Report, 1968: Official Report of the Fourth Assembly of the World Council of Churches, Uppsala, 4-20 July 1968, WCC, Geneva p. 250.

(8) What Is Ordination Coming To? Report of a Consultation on the Ordination of Women, Cartigny, Switzerland, 21-26 September 1970, ed. B. Bam, Department of Cooperation of Men and Women in Church, Family and Society, Geneva, 1971.

(9) “Faith and Order, Louvain, 1971: Study Reports and Documents”, Faith and Order Paper No. 59, 1971, p. 93.

(10) Prologue: the draft study of 1969 on the theme “Unity of the Church — Unity of Mankind”, Unity in Today’s World, Faith and Order Studies on Unity of the Church — Unity of Mankind, ed. G. Muller-Fahrenholz, WCC, Geneva, 1978, p. 43.

(11) “The Ordained Ministry in Ecumenical Perspective”, Study Encounter, Vol. 8, No. 4, 1972, p. 12.

(12) “One Baptism, One Eucharist and a Mutually Recognized Ministry: Three Agreed Statements”, Faith and Order Paper No. 73, 1978, pp. 45-49.

(13) “Commission on Faith and Order: Minutes, Accra, 1974", Faith and Order Paper No. 71, 1974.

(14) Breaking Barriers: Nairobi, 1975, ed. D. Paton, WCC, Geneva, p. 309 (see II.2)

(15) Orthodox Women: Their Role and Participation in the Orthodox Church, Agapia, Romania, September 1976, WCC, Geneva, 1977, p. 5.

(16) Consultation of European Christian Women, Brussels, 29 January to 4 February 1978, Sub-unit Women in Church and Society WCC, Geneva, p. 10.

(17) “Towards an Ecumenical Consensus, Baptism, Eucharist, Ministry", Faith and Order Paper No. 84, 1975, p. 19.

(18) See “Sharing in One Hope, Commission on Faith and Order, Bangalore, 1978", Faith and Order Paper No. 92, pp. 269-270.

Contents of “Ordination of Women in Ecumenical Perspective” Support our campaign Sitemap Contemporary theologians Join Campaign activities Go back to home page


Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars' declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.

Visit also our websites:Women Deacons, The Body is Sacred and Mystery and Beyond.

You are welcome to use our material. However: maintaining this site costs money. We are a Charity and work mainly with volunteers, but we find it difficult to pay our overheads.


Visitors to our website since January 2014.
Pop-up names are online now.



The number is indicative, but incomplete. For full details click on cross icon at bottom right.


Please, support our campaign
for women priests
Join our Women Priests' Mailing List
for occasional newsletters:
Email:
Name:
Surname:
City:
Country:
 
An email will be immediately sent to you
requesting your confirmation.

 


Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars' declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.

Visit also our websites:Women Deacons, The Body is Sacred and Mystery and Beyond.

You are welcome to use our material. However: maintaining this site costs money. We are a Charity and work mainly with volunteers, but we find it difficult to pay our overheads.


Visitors to our website since January 2014.
Pop-up names are online now.



The number is indicative, but incomplete. For full details click on cross icon at bottom right.


Please, support our campaign
for women priests
Join our Women Priests' Mailing List
for occasional newsletters:
Email:
Name:
Surname:
City:
Country:
 
An email will be immediately sent to you
requesting your confirmation.