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What is ordination coming to? Report of a Consultation on the Ordination of Women. World Council of Churches 1971

What is ordination coming to?

Report of a Consultation on the Ordination of Women
held in Cartigny, Geneva, Switzerland 21st-26th September 1970
edited by Brigalia Bam,
first published by the World Council of Churches 1971
and reproduced on our website with the necessary permissions.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction
1
Material from Preparatory Papers
Women's Rights and Roles in Different Cultures
3
The Ordination of Women: Reflections on Theology and Practice
by Ian M. Fraser
14
The Psychological Factors Relating to the Ordination of Women and the Whole Question of Women and Ministry
by Sirkka Syvanne
22
Developments in the Roman Catholic Church regarding the Ordination of Women
by Tine Govaart-Halkes
30
Insights of a Social Scientist on the Ordination of Women
by James L. Spangenberg
42
Case Study Material provided
Case Studies from Women Theologians
48
Reflections on the Ministry, with special Reference to the Problems and Opportunities of the Ordained Women
by Phyllis Guthardt
53
Reports and Summaries
Report of Group I
59
Report of Group II 65
Report of Group III 72
Summary Report on Survey on Ordination 75
List of Participants 81
Background Papers 85

Introduction

The Consultation on the Ordination of Women, held in Cartigny near Geneva from September 21-26, 1970 under the auspices of the World Council of Churches was unique in the history of ecumenical encounters. The masting brought together 25 participants from 6 continents representing 8 different traditions. They included Roman Catholics and one Orthodox Bishop. This conference was given its mandate in 1968 by the Uppsala Assembly, which stated:

"(We) realise that the question of the admission of women to holy orders has been the subject of several studies. We urge that these be continued, 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 of this development."

This volume contains the three reports from working groups. The Consultation voted to adopt the conclusions and recommendations, to be transmitted to the WCC member churches and to the WCC itself for action. Some papers that were presented to the Consultation have been included too.

Preparation and Planning

During the preparation for this consultation a survey was sent to ordained women in order that we could obtain some of their experiences. The report of this survey is also included in this volume.
Several people from different cultural and denominational backgrounds were requested to preparebackground material for this Consultation. A resume of these papers has been made.

Fresh Perspective in the Churches

In the churches there is a discernible movement to take the ministries of women with greater seriousness. Now about 72 of the constituent churches of the WCC ordain women. Women who were pioneers in this field have fought through difficulties and won battles which have now made life easier for the next generation of ordained women. The eighteen women, seven of them ordained in their churches, confirmed this statement.

No church which has proceeded to the ordination of women has ever had cause to reconsider its decision. Rather the experience has been one of enrichment and greater adequacy in developing flexible forms of ministry. The actual experiences of such churches is of great importance, since so many forbodings are grounded merely in theoretical possibilities, untested by actual experience of the work of ordained women. It is important to note that there were still psychological and sociological problems affecting women differently in their cultures. Some of the American participants were affected by the climate and the strong impact of the women's liberation movement.

It became evident in our discussions that in all the churches the old barriers remain untouched because even after ordination women still had no opportunities for leadership and very few were involved in decision-making.

There was an agreement that theological arguments from scripture and tradition which were previously thought to be decisive are no longer able to sustain their traditional interpretations, which projected a subsidiary role for women in the scheme of creation and redemption. Instead, attention is given to mankind's basic oneness. It is male and female together who are made in the image of God.

The highlight of the Consultation was the closing High Mass according to the Liturgy of the Church of Sweden. All the members of the Consultation felt they could participate. The Orthodox Bishop, who did not receive the elements, pronounced the blessing at the close of the service. This was a moving experience to many of the consultants, especially those who had never received communion from a woman pastor.

 

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