No Novenas, Thanks — I'm Staying Anglican

St James's Anglican Church
Image by jofo2005 via Flickr

The Catholic church has sent shock waves throughout the Anglican communion by creating a way to ease Anglican conversion to Catholicism. Those horrified by homosexual priests and bishops, same-sex blessings and women priests are hungry for a spiritual home that ratifies their prejudices.

Not me.

The Anglican faith is premised on what’s called the three stools; faith, tradition and reason. Reason. I can’t attend any church or listen to any preacher who doesn’t explicitly, as this church does, welcome my questions, my intelligence, my doubts and challenges. It’s because we bring our own ideas that debate and change and growth can even happen, no matter how terrifying it is for some people. We also govern our own church through bishops — the Anglican church is also called Episcopal, which means ruled by bishops. We do not bow to one leader in a far-off land handing out encyclicals.

I loathe dogma. Yet I also deeply value tradition and symbols, incense and liturgy, “smells and bells, capes and drapes” as my minister — Nora, a woman — said yesterday at lunch. My Dad, who joined us visiting from Canada, later said he was surprised that Nora didn’t seem to mind my salty tongue. A refuge from corporate life, like many mid-career women coming into ministry, Nora feels like someone I can relate to, even while respecting her authority.

I have never been a Catholic and have spent very little time in or near Catholic traditions. But women are not allowed to become Catholic priests — which the Anglican church began in 1975. That alone is one reason I cannot imagine ever leaving a denomination that so obviously and clearly manifests its commitment to spiritual needs of all its members, not just bowing to the traditional primacy of men.

Nora was recently installed as the rector of our 150-year-old church. I wept with pride and pleasure. I was thrilled and surprised to see so many other women ministers show up for this important ceremony, offering her their moral, emotional and spiritual support. It felt like having a crowd of unicorns in our pews to see so many women at once wearing clerical robes and collars.

Power is something women everywhere fight for daily, in ways small and large, whether political, economic, intellectual, sexual, spiritual. No church that refuses women the pulpit can woo or win me.

7 thoughts on “No Novenas, Thanks — I'm Staying Anglican

  1. Pingback: Caitlin Kelly – Broadside – No Novenas, Thanks — I’m Staying Anglican « A Blogspotting Anglican Episcopalian

    1. Well – prior to Vatican II the sort of reform that came out of the council seemed nearly as unlikely. I think it will take time, but I do think it will happen. Then again, when you’re talking about the Catholic Church you’re talking in terms of thousands of years. So change, when it does happen, may not come for some time.

  2. Caitlin Kelly

    It makes the changes in the Anglican church seem meteoric in comparison, I guess.

    One of the things I so value is the debate over what we should be and the willingness to shift on that. I don’t understand how anyone can profess Christianity and abhor gays or shudder at the idea of a woman at the altar. Surely, acceptance, let alone brotherly/sisterly love is essential to this.

    1. Often as not, I think it’s less shuddering at the idea of women at the altar or abhorring gays as it is a general feeling that change should come about slowly, and a respect for the very long traditions of the church. A lot of Catholics would probably be very happy to see women priests or married priests (I’m not sure where the issue of gay rights stands, and I’m sure it depends on the region) and would instantly accept the change if it came to that at a council.

      Others, of course, would oppose it. There is a sizable fringe of traditionalists who think the current Pope (and all pontiffs since Vatican II) is an impostor and a fraud.

      In any case, there are good and bad things that come with this more cautious, slow-going approach. Just as the more ‘meteoric’ change in Anglicanism has led to good changes, it has also led to some fracture, some internal disruption and a possible split. The trick is achieving change without so disrupting the institution that the center fails to hold, I suppose.

  3. Caitlin Kelly

    I wonder how change happens quickly (relative term) without fracture and internal disruption. I have tremendous difficulty with the notion of these conservative African Anglican parishes, on a different continent and within a very different culture and society, even trying to mess with how my faith works (or does not) within a pluralistic, diverse country such as the U.S. or Canada. Better that the Anglican Communion be, or try to be, one “happy family” — or true to our own vision of what that means, and grateful that is also our choice?

    I know that having a woman minister brought me back to the church after decades. People come or stay in a church, parish, denomination for so many different reasons.

    Faith and spirituality get so riven by other agendas. I find that sad, but certainly inevitable unless everyone keeps yoked to the status quo.

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