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.
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.