A story in the UK Telegraph assesses the wobbly standing of women priests in the Church of England, and obliquely suggests that the promised Pentecost (i.e., the gush of spiritual gifts consequent on admitting women to the altar) has never arrived:
Supporters of women priests predicted that the church would be transformed, and pews would overflow. But opponents were distraught. "Swamped by modernism, liberalism and feminism, the Church of England is now nothing more than a rotting carcass," lamented the Rev Francis Bown.
In the following weeks, more than 400 priests left the Church. Many took shelter in Roman Catholicism, where they were joined by high-profile parishioners such as the MPs Ann Widdecombe and John Gummer. Others made use of an opt-out clause which let them exclude the women from their parishes. In a move that is now being challenged, the legislation also barred women from becoming bishops. These are still open wounds.
It's true that women have made an immense and invaluable contribution to Christian churchmanship in recent years, but this contribution has nothing whatsoever to do with ordination. It is a consequence of the Internet, which has brought readers together with part-time and non-professional writers -- many of whom write nonsense, but many of whom on the contrary are women of deep piety, insight, and wisdom, and whose thoughts had little chance for expression fifteen years ago.
But women's ordained ministry, even on its own terms, has been an undeniable flop. Putting aside the fact, enunciated by Catholic doctrine, that sacramental priesthood is void for women, one might still expect that the opportunities provided by non-sacramental ministries would have thrown up someone of substance -- or at least lasting influence -- over the past couple decades. Yet we find no Margaret Thatchers and no Hannah Arendts and no Jeanne Kirkpatricks among the clergy but, in their place, a inordinately high number of women who are just plain daft.
The flakiness of women ministers is a flakiness with a characteristic edge to it. It flirts with paganism and expresses itself with a facetious worldliness. I suspect this is partly due to the fact that the churches that ordain women are pro-abortion, which means the whole spiritual dimension of maternity must be amputated. The glint of the new-sharpened knife is never far from their feminism. And as if by compensation for this ideologically obedient cruelty, the same persons often display a quasi-pagan sentimentalism about nature. Katharine Jefferts Schori, we're told, dresses like a sunrise, and many other priestesses cultivate a rapturous "wind in the face" emotivism that takes the place orthodox Christian liturgy gives to the worship of God.
Strange bedfellow to this sub-Wiccan element is a strand of girlishness that's easier to illustrate than to describe. The website of the Young Women Clergy Project claims to be "powered by faith, verve, chocolate, and really great shoes." At the Beauty Tips for Ministers blog, a telling phenomenon in its own right, one finds discussions of clergy eyeliner, lingerie, and lip gloss. At ECUSA's site, we find suggestions for Thirty Ways to Celebrate Thirty Years of Women's Ordained Ministry that include the following:
Decorate gingerbread cookies like women priests and serve at coffee hour.
You don't want to lick the frosting.
There are multiple levels of irony to this earnest goofiness. On the one hand, were we told it was all the invention of an embittered misogynist we'd be hard put to disprove it. On the other hand, it seems to have received no critique by those progressivists from whom we might have expected the wish to display a more decorous image of womanhood. The most plausible explanation for the flop and the flakiness is that the desire for ordination on the part of the women candidates and their supporters had little to do with service of the altar and a lot to do with vengeance and vandalism: getting even for past injuries by gaining access to the pulpit, and befouling the sanctuary to make it repellent to the orthodox. That's to say, the kind of women who made themselves ministers did so in order to give pain to those they believed deserved it. In this respect, and this respect only, they succeeded beyond hope or expectation. Is it any wonder they've grown bored with the whole religion thing?
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Posted by: -
Nov. 21, 2007 11:25 AM ET USA
Discussion of "clergy eyeliner, lingerie, and lip gloss" is not just a pre-occupation of FEMALE clergy!
Posted by: -
Nov. 20, 2007 2:34 AM ET USA
I was baptised and confirmed in High-Church Anglicanism. I grew up with the 'bells and smells', altar rails, kneeling for Holy Communion which was given by a priest in beautiful vestments. I don't recognise this weird jig-saw puzzle religion that calls itself Anglican... The Anglicanism of my childhood primed me for my eventual reception into Catholicism in 1996.
Posted by: -
Nov. 20, 2007 12:30 AM ET USA
I would expect the gingerbread cookies to jump off the plate and pull their vestments off as they run shrieking out the door and down the street.
Posted by: -
Nov. 19, 2007 4:12 PM ET USA
The practice of women's ordination has a sort of built-in self-defeat mechanism. No orthodox Christian woman would seek "ordination," leaving only heterodox women to do so. And being heterodox, such women will necessarily isolate and marginalize themselves from orthodox Christianity. Same holds for the Gene Robinson faux-bishop types. It's a permanent self-destructive do-loop in the heterodox coding.
Posted by: -
Nov. 19, 2007 2:39 PM ET USA
"...supporters had little to do with service of the altar and a lot to do with vengeance and vandalism" Absolutely spot on! This, of course, applies to many of the male clergy saying Mass today. They retain a simmering resentment of the Pre_V2 pieties, and at the core of their theological and liturgical experiments are the post-modern version of the rite of exorcism, where the pre-V2 cling-on devils will be driven like pigs over the cliff and into the deep.