29 July 2009

Thirty-five years and counting

Tempus fugit! Thirty-five years ago today the Philadelphia Eleven became the first women ordained as priests in the Episcopal Church.

The ordinations took place despite howls of anger and disgust by conservative members of the Anglican Communion. Some Episcopalians left TEC over the ordinations. But we survived.

The Philadelphia Eleven were all white, and either middle class or rich. Several were lesbians. Almost all of them had some experience with the civil rights movement.

In the 1970s, when the issue of women's ordination was loosening Episcopalians' girdles, the Philadelphia Eleven were a touchy subject. A woman named Mary Ann Peters wrote in 1975, "The women's movement within the Church no longer needs screaming, protesting, button-wearing suffragettes who merely antagonize others within a seemingly Christian community." Nancy Hatch Wittig, one of the Philadelphia Eleven, had a cool answer: "I heard the gospel long before I heard of the women's movement."

Thank God TEC heard the voice of the Spirit calling the church into a new "revisionist" theology.

Congratulations, Philadelphia Eleven - we're proud to know ya!

I don't find it odd that it took five years for the ordination of women as priests to become "legal." That was thirty years ago in 1979. Thirty years later, sex is still the one thing that threatens to end the Anglican Communion.