I attended a very special gathering at Llandaff Cathedral this evening in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the ordination of women to the priesthood. The event was graced with a scratch orchestra and choir to lead the singing, and clergy, both female and male gathered from all over Wales for a bi-lingual Eucharist, led by a visiting Swedish Lutheran woman bishop. It was a joyous occasion, verging on the boisterous towards the end with dancing processions around the Cathedral singing 'We are marching in the light of God'.
It's been marvellous, the widespread acceptance of women's ministry, but also sad that there are still so many, including close friends, who regard this as an 'unorthodox' initiative which no church has the right to take unilaterally. It's not a position I've ever shared. I believe that at the heart of 'orthodoxy' is a spirit of eagerness to live together with our differences, in full recognition that we are not lords and masters of Gospel truth.
God alone calls people to ministry, through the circumstances in which they find themselves, even when we are slow to realise it. It's certain that as many women as men have been called and are being called to priesthood but with our cultural blinkers on for centuries, the church has failed to discern and act upon what the Spirit prompts, counter to the prevailing culture, when it comes to genuinely accepting women as both equal and different in exercising God's priestly gifts.
It's great that many gifted women through history have found ways to exercise God's priestly call, in the face of prejudice and prohibition, even though that hasn't until out times meant being able to preside over the Eucharist and officially bless others. We all need each other to share the Gospel with the world and build together the community of faith with all the diversity of human and spiritual resources that are available to us. I hope and pray that the Spirit will continue to change the hearts and minds of those who at present seem so convinced that Anglicanism has made a mistake and is deviating from the truth.
The real problem is that we still measure ourselves against ecclesial benchmarks set by the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics. We like to see ourselves on a par with their institutional clubs, which means we don't believe in our own evolutionary continuity as an ancient expression of Christianity, first of all Celtic, later Latinised, then subject to renaissance inspired reform, followed by enlightenment driven reappraisal of our Gospel roots and all that ever nourished them. One day, maybe, our church will come of age.
Might that just happen in our time?