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Women as clergy & religious leaders

Developments from 2000-DEC to now

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  • 2000-JUN-14: Southern Baptists vote against women pastors: Delegates to the church's convention in Orlando FL voted to change their denomination's Faith and Message statement. It now states: "While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture."  There are approximately 1,600 female pastors in the denomination, of whom about 100 lead churches. Local congregations have the authority to implement or ignore the policy. 3

  • 2000-DEC-19: Pakistan: Church of Pakistan ordains two women deacons: According to PCUSANews:
    The Church of Pakistan was formed in 1970, from a merger of the country's Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, and other Protestant groups. They are a partner church of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The have about 800,000 members, forming a substantial portion of the approximately 2.8 million Christians in Pakistan. Pakistan is primarily a Muslim country, with about 2% Christian believers. 

    The church has made history in Pakistan by opening their clergy to women. They ordained their first two women deacons on NOV-21. "The diaconate is the first step towards the priesthood, and deacons have an important role in church liturgy and ministry." Bishop Samuel Azariah, moderator of the church said: "We have gone ahead with what we believe is right. We have made our commitment to it...None of the mainline churches have opposed this though officially they may not agree with me 100 per cent on this."

    Timotheus Nasir, the moderator-secretary of the United Presbyterian Church of Pakistan (UPCP), is opposed to the move. The UPCP is a breakaway church in the Presbyterian tradition. He said: "Women's ordination is not authorized by the Bible...[The Bible contains] an executive order -- by the Apostle Paul and duly confirmed by the Apostle Peter -- that women are not allowed to speak in the church. So we have taken the bishop to court to prevent apostasy and heresy that are bound to follow this."  He says that his church "believes in biblical theology, and we do not go along with modern theology. [The UPCP] will keep the fight on till the bishop repents and the court gives him due punishment under the law." He claimed that "the radical feminist movement, homosexuality and lesbianism -- all approved by World Council of Churches -- are linked to this [women's ordination]." Nasir claims that a Lahore civil court has issued a contempt of court notice on Bishop Azariah for going ahead with the ordinations. But Bishop Azariah claims that he has not committed a contempt of court, noting that the ordination was completed before the court took action. He commented: "The court has no jurisdiction on the interpretation of the Scripture. The court is not the authority to tell the church who is to be ordained and who is not to be ordained. There is a clear mandate in the Bible for including women in the ministry of the church."

  • Also during the year 2000:
    • The Baptist Union of Scotland voted to allow their churches a local option to either allow or prohibit the ordination of women.
    • The Mombasa diocese of the Anglican Church of Kenya voted to ordain women.

  • 2001-MAR-1: Presbyterian congregations request opt-outs: According to PCUSA News for 2001-MAR-1:
    The Presbyterian Church (USA) first allowed women candidates to be ordained in 1956. Now, almost five decades later, overtures (motions) have been received for inclusion on the agenda of the church's General Assembly in 2001-JUN that would reverse this policy. One overture would empower individual congregations to refuse to consider female candidates for ordination, purely on the basis of their gender. On the other hand, other overtures have been received that would allow individual congregations or presbyteries out of clause G-6.0106b. This is a part of the denomination's Book of Order. It prevents non-celibate gay and lesbian candidates from being considered for ministry, regardless of their abilities and qualifications.

  • 2001-APR: Two noncompliant Episcopal dioceses continue to deny ordination to women: Bishops in the Fort Worth, TX, Quincy, IL and San Joaquin diocese, CA still refuse to ordain women to the priesthood. They believe that the Bible restricts the office to males. The Episcopal Women's Caucus (EWC) has decided to support ordained women for up to three months in these two dioceses. Under the "Angel Project," female priests would celebrate the Eucharist, preach, and offer pastoral care, without the approval of the bishop. EWC president, Lyn Headley-Moore, said "It is intended to support the feeding and needs of the people in the noncompliant dioceses who want to experience the ministry of female priests on a regular basis."

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  • 2001-JUL-23: Anglican church of Australia to debate consecration of female bishops: On 2000-NOV-16, the Australian Anglican Church issued draft legislation covering the consecration of women as bishops. On 2001-JUL-23, their General Synod accepted a bill for debate which, if passed, would allow the consecrations.

  • 2006-DEC: The Worldwide Church of God, a denomination with about 860 congregations worldwide has decided to allow women to serve as pastors and elders. This decision was reached after several years of study. 4

  • 2008-MAY-22: Anglican Church of Australia ordains first female bishop: In 2007, the Anglican Church ruled that there was nothing in the church's constitution that could prevent the consecration of a female bishop. Kay Goldsworthy was consecrated a bishop at St. George's Cathedral in Perth in a ceremony presided over by the Most Reverend Roger Herft, the Anglican Archbishop of Perth. 5

  • 2008-JUL-10: Church of England takes another step towards women bishops: The General Synod voted in favor of allowing women bishops. Two thirds of the existing all-male bishops and three quarters of the clergy voted in favor. However, although most of the representatives of the laity voted in favor, it was not by the two-third majority required to pass draft legislation in 2009-FEB. 6

  • 2012-NOV: Church of England motion to consecrate female bishops defeated: The Synod of 2012-NOV voted overwhelmingly in favor of consecrating female bishops; the vote was 73% in favor. However, all three Houses within the Church must all agree to change: the bishops, clergy, and laity. Conservative laity within the denomination had been able to get many conservative laity delegates selected for the Synod.

  • 2013-JUL: The General Synod of the Church of England reaffirmed its support for female bishops. Delegates called for the introduction of new draft legislation to be voted upon by the Synod in 2013-NOV, with the goal of final approval in 2015-JUL or DEC. 7
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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Anto Akkara, Ecumenical News International: "Church of Pakistan ordains women deacons, despite court challenge: Breakaway church goes to court to halt 'apostasy'." Distributed by pcusaNews on 2000-DEC-19. 
  2. You can subscribe to PCUSANews or read their past postings at: http://pcusa01.pcusa.org/mailman/listinfo/pcusanews 
  3. "Southern Baptists vote against women pastors," CNN News, 2000-JUN-14, at: http://archives.cnn.com/
  4. "Women in church leadership, conclusion," Worldwide Church of God, 2006-DEC, at: http://www.wcg.org/
  5. "Australia's first female bishop consecrated," 2008-MAY-22, at: http://www.abc.net.au/
  6. Muriel Porter, "Accepting women bishops," Unleashed column, Australian Broadcasting Commission, 2008-JUL-10, at: http://www.abc.net.au/
  7. "C of E to vote on women bishops again ," Anglican Journal, 2013-JUL-10, at: http://www.anglicanjournal.com/
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Copyright © 2000 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-DEC-19
Latest update: 2013-JUL-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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