Status of agreed statements:
Agreed statements have been agreed by the dialogue members and submitted to the sponsoring churches for study. These texts express the careful considerations of the members of the dialogue but are not official statements of either of the churches.
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In considering the relation of the question of the ordination of women to the authority of the church’s Tradition, the following considerations must be kept in mind.
These statements are a strong indication that, though disagreement exists on the answer, the question is based on a common understanding of the issues involved and the meaning of terms common to both churches. We are talking about the same Eucharist and the same three-fold ministry; we share the same fundamental sources of doctrine in Scripture and Tradition. Both churches make use of the insights of theological research, incorporating the contributions of anthropology, psychology, history and other aspects of culture to arrive at authoritative decisions.5
In addition to Christian witness within the family, women have long been engaged in teaching, nursing, social work, missionary service, and care for the young, the aged and the infirm. Although the diaconate has been opened to women in the Episcopal Church, the role of presiding at the Eucharist has not been opened to women in the practice of either church. Yet women are now serving as Christ’s ministers in many new ways: for example, ministries of peace, social justice, theological education, and formal pastoral care of special groups, including leadership in hospital, campus and prison chaplaincies. Women now play an increasing part in the Liturgy as lectors and auxiliary ministers of Holy Communion. Today they stand on a level of equality with men in exercising the ministry of all baptized persons in the public forum.
Both our churches agree that no individual has an inherent right to be ordained priest. Nevertheless, the exclusion a priori of a large class of persons from this ministry must be justified by cogent arguments, since women are now widely recognized as capable of exercising leadership in many roles once regarded as appropriate only to men. If the churches are to change their agelong practice, however, the claim that there is no strong reason against the ordination of women must be reinforced by strong arguments for it, since the desirability of change does not automatically follow from acceptance of its possibility. In any case, whether a change is advocated or a tradition affirmed, adequate theological reflection is necessary on the part of all concerned, because a decision of either sort would involve a response to a question never before raised in this way. The depth of the issue is indicated in the third paragraph of the above report of the June, 1975 consultation.
The question of ordination of women presents problems within both the Roman Catholic and the Anglican communions; so also do the Marian dogmas. Both of these issues are relevant to a deep concern for womanhood in the life of the world and the economy of salvation. In both our churches there is a growing realization that women should have a more effective voice in all areas of church life, befitting their dignity as human persons made in the image and likeness of God.
The ecumenical task is to inquire whether one church can fully recognize another in the midst of differences; whether both can discern a substantial unity in faithfulness to the Gospel amid varied expressions and understandings of the single Mystery, the single Faith, the single Christ. Particular controverted issues of church life may represent different ways of manifesting God’s grace, as the Spirit has guided us. Even the things we do not agree with in each other’s traditions may have something to teach us about God’s will for his people. We proceed in the faith and hope that the Spirit is leading us into unity.
“Speaking the truth in love” is the way in which the Church will best prepare and strengthen itself to carry out the mission God has given it. We have tried to express that mission in the concluding paragraphs of our statement on The Purpose of the Church: 8 The church, the Body of Christ in the world, is led by the Spirit into all nations to fulfill the purpose of the Father. In so far as it faithfully preaches the Gospel of salvation, celebrates the sacraments, and manifests the love of God in service, the church becomes more perfectly one with the risen Christ. Impelled by its Lord, it strives to carry out the mission it has received from him: to prepare already the structures of the Kingdom, to share with all persons the hope for union with God.
In humility and repentance, the church shares the guilt of mankind in its disunity. Presenting men and women with hope in the fulfillment of their destiny beyond this life, it also assumes, under the cross of its Lord, the burdens and the struggles of the oppressed, the poor, and the suffering. Striving for justice and peace, the church seeks to better the conditions of this world. To the divided, it offers oneness; to the oppressed, liberation; to the sick, healing; to the dying, life; to all persons, eternal salvation.
October 21-24, 1975
Released November 7, 1975
1“ARC VII Statement,” adopted at the seventh meeting, December 8-11, Boynton Beach, Florida. Published 1972 in ARC/DOC I, pp. 9-20, United States Catholic Conference, 1312 Massachusetts Avenue, Washington, D. C. 20005.
2ARC Special Consultation on Ordination of Women, Mercy Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, June 22-25, 1975.
3ARC/DOC I, pp. 47-50.
4To be published in ARC/DOC III.
5Cf “Doctrinal Agreement and Christian Unity: Methodological Considerations,” ARC eleventh meeting, published in ARC/DOC II, pp. 49-53, U. S. C. C.
6Genesis 1:27-28 (cf 5:1,2, placed by an ancient editor after the fall) . Judges 4:4 ; 2 Kings 22:14 ; Nehemiah 6:14 ( judges and prophetesses) . Joel 2:28-29 (cf Acts 2:17-18). Mark 12:18-25 ( sexes in the resurrection) ; Luke 8:1-3 (companions of Jesus) ; 10:40-42 (woman as disciple) ; Acts 1:12-14 (awaiting Pentecost with the eleven) ; 9:36, 16:14, 40 ; 17:4, 12, 32 (leaders in local churches) ; 18:1-26 ( Priscilla as theologian) ; 21:8 ( daughters of Philip) Romans 16:1-16 (Phoebe the deacon, various women workers in the Gospel); 1 Corinthians 7:1-16 ( marital mutuality) ; 11:2-12 ( though men are accounted superior, women pray and prophesy in Church) ; Galatians 3:26-29 (In Christ “neither male nor female “) ; Philippians 4:2 (women who “have labored with me in the Gospel along with Clement. . . . “) .
7“Doctrinal agreement,” p. 52.
8ARC XV Statement, made public on October 31, 1975. To be published in ARC/DOC III. DP, B, PR, PS.