Explain to me again just why we are the sorry lot...

Everyone has their troubles, sure. We Episcopalians are a cranky sort, given to such miserable things as allowing for too long dioceses that for conscience simply would not ordain women to the priesthood or think of the Presiding Bishop as a "real" bishop, much less Primate. OK. We don't smell like the rose of summer either. But, dear friends, these are our sins of caution. There is no reason for us to be caught up in the cautionary craziness of mother church. Perhaps there are reasons for autonomy that far outweigh the reasons for playing nice with the mother church. This may be one of them:

Ruth Gledhill reports that in the Blackburn Cathedral "Worshippers who oppose women priests receive ‘untainted’ bread," bread that has been consecrated by a male priest. It appears that there are now women clergy at the Cathedral and lest one of these oppositional worshippers get bread with woman stuff on them thereby making the consecration unreal, these worthies are given the opportunity to get safe bread, safely blessed.

Surely the bishop has some say in this mess. Perhaps it would be to say to these worshippers that apparently they do not oppose women priest, but rather that they don't believe they are real. In which case they can't really believe the bishops who ordained these women are anything but mad or heretical. Perhaps these worshippers ought to leave and go form a church of their own.

Oh, wait a minute...it would be thought schismatic or some such thing to suggest this, and you know Mother Church does not want there to be rips in the fabric of communion, yes?
The communion is ripped, and this bit of theological mind melt is part of it.

There are all sorts of places these offended worshippers could go. Rome comes to mind, or the FOCA / ACIE (Anglican Church in England). If our friends in England have not heard of ACIE, they will soon. It might have another name, but FOCA will be on the case and there will be some such thing like the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), soon, in a theater near them.

Friends, if you don't want the bread, don't come to the table. If you do, eat and be filled. But don't get picky. That's the spirit! We were invited, remember?


  1. "Surely the bishop has some say in this mess." Could be that Nicholas Reade, a firm Anglo-Catholic, who, I believe, ordains women as deacons but not as priests, and is one of the bishops who recently signed the statement calling on the C of E to recognize ACNA - whose makeup ha cannot have studied too closely - is behind this. A de facto schism if the idea spreads. Guess the old trick of having a male priest mutter the words of consecration on the sly isn't good enough for them. To me the most amazing part of the story is the statement by the FiF spokesman "I can’t understand why the women priests put up with it” which shows just how off-the-wall this practice is.

    Wonder what external pressures led to the installation of Sue Penfold as a canon residentiary. Doesn't seem that either her bishop or her dean would be welcoming her appointment with open arms.

  2. Amazing, simply amazing, that reserving "untainted Communion" for "half a dozen who refuse to receive the sacrament from a woman" is official practice in a Church of England cathedral.

  3. Can nobody see that practise is intended as a pastoral concession to those who cannot accept that women are actually priests? Those people may be wrong in the grand scheme of things, but I thought one of the only remaining strengths of Anglicanism is that it 'affirms' those of differing, even unpopular, opinions about what really are grave matters about salvation if in fact the Eucharist is necessary for salvation.

    What if those who cannot accept Communion consecrated by women are correct? Then their soul just might be endangered. Hypothetically, yes, but nevertheless, in very real sense if they're right. Plus, that is their conscience. Oh that's right. Anglicans aren't meant to have one of those unless it passes the secular smell test.

    Consider it a means of showing charity in truth to everyone, not just those persuaded by theological arguments for women priests at best, or simply appealing to vagaries of political correctness at worst.

    That's what chills me to the bone: a new Anglicanism whose sole criterion for faith, morals and practise is 'social justice' devoid of serious reflection or - dare I say it - tolerant and inclusive.

    Of course, orthodox Anglicans are the only ones required to be tolerant and inclusiveness. Revisionists may safely exclude whomever they like.

  4. What if those who cannot accept Communion consecrated by women are correct? Then their soul just might be endangered.

    Darryl, do you truly believe, even hypothetically, that a just and merciful God would damn those who consume a tainted Communion wafer? Am I misinterpreting what you have said? That is NOT the God I know and love.

  5. Yes, let us show our tolerance and inclusivity by allowing intolerance and exclusivity to anyone who wishes. Makes perfect sense to me.

    As well, women's ordination did not happen overnight. We did not wake up as a church one morning and say - hey, let's start ordaining women. The decision was done with serious theological reflection.

    Neither is full inclusion of gays and lesbians been done without years of serious reflection.

    To say that we focus on the social justice aspect only, without the theological base, allows for an easy disregard for the fact that our convictions come out of our deep faith as well. It allows for the practice of denying that we are Christian. It is a myth that perpetuates itself wrongly.

    Love and prayers,
    Ann Marie

  6. So, Father. In the inclusive TEC is there room for the SSC? Or are SSC priests supposed to all be non-stipendiary assistants and lucky to not be deposed? Just curious.

    A priest in California.

  7. I do wonder if these folks are also particupar about who sits near them. It wasn't that long ago, in parts of the US, where there were two drinking fountains in public places. The source of the water was always the same pipe, but there were those who insisted on multiple drinking fountains.

    I'm sure there were those who thougth there were separate sources for the water. They were wrong.

    There is one Body and one Spirit; There is one hope in God's call to us; One Lord One Faith, one Baptism; One God and Father of all.

  8. Salt Lake Priest25/7/09 10:00 PM

    Fr. Darryl,

    I direct your attention to Article XXVI of the Articles of Religion. A document that is still binding in the Church of England which states clearly that the worthiness of the minister in no way invalidates the sacrament. This is a wholly untenable theological and liturgical position from any standpoint.

  9. A similar, if not identical, practice to this was instituted at St. Paul's Cathedral some years ago. I have no idea if it still persists. I can't imagine Giles Fraser accepting his canonship there if it does.

    A logical reaction to such nastiness would be for those snubbed, insulted and/or offended by these acts of superstitious politicking with the body of Christ to refuse communion off male priests who perpetuate such nonsense. Yet I have never once come across this happening. I know I am not supposed to feel smug about such things but I do.

  10. I find the idea of "untainted" bread appalling, but the fact that the worthiness of the minister in no way invalidates the sacrament is not an argument against it.

    What is being disputed here is not the worthiness of the ministers (priests), but whether they are ministers (priests) in the first place.

  11. Deacon Charlie Perrin27/7/09 10:53 AM

    Is this not the receiving in an unworthy manner that Paul cautions against?

    Is this not a failure to perceive the body?

    I once preached about the practice of intinction and suggested that if one intincted out of fear of catching some disease from another, than it might be best to reconsider one's presence at the rail.

    However, intincting for the purpose of protecting another from your own illness would be in the best spirit of communion and sharing.

    One act is selfish, and the other is considerate.

  12. When I was an elementary school teacher, we taped a note to a can of air freshener that said "COOTIE REMOVER: one squirt will remove all girl and boy cooties, all day"

    Wonder if I should send a can of that on over to Blackburn Cathedral so the poor dears aren't afraid of the girl cooties any more?

  13. a) I have a priest friend in England who is not allowed to Celebrate at the parish which "sent him up" for ordination because he was ordained by a bishop who ordains women -- and he is therefore "tainted."

    b) There is a [somewhat] parishioner where I serve as priest who attends our service until the distribution of Communion -- because to receive the Bread of Life from my gay hands would be to receive "tainted" bread.

    You can't make this stuff up. Sigh.

  14. Oh, great. This is an "inclusive church." So please submit to women's orders or get out. The coherence is just shattering.

  15. In England we do not call dipping a wafer into the cup, intinction. We use the word only to describe the action of a priest dabbing a small dot of wine onto a wafer using a piece of the large host.

    I think in Catholicism it is not legal for laity to intinct.

  16. Mark, et al., my reaction to this story was complex. I was at first outraged. Then I had a vivid memory of when I was an RC seminarian in the 60's. Our "folk mass" group was invited to play at a Presbyterian Church. Before leaving, we were summoned to the seminary rector who formally cautioned us that reception of communion in the Presbyterian Church was cause for automatic expulsion from the seminary. I was just an 18 yr old kid, but in my not-yet-theologically-formed gut I knew something was wrong. I later recognized it as an institutional sin against the Spirit. It took a lifetime for me to act on a whole catalog of such things and leave the RC church behind. Lots of us were the recipients of such malformation, taught, for example, that the protestants didn't have "real" eucharist at all. I am reminded by that memory that we the Body of Christ are truly broken (there's a reason He came), anger may not be the best response. Sadness is closer to the mark. There is a good question imbedded in this story and the various responses here: Is there room for tolerance for those who simply cannot be where we are theologically, even if the accommodation hurts us? The practice at that cathedral stands as a powerful, if unintended Sign that we are in constant need of reconciliation, and that the Kingdom is both here and clearly not yet.

    Lou Poulain, Sunnyvale CA USA

  17. How bizarre.

    The same people who deride TEC's "inclusiveness" now try to work up an underdog image by claiming we're not "inclusive enough." Couldn't be jaded politicking, could it, among the oh-so-holy orthodites? The same people who'll leave any number of people behind to "save" their own souls, but not a single altar-cloth.

    Just proves we have never been the ones who misuse inclusion to justify anything.

  18. "I once preached about the practice of intinction and suggested that if one intincted out of fear of catching some disease from another, than it might be best to reconsider one's presence at the rail."

    Absolutely, we don't want no neutropenic cancer patients at our communion rails if they're not prepared to risk dying along with the rest of us.

  19. Why is it so shocking and offensive that certain churchgoers would want to stand with the central tradition of the church and not receive the sacrament from female priests? Would that make them too close to those bigoted Roman Catholics and Orthodox who haven't changed their theology?

  20. If I proudly declared myself "orthodox" you'd think I would try to avoid committing one of the early heresies of the church! Though I do respect the pastoral concerns of individuals, it is hard for me to see this as anything but appeasing modern Donatists.

    Besides, the 'optics' of such a move do nothing but eroded the credibility of the institution.

  21. Ah, the inclusivity of the liberals towards conservative Anglo-Catholics shines forth...

    Kudos to Erica Baker in her comment who at least understands what is at stake.


  22. Stick to the topic, Rob.

  23. FOCA??? You can't make these things up!!

  24. The CofE is going to have to deal with it's cooties the same way we have. We have finally put that issue to rest in the installation of a REAL primate who is female.

    But this all has to do with the understanding that white straight males don't make all the rules anymore on this or the other side of the pond.

  25. Fr Michael

    I don't know whether your comment was supposed to be sarcastic?
    I have no idea what's at stake for you, and my post was entirely off topic - indeed, I was surprised Mark published it.

    I was merely suddenly finding myself reacting in a rather over-emotional way to a comment that presumes to know what is and what isn't sinful without taking into account individual motivations.

    As my daughter was being treated for leukaemia for 2 1/2 years and often felt she could not risk sharing the cup but that she still desperately needed to be in church and to receive Communion, I felt the blanket accusation of people like her "sinning" particularly strongly.

    And I apologise for the digression.
    But maybe it's not quite so off target.... until we truly know who we talk about, our abstract thoughts of sin and selfishness are mere theories, lacking deep understanding, compassion and love.

  26. Deacon Charlie Perrin29/7/09 3:12 PM

    Ms. Baker

    Had I been preaching to an assembly where people with compromised immune systems were present, I would have used a different approach.

    For people with compromised immune systems, even being out in public can be dangerous.

    However, the context of my post addressed those who feel they must maintain their purity, or their health (if healthy and possessing robust immune systems).

    It is after all the Body and Blood of Christ and we are called to share it. It is not an individual act for our individual redemption.

    It is risky to be "in communion" with other human beings. It is risky for a lot of different reasons. Jesus called us to this risk, in remembrance of him. Jesus called us to be selfless. Jesus called us to love each other as he loved us; and for us he went to the cross. Are we able to go to the cross for others? Or do we wish to be kept unstained by the unworthy?

  27. Deacon Perrin

    I'm sorry, I was too harsh in my criticism of you.
    I know that priests often say things to make a theological point, and usually, that's ok.
    And if you were very sure that you only had the same old 20 communicants and that you knew all about their lives, then you were probably right to say what you did.

    I would still want to hesitate, because unless you can look straight into someone's heart and know exactly why they do what they do, it's easy to jump to conclusions. There's a very good reason why we pray to God, to whom all heart are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden.... we're rarely if ever in that special position.

    I have no right to tell you what I would do... but I would always prefer a preacher who gives precise examples of why he/she criticises what he/she criticises, and does not denounce anything as "sin" wholesale.
    Not least because it has a better chance of reaching me personally, rather than getting all my defences up because I feel misunderstood, hurt and on the defensive.

    As for not taking risk and not understanding what being in Communion with Jesus Christ is all about - I couldn't agree with you more!


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.