Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Church history lesson needed

While most of the attention on controversies in mainline Protestant churches has to do with permitting or prohibiting gay clergy, apparently women clergy remain an issue for some. According to The Times of London, when the first woman to become one of the canons of the Church of England's Blackburn Cathedral, Dr Sue Penfold, presides at the Sunday service, worshipers are given a choice of one of two lines to receive the Eucharist. As an alternative to receiving communion from Rev Penfold, worshipers can choose to receive bread consecrated by a male priest and set aside from an earlier service.

Even if one buys into the medieval nonsense that only legitimate clergy can "do the magic" in consecrating the host, this policy still violates ancient church teaching. In the Donatist Controversy 1700 years ago, it was decided that the moral qualities of a minister had no affect on the legitimacy of the sacraments they administered. The ultimate power is God's, not that of the ordained minister.

Blackburn worshipers (apparently only about a half-dozen publicly object to female priests) may not like Canon Penfold's appointment and may think the church was wrong in ordaining her, but she is ordained nonetheless. Perhaps Archbishop Williams needs to pay a pastoral visit to Blackburn and engage in some remedial church history instruction.

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