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Is the Church becoming a retirement hobby for granny clergy?
by Graeme J. Davidson,
8 July 2006

With a third of its clergy now women, the Anglican Church in New Zealand is a world leader. Twenty percent of Presbyterian clergy are women. Half of those in seminaries training for Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist ministries are women and the number of women offering themselves for ordination is steadily increasing.

....Father Geoffrey Kirk protests: "Very soon the priesthood will be seen as a hobby for grannies”. He and other members of Forward in Faith, a British Anglican group opposing the ordination of women, have a point.
....Jesus called young men as apostles and since then male leaders have dominated the Church. Those entering the priesthood even had to undergo a physical examination to prove their manhood, which makes the tale of a Pope Joan in the Middle Ages suspect. But, nowadays, young men in mainstream churches are as rare as the wind-up wristwatch. And with only 5% of clergy under 35, Protestant parishes seeking the ideal pastor of four decades ago – a married man in his thirties, ordained over five years – face disappointment.
....Our population is aging, and so are our clergy. Those currently training for ministry in our main Kiwi Protestant denominations average a middle-aged 41. Female seminarians are slightly older than the males.
....Father Kirk may be right, but the Grey Power dog-collar-wearing grannies haven’t won the revolution yet. Though women outnumber men in the pews, granddad clergy rule the pulpit. Efforts to promote equal job opportunities hit engrained gender attitudes, keeping women in traditional roles – visiting the sick, ministering to mothers, children, and the elderly – or ordained as assistant clergy who shouldn’t rock the boat.
....Often the strongest opposition comes from other women, like the clergy wife who described the women priests she knew as “clumping frumps”. Perhaps it was out of loyalty to her husband that she failed to mention grumpy old men clerics nostalgic for the past.
....Two weeks ago, the Episcopal Church in the United States broke the stained glass ceiling and elected the 51-year-old Katharine Jefferts Schori as its presiding bishop, effectively the highest-ranking woman priest in the world. Yet, the appointment of the pro-gay Bishop Katharine has a downside. It’s accelerated the fracture of the 77 million worldwide Anglican Communion, already split over the consecration of homosexual Bishop Gene Robertson and the blessing of gay relationships.
....Father Kirk and other Forward in Faith members have plenty of allies. Only three Anglican communions worldwide currently have women bishops: the United States, Canada and New Zealand. Despite women having been ordained in the Anglican Church since 1942, some influential dioceses – like Sydney – still do not allow women priests.
....The New Zealand Anglican Church was the first to appoint a woman to head a diocese when Penny Jamieson became bishop of Dunedin in 1990. In her book Living at the Edge: Sacrament and Solidarity in Leadership, Bishop Penny says, “The challenge for women in Christian leadership is not to eschew strength, but to reorient and redefine it, authentically and appropriately, with a firm foundation in Christian tradition and spirituality”.
.... In 1998, she claimed that she was the victim of “destructive abuse” from within the church. A year later, on National Radio, she likened her treatment by some male leaders in her diocese to “gang rape”. When she resigned two years ago, one correspondent to the Otago Daily Times pleaded with the church authorities “to find a successor respected for authentic spiritual values rather than one I believe was driven by ideological feminist agendas”.
....Do women clergy push a feminist barrow? Researchers recently found the only significant differences among clergy are individual style rather than gender. However, in terms of style women clergy tend to be liberal on most issues, especially ethical ones. They are usually strong on social justice: women’s rights, gay rights and gay marriage, abortion and peace advocacy. They are often more activist than their male colleagues and are more likely to focus on the role of women in the Bible and in Church history.
....It's hardly surprising, then, that women clergy end up in liberal parishes, which currently face dwindling numbers compared to conservative evangelical churches.
....Despite a dearth of recruits for its priesthood, the Roman Catholic Church doggedly continues to deny women ordination. Yet its congregations are growing in New Zealand. Is this partly because women are noticeably taking more lay leadership and pastoral roles?
....With a third of its clergy now women, the Anglican Church in New Zealand is a world leader. Twenty percent of Presbyterian clergy are women. Half of those in seminaries training for Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist ministries are women and the number of women offering themselves for ordination is steadily increasing.
.... Very soon, then, a granny will be coming to a pulpit near you.





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