MOW AGM 2021 A Feast of theology conducted decently and in order
MOW Australia Ltd Annual General Meeting 9 October 2021
The 2021 AGM for MOW Australia Ltd was held by zoom on 9 October 2021.
The President, the Rev’d Dr Lesley McLean, welcomed members to the meeting, which was chaired by the Sydney convenor, Phillip Seale.
Address by Dr Jacqueline Service
Our guest speaker was Dr Jacqueline Service, lecturer in theology at St Mark’s National Theological Centre. Jacqueline has been actively involved in church ministries over many years. Her research focus on Trinitarian and analytical theology underpinned her challenging and informative talk on the significance of the Trinity and the way in which it informs us of the nature of God.
Drawing on Who’s Tampering with the Trinity: An assessment of the subordination debate (2009) by evangelical theologian Millard J Erickson, Jacqueline explored how views of the Trinity impact family roles and relationships. She reminded us that, in the Trinity, each divine Person is deity, co-eternal and co-equal, meaning there is no hierarchy and no subordination: they are the one Essence and the one God. The divine Persons can be described as being in a divine dance, in harmony with each other, each having equal authority. In this (equivalent-authority) view, the incarnated Son submits to the Father in order to advance God’s plan of salvation for the world.
This is the direct opposite of Trinitarian subordination, which says the Son’s functional submission to the Father is eternal, not merely temporal (Eternal Functional Subordination). The three divine Persons may be equally and fully divine but they have differing roles and functions. When EFS is realised in the day-to-day world, it can be used to justify the submission of wives to husbands, women to men. MOW members immediately recognised how this idea of subordination in God’s being underpins complementarianism.
Jacqueline went on to identify problems associated with EFS: it reduces the ‘divine dance’ to the concept of ‘authority’; it models interactions between the divine Persons on the hierarchical way humans relate to each other; it falls into heresy by saying the Son is of a similar essence to the Father, but not the same (Semi-Arian heresy); and it seems to posit different wills in the Persons of the Trinity (Jesus submissive, the Father authoritarian).
Jacqueline also drew on Wolfhart Pannenberg’s Systematic Theology Vol 1 to counter the idea that the Son and the Spirit were dependent on the Father. Pannenberg, she explained, describes the intratrinitarian relations between the two, where the Father hands power and authority to the Son, and the Son hands them back to the Father. The Father and the Son are mutually dependent.
Members took from Jacqueline’s address the importance of allowing God to define God, of mutual self-giving, and of power in vulnerability, as opposed to domination, subordination and manipulation. They were left with the question, how to open the eyes of those who espouse the Sydney understanding of complementarianism as equal but different and bring them back to a proper understanding of Trinitarian doctrine?
President’s Report, Rev’d Dr Lesley McLean
Over the past twelve months the MOW Board has met about every two months by Zoom. We are a solid, energetic and forward-looking team keen to engage the issues facing the church generally, but particularly in relation to ordained women. Two of the most pressing and public issues were the findings in the Research Report commissioned by the National Anglican Family Violence Working Group (NAFVWG) on Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in our parishes and organisations and the announcement of plans to split in the Anglican Church of Australia.
Other enterprises, such as the celebration and exhibition of Anglican women’s history in the Diocese of Brisbane, From Biscuits to Bishop (https://www.stjohnscathedral.com.au/womens-exhibition/) organised by Gwenneth Roberts, and the administration of MOW’s communication channels (the website and Google Group and now Facebook) and plans to produce a bi-yearly newsletter, required attention.
In response to the NAFVWG Report, the board asked the president to meet with the Primate. This could happen in person as both reside in Adelaide. The other Adelaide members of the board were ideally suited to accompany the president. Dr Carolyn Boyd is a researcher in workplace psychology and Mrs Sue Bishop has a background in law and is a Synod representative in Adelaide. Our meeting with Abp Geoff Smith was fruitful and empowering. With his encouragement and help Dr Boyd was able to attend (as an observer) the NAFVWG Conference by Zoom. She will follow up with further involvement at diocesan and national level.
We also discussed the 30th anniversary of the priesting of women next year in December 2022 and how this may be observed. The Primate suggested that MOW submit a report to Synod. Carolyn, Sue and I wrote and submitted a report for the Adelaide Synod papers 2021. We will also prepare and submit a report for General Synod. We realised that, after 35 years, MOW appears to have official recognition as a church body.
It was, however, the Primate’s initial question to us at that meeting that: Given that women are ordained – what is MOW’s relevance today? – that gave us cause to reflect.
Our reflections lead us to the following thoughts. That we look to affirm and maintain the hard-won position of women in the priesthood and stand in solidarity with them providing support and resources where possible, noting the difficulties many face in a changing society where expectations of our priests are many. That we offer support for and solidarity with all women priests, regardless of age, spiritual formation, and/or expectations of vocation and the priesthood. BUT, that we are very aware that the rise and rise of complementarianism presents a threat to women in ordained ministry and those looking to ordination as well as the de-stabilising effect of Gafcon’s plans:
In situations such as these we turn to the fathers and mothers of the reforming English church who took as a symbol of a broad church the three-legged stool – Scripture, Tradition and Reason. The practice of our faith looks to Scripture, looks at what has gone before, and all is done with the powers of thought, understanding and feeling.
The workbook of and for this enterprise was The Book of Common Prayer 1662 and the directives were set out in a series of essays, one of which, OF CEREMONIES, argues for appointed liturgies to be used ‘in decent Order and godly Discipline’, quoting from 1 Corinthians 14:40, Let all things be done among you in a seemly and due order.
Conducting services, synods and business decently and in order has defined Anglicanism. ‘Decently and in order’ has been the catch call for Anglicans for 400 years. It was wittily depicted on a badge by one of our creative foremothers of MOW.
Elizabeth Smith circa 1986 Image Patrick Meyer
The two other badges witness to the broad church.
Image Patrick Meyer
Archbishop Michael Curry, preaching at Trinity Church Wall Street NYC on 20th anniversary of 9/11 said, in part,
“The seeds of self-centeredness and hatred will inevitably yield a bitter harvest.”
He urged Christians to “go to the mountain” and recommit to “a love that gives and does not count the cost”.
“Let us not forget that even if it was for one brief, shining moment, we loved each other. Let us not forget that hope is on the way. What we did then we can, by God’s grace, do again — and discover who we truly are.”
Decency also means mutual respect for differences of liturgical style and biblical focus. Let us not forget the moments when we loved each other. Mary Andrews, Head of Deaconess House in Sydney, and Irene Jefferies from Adelaide, the first woman to be a member of General Synod, were heroes of the fledgling Movement for the Ordination of Women as women of the Evangelical tradition. It WAS a sign that hope was on its way, for they weren’t the only ones representing our Broad Church.
The focus of our MOVEMENT then (as now) was towards ORDER: that women be admitted to the ordo, the Apostolic three-fold order of bishop, priest and deacon. This was foundational in the pre-Reformation and remained so thereafter. The Anglican Church is therefore Catholic and Reformed. We live with this tension. We can do so and preserve decency and order if we remember always Jesus’ exhortation:
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13: 34-35
MOW has remained faithful to its purpose throughout the 35 years of its existence. Its members are a mixed bag of churchmanship and theological and biblical priorities BUT it remains generous, welcoming. It is lovingly concerned for the spiritual, intellectual and social development of ordained people. It will work with all the skills at its disposal to ensure that ordination continues to be open to those who are willing to answer God’s calls. It remains committed to an Anglicanism that is decent and in order.
In conclusion, I give thanks to God continually for the wonderful team of leaders who have constantly upheld our cause and offered their gifts and talents. We are already planning for the future while celebrating the past (as we should in all things). In 2022 we will be offering a variety of occasions throughout the nation to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood: in Sydney the venue is already booked for the weekend of 16-18 September 2022. In Adelaide we look to mark the occasion in early December.
A Song of Love
Living God, you invite us to love one another,
for love is the heart of your being.
everyone who follows you in the ways of your love
is born of you and know you well.
Everyone who does not love
does not know you, for you are love.
You risked your life in love for us,
embodying that love in a human being,
vulnerable, unconditional, persistent to the end,
our gateway to your presence.
In this is love shown true,
not that we loved you,
but that you loved us to the end,
and bore the cost of our release from evil’s grip.
Since you love us so much,
you empower us to love one another.
And if we love one another,
you abide in us, and we in you.
Your love will bear fruit through us,
complete and perfect at the harvest.
Canticle 21, p. 462 in Out of the Silence … Into the Silence by Jim Cotter. Cairns Publications, Harlech, 2006. Used with permission.
Conference to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the admission of women to the order of Priests in the Anglican Church of Australia
Notice was given of a conference to be held in Sydney (Christ Church of St Laurence, George Street, Haymarket) 16-18 September 2022 to mark this historic anniversary. A MOW conference committee is being put together, drawing on Sydney and National members. Details of the celebrations will be circulated in due course, via the website, the MOWatch google group and a forthcoming newsletter.
It is hoped that other dioceses will also celebrate this significant occasion.
MOW Committee for 2021-22
Following a part-committee election of directors, the committee for 2021-22 comprises:
President: the Rev’d Dr Lesley McLean
Vice-Presidents: the Rev’d Val Graydon, Margaret Lawther
General Representatives: Susan Bishop, Dr Carolyn Boyd, the Rev’d Lu Piper OAM, Jennifer Stirling
Sydney Representative: Phillip Seale
Treasurer: Kathleen Toal
Secretary: Dr Elaine Lindsay