Thursday, April 4, 2013

I Did A Quick Search

to see what the overall status of women's ordination is in main line Protestant denominations, and whether there have been significant breakaway groups (e.g., "continuing Lutherans") as a result. I'm more convinced than ever that "continuing Anglicanism", defined as denominations formed as a result of the Congress of St Louis in 1977, denominations that are in communion with them, or denominations derived from them, is a unique phenomenon. "Continuing Anglicanism" sees itself as opposing the ordination of women and the 1976-79 revision of the Episcopal Church's Book of Common Prayer. (The ACNA is uncertain on the question of women's ordination, currently has women priests, and uses the 1979 BCP.)

The Wikipedia entry on Ordination_of_women_in_Protestant_churches contains repeated statements to the effect that "The ordination of women is now non-controversial within [insert name of denomination]", which includes Lutherans (ELCA) and the United Church of Christ. In addition, "The Presbyterian Church (USA) began ordaining women as elders in 1930, and as ministers of Word and sacrament in 1956. By 2001, the numbers of men and women holding office were almost equal." Also, "In 1956, the Methodist Church in America granted ordination and full clergy rights to women."

It is correct to say that most Protestant denominations have splinter groups that may or may not ordain women, although such splinter groups were often formed during the Second Great Awakening of the early 19th century, and their reasons for either leaving or not merging into main line denominations are diverse and not specifically related to the question of women's ordination. As far as I can determine, there is no movement corresponding to "continuing Anglicanism" in any other main line denomination. Wikipedia has an entry for the Continuing Anglican movement, but as far as I'm aware, no equivalent entry covering such a movement for any other main line denomination.

It is also true that dissident groups broke away from The Episcopal Church in the 1960s mainly due to the denomination's stance on Civil Rights, but elements of these groups later allied themselves with the more prominent post-St Louis factions.

I'm still pondering what this means. As I've said, I don't believe that more conservative strains of Protestantism dating from the Second Great Awakening are comparable to "continuing Anglicanism". However, I'd be interested to hear of any main line Protestant groups that are not ex-Episcopalian and broke away from their denominations since, say, the 1950s specifically over the following:

  • Ordination of women as priests and bishops
  • Modernization of liturgy, insisting on retaining some earlier version of a book of common worship.