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Anglicans Debate Ordination Of Women Priests

July 23, 1988

CANTERBURY, England (AP) _ Five men and a woman dueled politely over the divisive issue of women priests at the world conference of 525 Anglican bishops.

Three came out against women priests or urged caution and two were in favor, with Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie holding an advisory role at panel discussions on Friday.

Runcie is leader of the world’s 70 million Anglicans, whose leaders are tackling the question at the Lambeth Conference, held every 10 years. The 525 bishops attending are from 164 countries.

Runcie recalled that the 1978 conference agreed that the decisions of any of the 27 self-governing churches should be respected by the others, whether they agreed or not.

But since then, he said, ″matters are not what they were.″ He referred to the ordination of more than 1,200 women priests and more than 1,400 women deacons, priestly assistants who can conduct baptisms, marriages and funerals but not Holy Communion.

Runcie says the Anglican Communion could break up if a woman bishop is consecrated, a step now being considered by the U.S. Episcopalians and New Zealand Anglicans. He said opposing male bishops would not feel in communion with a woman bishop, thereby sundering traditional links within the church.

The Rev. Nan Arrington Peete, who was ordained in Los Angeles in the U.S. Episcopal Church and now works in Indianapolis; and Archbishop of Canada Michael Peers spoke out strongly in favor of admitting women to the priesthood.

Ms. Peete told the bishops that under her leadership, her congregation in All Saints parish increased fund-raising and activity to help the homeless.

In her city, ″Episcopal priests as well as Roman Catholic priests and sisters seek me out for spiritual direction,″ Ms. Peete said.

Peers said Canadian Anglicans have ordained women priests since 1976.

He said women now enrich the clergy ″in a way that had not been so before″ and ″they promise to enrich our lives.″

The U.S. Episcopalians and the Anglican Church of Canada have ordained 1,163 of the 1,269 women admitted to the priesthood by a quarter of the world’s Anglican churches. The majority still refuse women priests.

Anglicans are the world’s second largest body of Christians, after the Roman Catholic Church.

The bishop of London, Graham Leonard, the leading opponent of women priests and bishops in the Church of England, Anglicanism’s mother church, said women priests already had impaired communion.

He said people had left the Anglican church in some places where women have been ordained.

″Much greater impairment will inevitably take place if women are consecrated to the episcopate,″ he said.

Leonard listed 10 ″profound concerns″ of the opponents of women priests and bishops. The foremost are that God chose to embody himself in a man, Jesus Christ; and that Jesus chose 12 men for his apostles.

A Palestinian, Presiding Bishop Samir Kafity of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, said it was only natural to consider women priests when there are women scientists, judges and political leaders.

But he said Roman Catholics were firmly against women priests and bishops and that the Orthodox churches also objected. So ″those who seek the unity of Christendom must take this fact into consideration,″ Kafity said.

Archbishop of Brisbane John Grindrod, Primate of Australia, stressed the dangers to the Anglican Communion of consecrating a woman bishop.

He said it might be necessary to appoint a special group to produce guidelines for women’s ordination if the conference did not have time.

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