Saturday, August 22, 2009

Telling My Story: A Joyful Penitent

Alice C. Linsley
Telling My Story – Part II (Part I is here.)

The Philadelphia ordination of the eleven women (several lesbians) took place in 1974, the same year that the homosexual action group "Integrity" was founded.

In September 1975, more lesbians were ordained in Washington D.C. Here is the account in Louie Crew's words: "More 'irregular' ordinations of women took place… after our convention. In Washington at the time, on a missionary journey to our new chapters in the east, Jim Wickliff and I yielded to the counsel of friends who advised that our visibility at the ordination might put in jeopardy lesbians among all early ordinands." (From here.)

In 1976 General Convention of ECUSA affirmed homosexual behavior when it passed the “we are children of God” resolution.

In 1977, Bishop Paul Moore (NY) ordained Ellen Marie Barrett, who had served as Integrity's first co-president.

Homosexual activists have attacked the Historic Faith and Practice every year since the founding of Integrity. The undermining of catholic orders has been persistent and steady. Those who uphold Holy Tradition are on firm ground, but we are surrounded by many who hate us for what we represent: resistance to their demonically-inspired vision.

If only right-believing Christians were this persistent in their efforts to bring poor sinners to the Savior!

Most Episcopalians slept through these attacks, many of which were launched with great stealth (as Crew admits in his statement above). However the consecration of Gene Robinson in November 2003 awoke many, but by then it was too late to reverse the disastrous course of the Episcopal Church.

It has become apparent to most Anglicans worldwide that The Episcopal Church USA has departed from the Historic Faith and Practice. This was evident to catholic-minded Anglicans as early as 1975, the year that the eleven women were ordained “priests” in Philadelphia. Steeped in the unified witness of Holy Tradition and Holy Scripture, these traditionalists were clear about where the line is drawn, and they confronted corruption in the Church in the same spirit as Martin Luther who proclaimed in the words of Psalm 16:6: “The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.”

The Anglican heritage is indeed a beautiful one, upholding catholic orders and especially the integrity of the priesthood, verifiably one of the most ancient, even primal, of religious institutions, as has been verified by anthropological studies. (I have written on this here and here.)

Why should the line be drawn at the Priesthood?

Because there is but one Priesthood - that of Jesus Christ, the Eternal Priest - whose priesthood is given to the Church. The priesthood is a mark of the Church catholic and it is about Jesus Christ, so we must get it right or we send a wrong Christological message to the world. True catholic Christians see a woman priest as embodying a non-Christian worldview and therefore use the word “priestess” to underscore the Anglican slide into paganism. For a long time I didn’t understand this. I resented being called a “priestess” by the clergy that I most admired. I thought they were being ungracious, when really they were telling the truth.

To Evangelical Anglicans who ordain women, the term “priestess” seems insulting to the doubtless excellent ordained women in their churches. There was a time when I felt insulted to be called a “priestess”, but having come to understand the unity of Holy Tradition and Scripture, I now recognize that attempts to justify women priests are attempts to justify an innovation so startling and radical that I am committed to resisting it and speaking against it.

From Blissful Ignorance to Joyful Repentance

Some readers must surely be wondering why I didn’t leave ECUSA sooner, seeing the direction that it was going. Honestly, I didn’t see the direction in the 1970s or 1980s. For these reasons: My first experience of Anglicanism was in Iran where Christians suffered for their faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Though I worshipped with the ex-patriate congregation, I saw some of what the Iranian converts suffered and I knew their faith was real.

My second exposure was at Wheaton College (Illinois). At the time I was at Wheaton, there was a revival of interest in classical Anglicanism. This was when many Wheaton professors were “on the Canterbury Trail.” I was learning about the Anglican Way as it should be, not as it was becoming.

Thirdly, I didn't attend an Episcopal seminary. I did my four-year seminary training at a Lutheran seminary and all my professors were serious scholars. We were talking about the centrality of the Cross, about St. Paul's refutation of the Gnostics, about Luther and the Continental Reformers, and about the merger of the Lutheran denominations that was going to take place.

In seminary I took one course that made me think about women priests. It was a course on Anglican Polity taught by Jeffrey Steenson who later became an ECUSA bishop and more recently, a Roman Catholic priest. There were about 12 students in his class and all but one were females seeking ordination. You can imagine our dismay to receive a final exam with only 2 essay questions. One question dealt with the Book of Common Prayer and the second asked us to justify the ordination of women to the priesthood on the basis of history and church tradition. I received an A for my answer to the first question and an F for my answer to the second question. (I was able to cite only spurious feminist sources.) I was furious! So were the other women in the class, and we complained to the Dean. I'm deeply ashamed to think of what happened. Dr. Steenson, who had taken an interest in me and invited me to the service of Blessed Benediction at his parish in Rosemont, was not invited back to teach at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

After ordination in 1987, I remained blissfully ignorance of the undermining of Anglicanism because I was very busy as the Chaplain at an all-boys Episcopal boarding school - the Church Farm Church in Exton, Pennsylvania. Working 60 hours a week, it was a brutal job for a single mother of young children, but it was also God’s provision since it came with free housing and our residence was next to the chapel and across the street from my classroom, so I was able to zip home to check on my children. I remained in that position for three years.

During those years I was having many significant dreams, which I recorded in a journal that I kept at my bedside. (I now have about 15 dream journals detailing dreams over about 20 years.) The following 3 dreams are recorded in those journals.

On November 8, 1995 I dreamt that I was in a small office talking on the phone with a women parishioner, trying to persuade her to support the parish. After a time, she finally came to her objection: her husband wouldn’t give to the church because of a woman priest. I countered that he should support the parish at least for the sake of the two male clergy who were on my staff!

I rang off and sat down at a desk. There was a partition immediately in front of me. It was a poorly built partition and the larger room on the other side seemed to be empty but it was well lit from two windows. Behind me to the left was a forest green screen, which had been placed there after church renovation. It was flecked with gold, and behind it I could see another door. The door was slightly open, but I had no idea where it led. I imagined that it was a studio for me to write. This made me glad, as I yearned in those days to have time to write.

After my phone conversation I went into the next room where Brian Wilbert asked me to put on a white and gold cope. A sacred teardrop-shaped pearl hung from it. Sacred letters were inscribed on the pearl, but I couldn’t make out their meaning. After I put it on I was the led into the assembly. All was in confusion as I entered. I sensed various reactions to me and I became nervous. I was being led to a platform in a convention center or large arena. I was to be seated in the cathedra, but it was not ready for me when I arrived. People were busy clearing away furniture to make room for the cathedra. It was very narrow and there was no place to put my Book of Common Prayer. I asked for a small table to be placed next to the cathedra and I sat down. I looked over the congregation, which still had not settled down. I realized that I was expected to say something, but what?

Then the cathedra disappeared and I was facing the other direction with my back to the assembly. I was standing with my hand raised up as in prayer and the throng grew very quiet and I suddenly began to sing. It was a single strong note and perfectly pitched. The note swelled from within me and grew like a bubble coming from my mouth, only invisible. I sang and the people began to sing also. I was not leading the liturgy, but I was leading the singing. The noise was discordant at first, but then the people began to listen to one another and blended their voices. The song became beautiful and I knew that the people would be able to sing to the Lord. Their hearts would be free and they would sing! This gave me great joy.

This dream seems to be connected to an earlier dream, which I had on March 3, 1995. I entered an elevator to go to the second floor but it would only go either to the fourth or the ground floors. Every time I tried to go to the second level the elevator went up to fourth or down to the ground floor. Finally I gave up and got off on the fourth floor.

My son was there with one of his buddies. While in Josh’s room I found gold puzzle boxes. When I opened them I found that they were empty. In a drawer I found a small enameled box with a red velvet lining. I opened it and heard these words: “Solomon was the wisest who ever lived.” The box contained hairs from Solomon’s beard. I removed them and threw them in the trash bin to my right. Then I began to sing a very beautiful song, making up the words as I went. Another woman (the woman I was then) began to sing also but couldn’t come up with the words, so she stopped. I felt very glad and free, like a songbird perched in a tower high above a city.

My song was about a sheer milky white pearl in the shape of a teardrop. It was gleaming white and at its curves it reflected the red lining of the box’s interior.

It is evident from these dreams that my inner life was under construction, that I was seeking to solve a puzzle, and that I was yearning to express what would bring me joy. Clearly my unconscious was busily processing the doubts that I already had about my life and my vocation as a priest.

I had begun to doubt my vocation as a priest, but didn't feel that there was anyone with whom I could share these doubts. Several years later, after taking a position in Kentucky, I asked my bishop, Ted Gulick, if he could meet with me because I needed to share my doubts. He drove from Louisville to Bardstown and took me to lunch. But when it came time to share my heart, something constrained me and I didn't tell him that I was confused about why only the Episcopal Church had women priests and that I felt as if I were wearing someone else's shoes.

There was a third dream, related to the two earlier dreams. In this dream I was vested and standing in the procession of priests. We were preparing to process into the church. I was at the head of the procession and the Bishop was in line ahead of me (not where a bishop should be). Suddenly, off to my right there appeared a gleaming white pearl, shaped like a teardrop. I knew that it was the “Pearl of Great Price” but the only way I could take hold of it was to leave the procession of priests and to turn my back on my bishop.

I left the Episcopal priesthood in March 2005 and in a very real way I turned my back on my bishop in order to take hold of something of great value. That something is really a Someone, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came into the world to save sinners like me. And to Him I offer my joyful praise and worship! I can do no other. This is my goodly heritage which extends to all who are in the Kingdom of God.

(Telling My Story, Part III is here.)


Rick Lobs said...

Alice, I have read both of your posts on the subject of telling your story. I read it with care, respect and something akin to envy. The Lord was gracious to you giving you as much clarity as He did and this to his glory. Rick+

Georgia said...

Please give us the sequel, what God has done since you renounced your orders.

Agnikan said...

I think the disappearance of "heresy" as a category in Episcopal canons, might also be a factor.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Your point is well made, Dharmashaiva.

I'm reading an interesting book at the moment titled Anglican-Orthodox Pilgrimage, edited by Franklin Billerbeck. There is a chapter by Fr. John Reeves in which he describes his seminary experience (Episcopal) - heresy by heresy - yet not once were his professors called out on their rejection of the Historic Faith and Practice.

I hope you are well, my friend.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Georgia, there is indeed more to tell and I may write Part III, but not now. I'm heading to Australia soon and need to prepare for that. I ask your prayers for safe travel and for strength and grace as I speak at the Forward in Faith conference there.

How are your studies going? Email me when you have a moment.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Dear Alice,

I rejoice in you telling your poignant stories as a joyful penitent because it is a blessing from God to you, and then onto others.

Traveling mercies to Australia!

Petroc said...

Alice I've just read part 2 of your story and can only say how much I respect your courage and witness to the truth. God bless you.

EnnisP said...

Hey Alice,
I came across your blog while researching the question of whether or not Moses had two wives and was pleasantly surprised by your fresh approach not only to this question but to other issues as well.

And, because I like to know who's talking I searched for information about you and found little until I came across your story, parts 1 and 2, both of which I read.

Very interesting, especially for someone like me who has very little knowledge of the Anglican Church.

I do, however, come from a conservative background (Baptist) - hope that isn't a nasty word here :)

Baptists have debated the "Women in Ministry" issue mostly at the ground level, not on a denominational platform. And my experience with these discussions gave me a very different perspective on your story.

Obviously, your story is your story and I respect that immensely but I don't think the question of women serving as priests has been answered here. It seems your decision was prompted more by political and cultural trends than biblical influence and it is very apparent that you were manipulated by the system.

For your sake, I am sorry for that. I know it had to be stressful and I hope you are well in spite of the difficulty.

Just so you know, I'm not disagreeing with your decision just making observations about the reasons for the decision.

As people go, male or female, you clearly have godly character, an honest approach to Scripture, exceptional communicating skills, a lot of courage and as one commenter said you speak with grace - not something you usually find among hard core conservatives.

You might not be "IN" the ministry officially at the moment but you definitely have the skills for ministry and your blog is serving ministry purposes.

So, whatever you call it, ministry or not - priesthood or not - keep doing what you are doing.

And I think Georgia's request for the sequel would be nice.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Ennis, I'm so glad that my research has been helpful. An anthropological approach to the Bible is productive and draws forth details that clarify. You will find all the articles here in the INDEX. They are organized alphabetically by topic.

My paternal grandmother was a Baptist preacher. She was ordained in 1925 in Los Angeles County (Whittier) by the Northern (now American) Baptists. My father was also a Baptist preacher.

The preaching office is not exclusive to the priesthood. Even the Eastern Orthodox permit women to preach and women are not ordained in EO. I've preached twice in 4 years in my church, which is Antiochian Orthodox.

As to the question of why women can't be priests (ontologically), I've addressed that in numerous articles here at Just Genesis. The most recent is here:

Thank you for your kind words. I'm well. The Lord sustains me daily by His great love which we feel especially on this day when we remember His crucifixion for our sakes and for the sake of all sinners. Through His torn body the way is opened for us to return to Paradise/Communion with God.

The sequel (Part III) is here:

Best wishes and blessings to you on this Good Friday.