Monday, November 12, 2012

Women Priests and the Anglican Church of North America

Alice C. Linsley

It is a historical and anthropological observation that no woman ever served in the office of priest until 1944, at which time Florence Li Tim-Oi was ordained by Ronald Hall, Bishop of Victoria, Hong Kong, in response to the crisis among Anglicans in Communist China. She later stepped down from serving as a priest. In 1976 the Episcopal Church broke the age-old tradition of the all-male priesthood by vote of General Convention. At that time the "irregular" ordinations of the "Philadelphia Eleven" and the "Washington Four" were made regular. The first woman ordained to the priesthood in the United States was Ellen Marie Barrett (January 1977). She was ordained by the Rt. Rev. Paul Moore, Jr., Bishop of New York. Ellen Barrett, a lesbian, had served as Integrity's first co-president. Other lesbians had been among the Philadelphia Eleven. In the United States, the ordination of women and gay and lesbian "rights" were intertwined from the beginning, so that today it is difficult to treat these as separate issues. Both have been framed as "equal rights" issues, revealing a profound misunderstanding of the nature of the priesthood.

What is the Priesthood?

Despite what feminists, politically-correct academics, and rights activists might say, the ministry of priests in the Church developed organically from the Horite priesthood of Abraham's people and was exclusively the work of a select group of men (a ruler-priest caste) whose devotion to the worship of the Creator involved, by today's standards, extreme asceticism and purity of life. The objection that there were women priestesses in the Greco-Roman world is irrelevant as this is not the origin of the priesthood known by Jesus Christ and his followers.

Contrary to the position of the Roman Church, Horite priests were married and enjoyed sexual relations with their wives. However they abstained from sex, shaved their bodies, fasted, and entered periods of intense prayer in preparation for their time of service at the temple or shrine.

In the ancient world Horite priests were known for their purity, sobriety and devotion to the High God whose emblem was the Sun. Plutarch wrote that the “priests of the Sun at Heliopolis never carry wine into their temples, for they regard it as indecent for those who are devoted to the service of any god to indulge in the drinking of wine whilst they are under the immediate inspection of their Lord and King. The priests of the other deities are not so scrupulous in this respect, for they use it, though sparingly.”

The Horite priests, who are often called "Habiru" (Hebrew) in ancient texts, worshiped the Creator when other peoples were worshiping lesser deities. They anticipated the coming of the Seed of God (Gen. 3:15) and believed that He would be born of their ruler-priest bloodlines. That is why the lines of priests intermarried exclusively and why unchaste daughters of priests were burned alive (Lev. 21:9). Sexual impurity was not tolerated.

In the ancient world, only men born into the priestly caste could serve a priests and many of those never did. Some instead served as warriors, scribes, rulers and metal workers. There was never a question about having a "right" to this work. It was appointed to those who were born into this order, and this is the order from which Jesus Christ descended.

The Horite marriage and ascendancy pattern remained unchanged from the Neolithic period of Genesis 4 and 5 (the lines of Cain and Seth) to the time of Joseph and Mary. The pattern can be traced through the Bible using the anthropological tool of kinship analysis, and it is an impossibility that this pattern could have been written back into the text at a late date.

There were priests among Jesus' first followers. Nicodemus and Joseph of Hari-Mathea were members of the Sanhedrin and of the Horite ruler-priest caste. Hari-Mathea (not Arimathea) means "of the Horite line of Matthew." This was Jesus' ancestry through both Mary and Joseph. Horite priests expected a Righteous Ruler to defeat death and lead his people to immortality. This is why Horite priests took great precautions in the preparation of the bodies of dead kings. It is likely that Joseph of Hari-Mathea and Joseph, the husband of Mary, were both of the Pharisee persuasion.

As a ruler-priest Joseph would have appointed men who were qualified to serve as priests in Britain. Being of advanced age, he would have been older than Jesus and the disciples. This suggests that the priesthood came to Britain very early and is older than generally supposed. It must be nearly as early as the episcopacy of Evodius of Antioch (53–69 A.D.) and the episcopacy of James the Just of Jerusalem (d. 69 A.D.), but would likely precede the episcopacy of Linus of Rome (67-79 A.D.).

Further, the legend concerning Joseph of Hari-Mathea coming to Britain has basis in science. Horite priests were among the Ainu and genetic studies have confirmed that the Ainu dispersed widely across the ancient Afro-Asiatic Dominion. Some came to the British Isles and from there migrated to Finland, Greenland, Labrador and Eastern Canada where they are called Micmac. Anthropological studies have shown that the Ainu were among Abraham's Nilotic ancestors. Further, Genesis 41 confirms that Joseph, the son of Jacob, married the daughter of a priest of On (Heliopolis) and On has been identified as an Ainu shrine city.

If Joseph as ruler-priest, member of the Sanhedrin, and a kinsman of Jesus Christ brought the Christian priesthood to Britain, Anglicans should be especially careful to preserve the Horite pattern of the priesthood.

Jesus' Horite Ancestry

Priests were dispersed throughout Palestine. Settlements often took their names from the priestly division that resided there. For example, Nazareth was the home of the eighteenth priestly division, Hapi-tsets (a word of Nilotic origin), so Nazareth is Happizzez in 1 Chronicles 24:15. Nazareth was the home of Joseph who married Jesus' mother. Mary was from Bethlehem. Her full name would have been "Miriam Daughter of Joachim, Son of Pntjr, Priest of Nathan of Bethlehem." From predynastic times among the Egyptian Horites, ntjr designated God or the king. Pntjr is Pa-Netjer, the name of Joachim’s mother. The Horite priests traced descent through both the mother and the father. A limestone stela (1539-1291 B.C.) bearing the names of Pekhty-nisu and his wife Pa-netjer is on exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. The Ancient Egyptian word nisu (ruler) became nasi in Hebrew and applied to the High Priest who presided over the Sanhedrin.

Through Mary the promise of Genesis 3:15 came to be fulfilled. The Seed of the Woman crushed the serpent's head and death has been overcome. The ancient expectation of a divine royal son who would overcome death and lead his people to immortality was fulfilled.

The connection between Bethlehem and the Horites is alluded to in I Chronicles 4:4, which lists Hur/Hor as the "father of Bethlehem." To this day Jews call their ancestors Horim, which is Horite in English. The ancient Horite priests were devotees of Horus, the son of Ra, the creator. Horus' conception took place by divine overshadowing. He is the pattern by which Jesus would be recognized by Abraham's descendants as the Son of God. When the Virgin Mary asked how she was to have a child since she "knew" no man, "The angel answered her and said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the holy child will be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35)

The Church is the Protector of Divine Tradition

Messianic expectation first emerged among the Horites and is central to the Christian faith, as is the all-male priesthood. There are threads interwoven in the fabric of the tradition received by the Church. The priesthood as a tradition received from Jesus' Horite ancestors and it was a tradition which the Hebrews, and later the Jews, and then Christians preserved without change. The Church does not have the authority to change this tradition any more than it has authority to change the doctrine of Jesus' two natures, or the Eucharistic words of institution. This is the consensus of the Church Fathers, the Council of Nicaea (Canon 19), and the Council of Laodicea (Canon 11), as well as the consensus of the Eastern Orthodox churches and the Roman Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II spoke ex cathedra on female ordination in 1994. Observing that the male priesthood had been "preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and clearly taught by the Magisterium in recent documents," he decreed that the Church has "no authority to confer priestly ordination on women."

In "The Veiling of the Virgins" Tertullian speaks of the sacerdotal life as a "male function," and St John Chrysostom wrote, "When one is required to preside over the Church, and be entrusted with the care of so many souls, the whole female sex must retire before the magnitude of the task, and the majority of men also” (On the Priesthood).

The Western tendency to innovate is not a new development. Speaking against this tendency, St. Basil the Great wrote, “The dogmas of the Fathers are held in contempt, the Apostolic traditions are disdained, the churches are subject to the novelties of innovators” (Letter 90, To the Most Holy Brethren and Bishops Found in the West).

This willful disregard of Apostolic traditions reached new heights in the Episcopal Church with the unprecedented and politically-motivated decisions to ordain women and non-celibate homosexuals. Again, St. Basil's words well describe the present condition of that body which can scarcely be called a "church." He wrote:

“Every man is a theologian; it does not matter that his soul is covered with more blemishes than can be counted.  The result is that these innovators find an abundance of men to join their factions. So ambitious, self-elected men divide the government of the churches among themselves, and reject the authority of the Holy Spirit.  The ordinances of the Gospel have been thrown into confusion everywhere for lack of discipline; the jostling for high positions is incredible, as every ambitious man tries to thrust himself into high office. The result of this lust for power is that wild anarchy prevails among the people; the exhortations of those in authority are rendered utterly void and unprofitable, since every man in his arrogant delusion thinks that it is more his business to give orders to others than to obey anyone himself” (On the Holy Spirit).

Feminist theologians have pressed the Church to ordain women, seeking to overthrow the wisdom of the Fathers and the Councils in their own brand of "liberation theology." They paint only one portrait; that of universal male oppression of women. They misrepresent the reality of women in the early church and in the Bible. Phoebe, Lydia, Priscilla were ministers in the early church, and more than 90% of the women named in the Bible are the wives and daughters of high ranking ruler-priests and they exercised considerable influences in their communities. Further, in the Eastern Orthodox Church women are highly revered and at least half the icons in a given church are of women saints, martyrs, and a few women who are regarded as "equal to the Apostles," such as Photini (the Woman at the Well), and a central place is given to the icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary who is venerated, as she was by early Christians. Feminists theologians would overthrow any tradition which they regard as misogynistic to advance their agenda. For such as these, St. John has these stern words: “The divine law indeed has excluded women from this ministry, but they endeavor to thrust themselves into it; and since they can effect nothing of themselves, they do all through the agency of others.” (On the Priesthood)  A review of the past 30 years of the Episcopal Church's history makes it fairly easy to identify who the "others" are.

Rediscovering Anglican Identity

It is no wonder that Anglicans today are suffering an identity crisis. Few issues make that clearer than the debate over women priests. I was glad to hear of Anglican Archbishop Robert Duncan's initiative to study the question of women priests, and ask readers to pray for and support that committee under Bishop David Hicks.

Many consider this a step backward, but it is the most progressive move any Anglican leader has taken since the Anglican Communion split over the consecration of gay activist Gene Robinson and the apostate presidency of Kathryn J. Schori.

Meanwhile, the Church of England continues to be torn by the question of women bishops.Those interested, should read this briefing by members of the Conservative Evangelical and Catholic groups in the general Synod of the Church of England: Women Bishops Legislation: Not Fit For Purpose

The new Archbishop of Canterbury favors women bishops, which does not bode well for Tradition-honoring, Biblical Anglicans.

The question of women priests continues to divide Anglicans and remains a significant barrier to ecumenical relations with the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics. Putting off a definitive study of this question only delays the inevitably clash that is coming within Anglicanism.

Having been a priest in the Episcopal Church for 15 years, this is a subject about which I have rather strong feelings.  Here are some of my thoughts.

Women who now serve as priests must be granted continued service, but their ministries should be directed toward preaching, teaching and pastoral ministry, especially among women and children.

There should be an immediate moratorium on the ordination of women as priests.

Women should be ordained as preachers, teachers, theologians and pastors, but not as priests.

Women should not serve in liturgical roles, except as cantors and lectors.

Only males should serve at the altar during Divine Liturgy.

Anglicans must restore the male nature of the Priesthood, which is the Priesthood of the God-Man Jesus Christ.

Anglicans must recover the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, by which Christians are reminded of God's plan of salvation through the faithfulness of the Woman.

Related reading: More Thoughts on the PriesthoodAbraham's Habiru AncestorsWhat is Lost When Women Serve as Priests; What is a Priest?; God as Male Priest; Growing Consensus that Women Priests Must be Addressed; Impressions of North American Anglicanism


jdwoods76 said...

I'm reminded of the John Milibank article that you posted on 9/28/12. The article offered a blueprint for restoring a healthy Anglicanism, listing "steps towards an eventual reunification under Roman primacy." It seems like the right prescription to me; it also seems like it will never happen. Will the ACNA someday reunite with Rome or Orthodoxy, Alice?

Alice C. Linsley said...

One day in Christ's eternal Kingdom, but until that day, what Anglicans need most is to be restored to catholicity.

George Patsourakos said...

In line with the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, the smaller Anglican Church should not permit women to be priests.

Even Orthodox Judaism does not allow women to be rabbis, although the more liberal Reform and Conservative branches of Judaism do allow women to be rabbis.

One of the reasons that Jesus did not select any women to be His apostles was because Jesus did not want women to have to suffer as men did. Indeed, this is an attribute of Jesus that should be respected and appreciated by women, as they do not serve as priests.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Søren Kierkegaard on the Blessed Virgin Mary
Who was a great in the world as that favored woman, the mother of God, the Virgin Mary? And yet how do we speak of her? That she was the favored one among women does not make her great, and if it would not be so very odd for those who listen to be able to think just as inhumanly as those who speak, then every young girl might ask: Why am I not so favored? And if I had nothing else to say, I certainly would not dismiss such a question as stupid, because, viewed abstractly, vis-à-vis a favor, every person is just as entitled to it as the other. We leave out the distress, the anxiety, the paradox… The angel was indeed a ministering spirit, but he was not a meddlesome spirit who went to the other young maidens in Israel and said: Do not scorn Mary, the extraordinary is happening to her. The angel went only to Mary, and no one could understand her. Has any woman been as infringed upon a was Mary, and is it not true here also that the one whom God bless he curses in the same breath?... She needs worldly admiration as little as Abraham needs tears, for she was no heroine and he was no hero, but both of them became greater than these, not by being exempted in any way from the distress and the agony and the paradox, but became greater by means of these.” (from Fear and Trembling)

Anonymous said...


Thanks for this post. The churches that embraced women priests are also opening up their doors to pansexuality or the LGBT groups.

The arguments are political and do not take into consideration that theologically this cannot be reconciled. It's a different Gospel, even a different God.

Alice C. Linsley said...

"It's a different Gospel, even a different God."


jdwoods76 said...

Last night in an RCIA class I attend some young adults asked about women priests; since we had much material to cover, the answer was a quick allusion to Tradition and we moved on. They politely accepted the answer, but no one seemed really satisfied with it. People want a specific answer to this question, yet they seem to prefer an answer of about 150-200 words. So what would you tell them? The best answer I can recall is one of your articles about blood: for males, blood traditionally means violence and sacrifice, while for females blood brings life, as in childbirth. Therefore, a male needs to offer the "body and blood" of Christ's sacrifice. This explanation seems concise to me, but I want to check it with you before I(maybe)ask the instructors about it. Thank you for your time.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Yes, that is a good brief explanation drawing on the anthropological observation of the division of labor and blood work. The sign of the priesthood is blood, but this makes sense to people only when they understand the overarching binary framework of the Biblical worldview. Blood is the ground of Being in the Bible. The first man Adam is also the first blood - Ha-dam. His counterpart is Ha-vah (Eve) and is associated is bone and flesh (The Man said she is bone and flesh of me.) Here we find blood, bone and flesh as representing human being, of the one essence (kind), but of different forms with different signs.

Abraham's ancestors saw a hierarchical, gendered and binary order in creation. The priesthood originated with them so to understand the priesthood we must also understand their metaphysics, their ontology, and their epistemology.

You may find this helpful:

People want this sophisticated worldview presented in little sound bites because they have short attention spans. Unfortunately, this means that they do not care enough to find out what the Bible actually says.