January 24, 2014

Today’s topic has to do with priesthood, and how that is defined by various religions through time. The commemoration today was about Li Tim-Oi, the first woman to be ordained to the priesthood in the Anglican Communion in 1944.  There are many fascinating things about this woman, born in Hong Kong in 1907 and dying in Canada in 1992.  She was a woman who worked tirelessly with refugees from China, and having attended a four-year college, had worked for years as a Deacon.  Only after three years had passed when there was no priest available to bless the eucharist did the Bishop of Victoria, Ronald Hall, call her to become ordained.  Interestingly, ordaining a woman was compared with Peter’s conversion of Cornelius, the Roman centurion considered to be the first convert among the Gentiles.

Within the Episcopal Church, it appears that there’s an average of 20 to 25% women priests, and incoming priests are approximately 50/50 male and female.  Interestingly, it is the liturgical Protestant churches and “liberal” Jewish (Reform and Conservative) which ordain women – orthodox Protestant, Catholic and Biblical churches do not.  Unitarian Universalists (which are generally not included within Christian church counts) have over 50% women clergy.  I have to wonder how much of that is tradition – people feeling more comfortable with a male leading a congregation – and how much of it is truly Biblical, as we have seen many women in the early Christian churches who led and preached as a team with their husbands (i.e., Lydia), or where there was a need.  Among Baha’is, while women can and certainly are elected to Local Spiritual Assemblies and National Spiritual Assemblies, the Universal House of Justice is comprised of 9 men.  Woman may lead congregations of women only in certain sects Islam (although there have been a few mixed congregations in “first world” countries).  Most Pagan groups will have both male and female for balance to lead, although it will depend upon their focus.  Some will have only male or only female.

Interestingly, this started out to be about Melchizedek (Greek/Latin writing), or Melchi Zedek (Hebrew writing).  I think, however, that will have to be an entry for another day. 🙂

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