Equality in the Church of England

WE feel a solidarity with those in the Church of England who voted Nov. 11 to allow women equal status with men in their service within the church. In 12 of the 28 branches of the Anglican church, including the American Episcopalians, women can be ordained as priests. But now the central Anglican authority, established in 1534, has said that all women who have given their hearts and lives to the message of the Gospel may be ordained and perform the eucharistic rites previously administered only by men.

Amid headlines of anguish from Somalia, Bosnia, and elsewhere, the Anglicans' vote for equal women's status was a bright note. The scene at the General Synod in London, after the vote to ordain women, was moving. There was a joyous outburst over recognition of the equality women deserve and some tears that this step was so long in coming.

There was also criticism of the decision and a threat of schism. The women taking new roles in the Church can now help mend those divisions.

The world needs more examples of the intelligent care and strength women bring to so many fields. The recent election season in the United States at least partially confirmed "the year of the woman" tag. Twenty-seven women were newly elected to Congress. Orthodoxies, traditions, and prejudices should give way so that women can attain leadership positions throughout society.

Some Anglicans may have voted for the ordination of women on the arguments that the church must be more willing to conform to cultural changes and that women officials will make the church more attractive to new members. Perhaps so. But, as many know, the fundamental reason for such a change is that spiritual experience is not limited by gender. Women and men have equal spiritual capacities as children of God; every evidence that this truth is gaining wider recognition is cause for hope. Women in all den ominations have written hymns, done healing work, and ministered to mankind's spiritual needs. The light and power they have reflected speaks for itself.

The basic message of Christianity, though it is sometimes maligned and distorted, is that all are welcome at the table of Christ.

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