The Episcopal Women's Caucus has proposed a plan to reroute women priesthood candidates whose paths to ordination within their home dioceses have been blocked by church officials who oppose women priests.
The Rev. Patricia Park, president of the caucus, said she hopes to establish a review committee of "friendly bishops" who would take turns ordaining women whose local church rectors and bishops have refused to discuss their apparent "call" to ministry or inexplicably blotted up the process.
In a recent meeting at the bishop's office in the Diocese of Newark, N.J., representatives of the Episcopal Women's Caucus and sympathetic bishops and clergy agreed to develop "a national clearinghouse for people who want to be ordained," Park said, but many details must be worked out.
Since priesthood candidates must be ordained in the diocese where they are canonically resident, some women are in effect barred from holy orders, Park said, because their diocesaan bishop happens to oppose women's ordination.
Although the Episcopal Church approved ordination of women in 1976, a conscience clause, subsequently adopted, permits bishops and priests who oppose admitting women to the priesthood to refuse to take part in such rites or the steps leading to them.
According to Park, bishops in about 25 of the Episcopal dioceses in the United States have enforced such restrictions while bishops in another 10 have refused personally to ordain women but permit other bishops to come in to perform the rite for canonically resident female candidates.
For women who have been turned away from ordination in their own diocese, the proposed review committee would provide "a place where you can go argue your case," Park said. If the candidate passed committee screening and appeared fit for the priesthood, an individual bishop would be assigned either to seek permission from the local bishop to ordain the women in her home diocese or to arrange her transfer of canonical residence to his own diocese for ordination there, she said.
Park said that despite the 1976 General Convention ruling, many women cannot even enter the long ordination process because the local parish rector has refused to discuss it. Many women are rejected for undocumented reasons, she added.