Ordination of Women Approved in Chicago

Episcopal News Service. January 6, 1977 [77005]

The Rev. Canon Erwin M. Soukup

CHICAGO, Ill. -- The ordination of women to the priesthood was approved by majority decisions of both the Standing Committee and the Commission on Ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago in separate meetings on December 29. The recommendation to the Bishop of Chicago, the Rt. Rev. James W. Montgomery, to honor the change made in canon law allowing the ordination of women by the General Convention in Minneapolis was made after both groups had consulted on the implications and problems involved in joint session.

The vote of the Standing Committee was 3 to 1 in favor of "endorsing the ordination of women," and the vote of the Commission on Ministry was 5 to 3 to "request" the Bishop of Chicago "to proceed with the orderly processing of applications from women as well as men" for ordination.

Bishop Montgomery, upon receiving the results of the deliberations of both bodies, issued a statement in which he noted his personal opposition to the ordination of women "on the grounds of tradition and lack of ecumenical consensus." Nevertheless, he added, he recognized the authority of the General Convention to legislate for the Church and would concur in the request. He announced that he would ask the Bishop Suffragan of Chicago, the Rt. Rev. Quintin E. Primo, to officiate at any of the ordinations of women.

In his statement, Bishop Montgomery said he recognized the authority of the General Convention to legislate in this matter. In October he told the diocesan convention in his charge that the issue of ordaining women to the priesthood "has been given to the Episcopal Church, for good or ill, to test, to see whether it is of God or not." In his statement on October 29 he wrote, "If the Holy Spirit wills that women should serve as priests of the Church, He will make it evident in due time; and if it is not His will, that too will be made known."

The bishop added that the consciences of both those opposed and those favoring the ordination of women will be protected "to the best of my ability."

The Standing Committee also noted that there were several categories of persons who were somewhere in the process which culminates in the ordination to the priesthood. In the Diocese of Chicago there are former deaconesses who were recognized as deacons at the 1970 General Convention; those who have been received as deacons from other communions; those who were originally ordained as "permanent deacons;" and the graduating seminarians. Not all categories of persons have received the same amount or type of training, which caused the Standing Committee to add a guideline in its recommendation to Bishop Montgomery.

It defined "qualified candidates" for ordination to the priesthood those who had passed the General Ordination Examination, the screening of the Bishops Advisory Council on Applicants for the Ministry, a psychological examination and an aptitude examination. An exception was made for one person already pursuing a program leading to ordination which has been approved by Bishop Montgomery.

At present there are 13 women deacons active and canonically resident in the Diocese of Chicago, and two candidates and two postulants. Not all of them have indicated a desire to be ordained to the priesthood and none has completed the canonical requirements for ordination.

It is not known when or where ordinations of women to the priesthood will take place in the diocese.