Women priests ‘not a church-dividing issue’

Published April 1, 2007

An international Anglican-Orthodox commission on theological dialogue has wrapped up 18 years of work with a statement that, in part, has some application to the current controversies about homosexuality, said John Gibaut, a professor at Saint Paul University in Ottawa and a member of the commission.

“Heresy can only be decided by a council,” he said, citing the “Heresy, Schism and the Church” section of the 113-page document, called The Cyprus Agreed Statement, recently released in book form.

“People can’t call each other heretics,” Mr. Gibaut said the commission decided. The commission was considering the issue of the ordination of women – the Anglican church permits women to become priests, the Orthodox church does not – and whether such disagreements should be church-dividing.

“The ordination or non-ordination of women is a question of order rather than of faith. It is not heretical, so is this a church-dividing issue? We agreed we can have further discussion on it, unlike the Roman Catholic church, which won’t discuss it,” Mr. Gibaut said in an interview.

The commission is the oldest bilateral dialogue partnership in the Orthodox church, said Mr. Gibaut. Formed in 1973, the dialogue was suspended in the mid-1980s over the issue of the ordination of women, then re-formed in 1989. The late Anglican bishop Henry Hill of Canada was a prime mover in its organization and served as co-chair from 1989 to 1990, he said.

“We asked, ‘If we so disagree on the ordination of women are we agreed on anything else? So we decided to go back to the basics and work our way up,” he said.


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