Ordained Women Priests: The Controversy

R.A. Goodyear

Praying Nun    "It is not permissible for a woman to speak in church, nor may she teach, baptize, offer, or claim for herself any function proper to a man, and least of all the office of priest." (Tertullian, On Veiling Virgins)
   "The whole of her bodily beauty is nothing less than phlegm, blood, bile, rheum, and the fluid of digested food... If you consider what is stored up behind those lovely eyes, the angle of the nose, the mouth and cheeks you will agree that the well-proportioned body is merely a whitened sepulcher." (St. John Chrysostom)

   "Consider that the most lovely woman has come into being from a foul-smelling drop of semen, then consider her midpoint, how she is a container of filth; and after that consider her end, when she will be food for worms." (Petrus Cantor) 

   Thus spoke the great and holy Church Fathers, ecclesiastical writers and theologians on women. These men are either saints or at the least, sacred authors whose writings are taught in seminaries to this day. When I was a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church, all I ever heard was about “the blessed and most holy St John Chrystotom.” Little did I realize that the man not only vehemently despised women, but was also openly anti-Semitic. Yes he was generous to the poor, but that should not excuse the way he taught men to hate. Yet, he is venerated and prayed to in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran and Anglican Churches. He is admired by theologians the world over. And not only him, but others, like Origin and Augustine of Hippo, who also taught that women (and children!) are essentially evil. What does that say about the high liturgical churches, who respect these horrid men and claim they spoke with the Grace of the Holy Spirit?  

   Recently, it has been reported that these women who are being ordained as priests are in defiance of the Roman Catholic Church (see full story here). There are, in fact, approximately 150 female ordained priests to date. This has caused quite a stir in Rome, as it also has in Russia, where the Orthodox Church made it clear to the Church of England that should the Anglicans allow women into the priesthood, the Orthodox will permanently stop speaking to them. (Read the full article here). 

   Now, many people not familiar with ancient Christian history, and even more who actually know it well, are asking why this outdated, misinformed rule still exists. I have demonstrated most of the Church’s reasons against women in general, let alone in the priesthood. But what about those who say different? 

   Let’s talk briefly about Christianity for a moment. If you think there are too many denominations nowadays and are also under the assumption that the Church didn’t split up until the Great Schism of East and West (that is, Byzantium Orthodox and Roman Catholic) in 1054 A.D., you have been severely mislead. Christianity existed in many forms in the time of Yeshua (Jesus Christ) 2000 years ago. Back then, various people interpreted Jesus’ words and teachings differently; and some of these Christian groups, including the Montanists, even ordained women as priests. These divisions of course were called then and are known today as heretics. After all, the Church claims to have the “correct and authentic, apostolic” teachings of Christ. There is only one problem with that: it was a small group of individuals, namely two emperors, three queens and four patriarchs, who decided what Christians would be permitted to know and believe. So that begs the question, what then did Yeshua teach about women? 

   To be quite honest, in the “canonical” gospels it isn’t so much what He said, as what He did. And what Jesus did is surround Himself just as much with female followers as with men. The Gospels usually referred to His disciples as “the Twelve” (His male apostles) and “the Women”, a group of females of unspecified numbers who did everything from teach the men through their own actions to aid Jesus’ ministry financially. In fact, a woman anointed Him for burial – not a male priest (Mark 14:3-9), and a woman – Mary of Magdala – saw and proclaimed the Risen Christ (John 20:11-18).  

   What is interesting about this is that while the Church Fathers openly demeaned women, and the Church today refuses to ordain them on the excuse that, “Jesus only chose men to be His apostles,” Mary of Magdala is honored as a saint and her feastday is celebrated on July 22. Why is this significant? Because she is called, “Apostle to the Apostles” or “Equal to the Apostles.” So the whole doctrine of not ordaining women begins to look flimsier and flimsier…. 

   Essentially, my point is that the Church’s doctrines are highly outdated, bigoted, misogynistic and encourage hate-mongering. Why can’t women be priests? Because male clergy say so. Well, with all due respect, that’s not good enough. This is the 21st century and it is high time that the various “apostolic” Churches wake up to the reality that they are upholding these false doctrines for the wrong reasons – to control the masses, and globally suppress women. We as women (and educated men too) need to stop allowing them to do so. It is time to speak up, humanity! Take a stand, and join in the controversy. If Yeshua – Jesus Christ – could love, respect and honor women, then that should tell us everything we need to know. 

   For more information on the history of women in the Church and the varying beliefs of ancient Christians, I recommend the following as good starting points: Lost Christianities (Bart D. Erhman, Oxford Univ. Press ©2005); Jesus Wars (Philip Jenkins, HarperOne ©2001); The Resurrection of Mary Magdalene (Jane Shcaberg, Continuum ©2004) and The Woman with Alabaster Jar (Margaret Starbird, Bear & Company © 1993).