Fifty years ago, the Anglican Church ordained its first female priest, Florence Li Tim-Oi. On January 25, 1944, with the occupation of Hong Kong and parts of China, and as Anglican priests were not able to reach parishes and particular communities, the local bishop ordained Tim-Oi to the priesthood. She was the first female priest in the Anglican tradition. After the war, she would resign her license to function as a priest to appease the majority anti-women’s ordination voice in the church. It would not be for 30 years that women’s ordination was regularized in the Episcopal Church.
This past Sunday, we hosted a viewing of the documentary, The Philadelphia Eleven. It tells the intimate and vital story of women being ordained in the Episcopal Church. Facing patriarchy, bigotry, threat, and dehumanization, eleven women, with the support of three Episcopal bishops, were ordained to the priesthood in Philadelphia on July 29, 1974. This event would go on to catalyze the regularization of women’s ordination and help transform our church into a more inclusive and just institution. Notice I say “more” just.
This beautiful and powerful documentary reminded me of our continued need to make a church for all people, so that all people might be of the church. The work of inclusion and representation is critical to the life of the church. This is no political stratagem, but the heartbeat of a living and breathing and vibrant community. Either the good news of Jesus is for all people, or it is for none; either all people are inherently worthy or none are. Following the teaching and example of Jesus, we must stand clearly for the inherent dignity and equality of all people. It is an ache for which there is no balm, not in this world of ours so divided and so divisive, so violent and so violated.
As we gather this Sunday for our Annual Meeting, we will celebrate the past year, our current capital campaign, and give thanks for a future to which God calls us. At the heart of our life together as Epiphany beats a common call to the way of love made known to us in Christ. It sustains us, redeems us, and leads us more deeply into the pain, suffering, and audacious beauty of our world. A world for which God gives all, so that we might too.
See you Sunday,