What is a vocation to the Christian clergy? A woman or man feels a calling from God, and that spirit is tested in the community of believers. After discernment through study, prayer, and service that person submits herself for ordination. Simple, right?
Of course, as readers of the F-word blog, you know it is not that simple. Though women’s ordination is a common practice in many Christian denominations, it is far from universal. The issue has caused division within the Anglican Communion and dissension in the Roman Catholic Church. Despite the controversy, the number of women in discernment (contemplating or preparing for ordination) and the denominations ordaining them continue to grow.
For my Master’s thesis, I want to learn from the stories of women (and men) who have aided their churches to successfully navigate this historical crossroads, as well as from those who live or suffer on the fault-lines of the issue. I don’t want to employ exaggerated rhetoric, but rather to focus on what can happen during positive, respectful dialogue. To this end, I want to highlight the history of women’s ordination in the Church of Ireland, a part of the Anglican Communion. After a trip to Ireland, I discovered Embracing Women: Making History in the Church of Ireland, Canon Ginnie Kennerly’s personal tale of politics, theology, and faith leading to her ordination in the Church of Ireland just two decades ago.
I want to compare experiences of other women in churches in the Anglican tradition, since each conference has a different history of the struggles leading to women’s ordination (or not). Do you know of any women’s stories from books, articles, movies, TV shows, blog posts, or conferences? Even connections with public social media accounts would help.
This is where I need your help! Do you know of women’s accounts of their calling to the vocation to the priesthood or diaconate?
Please comment with any names, links or ideas. You can also contact me directly by email firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @farrellink, or Facebook Meagen Farrell. Mention that you are a reader of the Feminism and Religion blog! I’m happy to connect any time, but I hope to have my bibliography together by the end of January 2013. Follow my blog (farrellink.com) where I will post my reading list. If I don’t get enough recommendations for already-published-materials, I may follow up with a call for writing submissions from women deacons and priests.
What will I do with the sources you send? I want to analyze women’s narratives in light of our professed Christian commitment to uphold human dignity. Not everyone who feels a calling from the Holy Spirit to a certain vocation is ultimately ordained. Due to the controversy in our historical moment, women who desire simply to respond to God’s call may find themselves faced with hard words and difficult choices. But how communities treat women and discuss vocations is ultimately a matter of human dignity, which I believe is a central tenet of Christ’s social teachings.
I know this blog inspires great commentary. I look forward to connecting with you here or on the web to continue the conversation.
Meagen Farrell is an educational consultant, blogger, master’s student at John Carroll University and Penn State Unviersity, adventurous mother of two, and proud resident of Cleveland, Ohio.