Friday, June 16, 2017

Ordination in Early Christianity and Today by Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP

According to retired professor of philosophy and theology, Joseph Martos, in his book, Deconstructing Sacramental Theology and Reconstructing Catholic Ritual, priestly training in patristic and early medieval times was a kind of apprenticeship where one learned liturgical duties in service to a community. The heart of ministry was caring about and for others.

In 451, the Council of Chalcedon, clearly connected ordination to ministry in a community: "No one may be raised to the order of presbyter or deacon at large without being specifically appointed to a church in a city or village or to a shrine or to a monastery." Martos observes: "there is ample evidence that prior to the interpretation of ordination as a bestowal of power in the twelfth century, women were ordained in positions of responsibility in monasteries, and in the ancient church deaconesses as well as deacons were ordained." (p. 248)

Ordination in the future "could be open to men and women, married and unmarried, heterosexual and homosexual. ..who are judged by those whom they serve as having the qualities needed  to perform the duties to which they are called. Ordination to a broad array of diverse ministries could be a possibility such as: “religious educators, youth ministers, church musicians, parish administrators, pastoral counselors, social workers, and others who receive their professional training before their ministry, who must maintain a high level of professional and ethical conduct during their service in the church, and who depend for their livelihood on the income they receive for their service." (p. 149)

The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP) provides a preparation program for a renewed priestly ministry that is rooted in our baptismal equality. We do not attempt the traditional model of Catholic Seminary, but rather provide  a wholistic, academic and spiritual approach to ordained ministry that is inclusive, liberating, empowering, mystical and prophetic. Conscious of our vocation to live God’s loving presence in the world in vibrant faith communities and ministries, we, who are on the “edge of the inside” of the church, work for justice and equality for all, especially those on the margins of our church. (David Brooks used  the phrase"On the Edge of Inside" in an article he wrote for NY Times, I applied it to our RCWP Movement.)

Mary Theresa Streck and I are co-founders of People's Catholic Seminary which offers online, contemporary theological, spiritual and pastoral programs for anyone interested in a 21st century approach to ministry rooted in  Gospel equality and responding to the life-changing issues as opportunities of grace in our times.

I believe that expanding ordination to diverse ministries, as Joseph Martos suggests, is an innovative, wholistic approach that could express a community's public affirmation of ministry as loving service to the people of God.  This idea brings us full circle to the early and medieval church's understanding of ordination as a divine call to loving service in an ecclesial community. 


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