THE MINISTRY OF WOMEN. •
[To the Editor of Tim SPECTATOR.]
fire,—May I be permitted to say a word in support of the plea advanced by the Dean of St. Paul's, who was a member of the Archbishops' CommisSitin on the Ministry of WoMen, for the eventual Ordination of Women to the Priesthood in the Church of England ?
His plea is endorsed, I. am glad to observe, In one of the editorial paragraphs in the last issue of Tht0 Spectator.
It will not, I hope, be supposed that I do not realise how
much *eight attaches to the deliberate judgement of all the Members of the Commission except the Dean of St. Paul's. Nor would I seek to precipitate so great a change in the rela- tion of womenhood to the ministry of the Church. But is it probable that the opportunity of full service, which women now enjoy in so many careers, will finally be denied to them in the Church ?
The Report of the Archbishops Commission goes so far that it might well go further. It does not appear to rest on any definite. ecclesiastical principle. It provides not only that women should, as Deaconesses, be authorised to " read the services of Morning and Evening Prayer, except for those portions reserved to the Priest," to preach and teach " except in the service of Holy Communion," to officiate at the Church- ing of Women, to baptise infants in the absence of the Priest, and, in certain circumstances, to administer the Chalice at Holy Communion, and to exercise all these functions "in con- secrated as well as unconsecrated buildings." They will, in fact, be in Holy Orders. The history Of the Church, it is true, tells against the ordination of women to the Priesthood. But history has, during long ages, told against the whole Movement which has, in the last hundred years, thrown open one profession after another to educated womanhood.
There are some reasons which may be held to justify
the desire, even if it is entertained only by a few saintly women, for ordination to the Priesthood. Women have ever been the more religious sex than men. Not a few of the Saints who are revered in all the Churches have been women. Women have made signal contributions to the literature, and, above all, to the hymnology, of the Church. Sonic women there are, even if they are only a small minority, who would appear to be specially qualified by nature for the spiritual functions of the Priesthood. I cannot feel that it is wise, in the interest of the Church itself, to debar such woinen from the full official exercise of their spirituality. Some spiritual function's indeed May more suitably be discharged by women than by Men. Churchmen of 'varying schools do not agree upon the value of Confession itself ; but it is hardly doubtful that, if women were empowered to hear the Confession of Women, they Could at times afford their sisters better help than male con- fessors, and that if men were to hear the confessions of men and women of women, the danger which is believed; rightly Or wrongly, to lie in the Confessional would be diminished, if it were not altogether done away.
I fail to see hoW any principle of the Church, apart from historical custom, is involved in the exclusion of women front the Priesthood. Rather I feel that if they could be ordained to the Priesthood, under whatever safeguards of age and status and experience' which might be prescribed, they would lend not only fresh grace and strength but fresh blessing to the sacred ministry. This reform may not be possible today, hut it will, T think, be achieved in the end.--I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,
The Dell, Se,enoaks, Kent. J. E. C. WEssnosz.