Friday, October 23, 2015

"Ordination and Excommunication Sunday: A Mormon woman reflects on the ARCWP Ordination in Salt Lake City, Utah.

This is a deeply touching article by a Morman woman who faces similar challenges in transforming patriarchal structures in her church. She attended the ordination of Clare Julian Carbone as a priest in the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests on Oct. 18th in Salt Lake City.  We are in solidarity with our sisters' struggle for equality for women in the LDS Church. Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP
Link to article on women and priesthood in Mormon Church.

Ordination And Excommunication Sunday

Ordination of Clare Julian Carbone
Ordination of Clare Julian Carbone
As the procession of women entered the church I swallowed a gasp. I knew I was attending the ordination of Clare Julian Carbone to the Roman Catholic priesthood (unsanctioned by the Vatican). I knew that those ordaining the first female Catholic priest in Salt Lake City would be women, previously ordained through a priesthood lineage they trace back to Jesus Christ. But I didn’t know. I only imagined what it would be like to have women presiding and officiating in ordination rite. The surprise of women dressed in robes of service and devotion, leading in a holy space overwhelmed me with joy.  Tears spilled out as I looked up at a stand and podium presided over by women (with a talented man playing the piano).  
I marveled at how different the scene before me was compared to the LDS Sacrament service I attended a few hours earlier. In my LDS ward I looked up at a stand full of men in suits with a woman leading the music and a woman at the organ. The LDS scene communicated to me that women are the accompaniment. Men are the main story. The opening hymn for my LDS Sacrament meeting was Hymn 59, Come O Thou King if Kings. I choked as I sang verse four:
Hail! Prince of life and peace!
Thrice  welcome to thy throne!
While all the chosen race
Their Lord and Savior own,
The heathen nations bow the knee,
And ev’ry tongue sounds praise to thee.
Was I the chosen race that owns their Lord and Savior? Or am I of the heathen nation bowing the knee? I felt keenly, “I do not belong here. This is a space for white men. Not me.” No more sound came out of me after the word “race.” I could not sing the words, “Heathen nation.”
In contrast, the sight of male and female congregants smiling in fellowship as we looked up to female presiding leaders astonished me with feelings of peace and well being. As I looked at female bodies, dressed in white robes that remind me of my temple clothes, I felt like I belonged. Then we sang an opening hymn:
Let us build a house where all are named,
Their songs and visions heard
And loved and treasured, taught and claimed
As words within the Word.
Built of tears and cries and laughter,
Prayers of faith and songs of grace;
Let this house proclaim from floor to rafter:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.
Waves of happiness and delight washed over me as I joined in singing these words of inclusion and belonging. I pondered on the lyrics, “Where all are named” and recalled the hour I spent earlier in my LDS Primary during the singing portion of Sharing Time.  A sleepy three-year-old curled up on my lap, gently snoozing as all around him boisterously memorized the names of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to the tune of The Books of the Book of Mormon (Children’s Songbook, #119). Loud and soft, then fast and slow, we repeated 15 male names. We erased names from the white board as the children learned the song and quickly mastered the names of fifteen men in order of ecclesiastical seniority. As much as I enjoyed the cozy exuberance of a warm child in my lap and children singing, I felt a sting pain as I questioned, “Who are the women whose names we memorize in the LDS faith?”
As part of the ordination ritual, Clare Julian prostrated herself upon the ground while a litany of saints was called upon to bless her. Many female saints were named. Men and women read liturgies as part of the meeting. Men and women named other holy men and women we could look to for guidance and example.
Clare Julian prostrate on ground as Sainta re called upon to bless her.
Clare Julian prostrate on ground as a litany of Saints  are called upon to bless her.
Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan in her introductory remarks reassured the congregants that no man could cancel our baptism in Jesus Christ. I looked to my right and saw Kate Kelly sitting in the pews. I said a prayer that every person unrighteously excommunicated while honestly standing for truth might have the same surety as Bishop Meehan. As I considered what excommunication means in the LDS faith, I was humbled by the boldness and bravery of Clare Julian, entering ordination with the full knowledge that the act of her ordination instantly excommunicates her from her Roman Catholic faith. Bishop Meehan shared the story of two formerly excommunicated nuns, Mother Theodore Guerin and Mother Mary MacKillop, canonized in recent years by Pope Benedict. She cheerfully summarized,
Excommunicated today, canonized tomorrow. Excommunication is the new fast track to canonization.
Praying for Clare Julian in her new calling.
Praying for Clare Julian in her new calling.
In the faces of the excommunicated women on the stand, I saw no fear of being separated from the love of Jesus Christ. No doubt in his grace. This forty year old movement of Catholics seeking female ordination showed me what equality looks like. After the ordination the congregants were invited to come forward and lay hands upon Clare Julian and pray for her in her new calling. I joined with a man and two women as we silently prayed together for our sister, Clare Julian. 
Seeing women leading, feeling their power. It was not in the robes or words of my faith, but I felt so welcomed and incorporated into the body of Christ. I looked over at Kate Kelly again and thought about how she was excommunicated for asking our leaders to pray about women’s ordination. She asked publicly. She asked with the wrong tone. I considered the daring of my brothers and sisters in the Catholic faith.
On December 28th, 1970, Bishop Felix Davidek ordained Ludmila Javorova a priest. In 1991, Cardinal Miloslav of Prague confirmed that five other women were also ordained as priests. Now, over 220 women have been ordained as priests. Catholic women are not asking Pope Francis to pray about whether or not they might be ordained. They are asking him and all of the Vatican to recognize their ordinations. They are ordaining and being ordained. They are excommunicated. They are living the truth their leaders must acknowledge: women are equal in the sight of our loving God. Equal in faith. Equal in power. They should be ordained. 
IMG_20151018_161332As I witnessed the ordination of Clare Julian I felt a deep shift within me as to how I perceive excommunication. The moment she was ordained she was excommunicated. But as she sat a few pews over from me with her palms turned upward and head bowed, meditatively preparing for her ordination and excommunication, I could see my sister in Christ was preparing to be more tightly bound up in the body of Christ. I thought of my own hands turning upward in the LDS temple to receive the mercy of God.
Excommunication from her faith did not sever Clare Julian from Faith or from our Lord Jesus. I began to consider, what if excommunication draws me closer to God and divine love? What if being excommunicated is not to be feared as spiritual death, but welcomed as a consequence of doing what is right and letting the consequence follow? Maybe for LDS women, excommunication is the fast track to authentic living in the light of Christ. Maybe it is the fast track to exaltation.

1 comment:

Rea Howarth said...

Paul, who had so much to do with the Jewish punishment of early followers of Jesus, throwing them out of the synopses and effectively excommunicated them had this to say: Nothing can separate us from the love of God.