This year, I, a Mennonite singer, was invited to be a cantor at two very sacred events. These were the ordinations of women as priests into the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests: Barbara Billey in Windsor, Ontario and Jennifer Marie Marcus in Bloomfield Twp, Michigan. It was a very distinct blessing and honour to share this momentous experience with them.These are women who love their church and feel that women excluded from priestly ministry is constitutive to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church is the will of a liberating God in our time.The movement began in Germany in 2002 and in Canada and the U.S.A. in 2005. The movement is a sacramental encounter with the Divine and has gone ahead with ordination in prophetic obedience to the Spirit, breaking an unjust canon law.They are acting in obedience to God, not men. Their statement is "we were ready in every way,though the church was not ready". Their communion table is open and sexual orientation and marital status are irrelevant .They are excommunicated and are exiled from the sacramental spaces of the Roman Catholic Church.At the first celebration of the mass led by one of the newly ordained priests I was moved to sing for her a selection from our Mennonite Hymnal " Obey my Voice and I will be your God". They have heard and are obeying.
My experience with this movement has resulted in me rethinking much of what has evolved in our Canadian Mennonite Conference agenda in "Becoming a Faithful Church". The message and the promise in the song I mentioned earlier has overwhelmed me. What authority do we as a church have to tell God who he or she can love or not love This is symbolicly what we are doing when we open or shut our doors .I find it very difficult to accept that we are happy to pay lip service to the idea of bearing with one another in love, so long as we can continue the practices of exclusion we have held to all along. I quote from an article in Mennonite World Review by Meghan Florian " We say we want to strive for unity. How do we call it unity when we choose to ignore the very voice of the Holy Spirit moving in our midst. Why won`t you listen,we want so much to gather with you,to sing with you, to live with and worship with you.Are you so afraid of what might happen if love goes unchecked? If you give in to the immense overflowing ,gracious, abundant love of God? If you trust that love,vulnerable as it might be, would not overwhelm us, but would bring us together?"
I celebrate the courage of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests! May we have the wisdom to emulate that courage.
Editorial Submitted to the Canadian Mennonite Magazine on Ordination of Women into the Roman Catholic Priesthood
William Taves, Leamington, Ontario