He doesn’t know it, but Eamonn Holmes has played an important part in my spiritual journey and will always have a special place in my heart.
Perhaps he’ll read this blog and then he’ll know.
If you are reading this, Eamonn, yours will forever be the voice with which I got ready for school; you brightened so many of my mornings and believe me, growing up in the northwest of England, some of those mornings could be pretty bleak.
Cheers buddy – you’re a legend!
But there is one morning in particular for which I owe him greatest thanks. If my memory serves me correctly, it was on Monday 14th March 1994 that he told me that the first women had been ordained into the sacred priesthood in Bristol Cathedral.
Obviously he didn’t tell me personally: he was presenting GMTV and it was at the top of that morning’s news, but HE still told me, okay?
I didn’t understand the full implications of this news, but I knew I was witnessing something BIG, something that would change things forever, something that was good and right and I was properly excited. I was a Methodist at the time, but we had just partnered with the Anglican church in the next village and I was beginning to feel a intuitive draw towards the good old C of E. Eamonn’s announcement confirmed something for me that morning: the Spirit was moving in the Church of England and I wanted in.
Today is the 25th anniversary of the ordination of women to the sacred priesthood (or the proclamation of Blessed Eamonn, as I shall now call it) and there is much to celebrate and give thanks for. Most especially we give thanks for the dedicated women and men, both lay and ordained, who campaigned for women’s ordination to the priesthood. In my prayers today, I remember those who campaigned but did not live to see the legislation passed. I hope they are rejoicing in heaven. And, of course, of course, our deepest gratitude is for the gifted women who have been walking sacraments, witnesses to God’s saving love, among us for a quarter of a century now.
A week or so ago, The Reverend Jules Middleton, priest and blogger (take a look at her blog, it’s fab!) invited the Twittersphere to a day of recording all of the normal things that priests (who happen to be women) along with the hashtag #JustAPriest25, as a way of highlighting that each ordained woman really is just a priest.
She’s right. Here’s why:
As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
– Galatians 3.27-29
This is an extract from St Paul’s letter to the Christians of Galatia, in which he sets out his view that, in baptism, we claim a new dignity, a new identity in Christ, which transcends race, social status and gender. It is through baptism that we become members of the priesthood of all believers and it is from this universal priesthood that God calls out individuals to receive specific ministries within the Church, including the ordained priesthood:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
– 1.Peter 2.9
If we were to say that women cannot be ordained into the priesthood, then we are also saying that women have a different baptismal relationship with God to that of men, which is self-evidently untrue. Baptism is baptism and so priesthood is possible.
And so, Jules is right: #JustAPriest
Earlier today the Bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes published this Tweet:
I think he’s right too.
The ordination of women into the sacred priesthood helps the whole people of God to know Christ and it is the unique experience of women which helps us on that journey. I have learned (and continue to learn, albeit clumsily) this lesson from the most incredible women who shared with me what it is to pray, preach, preside and pastor through female eyes. I hope I have the humility to continue on this journey for the rest of my days and I hope my sisters will bear with me when I fail.
This experience matters. I mean, really matters.
When the first women were ordained in 1994, I believe we came a step closer to what it means to be one in Christ Jesus.
In short, I’m with Jules and +Paul. I want to say, “Yes, just a priest”, whilst also saying that it is the experience of the priests-who-happen-to-be-women to which we must be attentive if we are to be a whole body.
In the end though, I really just wanted to say one thing to my sister priests this day:
I think you’re awesome.
And so is Eamonn Holmes.