The Church Times of London has in the issue of 8th November an 8-page supplement on the Tenth Anniversary of the Decision to Ordain Women taken by the General Synod of November 11, 1992. I am one of the many quoted to say where I was and how I heard about the decision (I was in Wisconsin in an anglo-catholic setting and the decision was received with horror.)
In the interview with the C T reporter to ascertain where I was, I explained to her that little attention was being paid to the doctrine of Reception, and, not surprisingly to me, when I looked through the 8-page supplement I found no reference to it.
Once you ordain women in a Church where not all are in favour of this innovation (and where some of these believe it to be an act of defiance against Divine Order), you have created a situation of imperfect or broken communion. True enough the basic communion created by the Spirit and water in baptism remains in place, but eucharistic communion of all becomes difficult or impossible if women are to be celebrants.
The doctrine of reception, first suggested in ecumenical discussions, was taken up and developed by the Eames Commission (see Report, 1994) in order to find a way and a context wherein all Anglicans could stay together in basic fellowship until, through time, the mind of the Lord was wholly and fully known on this matter.
The acceptance of this doctrine requires especially bishops, but also national church and diocesan synods, to treat women's ordination as a form of ministry that is being experienced and tested over the longish term in order that, by the kind providence of God, there will come a time in the future when it will become clear, and commonly believed, that this innovation is to be permanent or is to be undone.
In this period of reception, it is important that a majority on one side of the divide or the other does not treat the question as finally settled. In the ECUSA, the General Convention has decided that it is over and the matter is finally settled. Thus there are penalties imposed on the minority. It seems that such also is the case in some dioceses of the Anglican Church of Canada and of the C of E.
What I think we need to bear in mind in all talk of women's ordination is that it remains an innovation, and that, according to the accepted doctrine of the Lambeth Conference and the Primates' Meeting etc. it is a privileged innovation in the process of being received and tested, by careful discernment. It is not sure to remain as a permanent feature of the Church.
Some Episcopalians want to add to the innovations being received and tested the blessing of homosexual partners and the ordaining of active homosexual persons. This is worrying.
Why not order from Bill Atwood of Ekklesia Society, a copy of the book which I helped him to produce for the Primates - TO MEND THE NET (ed. Archbishop Gomez and P Bishop Sinclair, 2001) - and in which there is an essay, written by me, and approved by the Primates, on Reception?
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon