Susan A. Ross


Can women become priests? The answer to this question depends on whom you ask. For many Protestants, the answer is both yes and no. The only priest is Jesus Christ and all Christian share in the priesthood. As Luther wrote, we are all priests to one another, but there is no special ministry of priesthood that makes one person distinct from others. There are pastors, people who are called to preach and lead worship, but they are not priests. Luther, of course, did not consider women able to be pastors, but his followers (at least the non-Wisconsin or non-Missouri Synod ones) have thought otherwise. But they are not "priests." For an Episcopalian who considers him or herself in union with the American and Anglican communions, the answer is yes, although this issue has been a very divisive one within the denomination. At least three dioceses within the American Episcopal Church do not think this question can be answered affirmatively. Indeed, a number of former Episcopal priests have become Roman Catholic priests, largely because of their opposition to women's ordination. But then the Roman Catholic Church does not recognize the priesthood of the Anglican Communion. I will not address here the issue of the Orthodox priesthood, which deserves a separate discussion. These are just a few of the complicating issues surrounding this question.

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