May 1, 2017: A female priest was ordained on April 30 by a rebel Catholic group in the United States called the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte (North Carolina).
The Charlotte Observer reports that the ordination of Abigail Eltzroth, 64, represented the first female ordination for the group which openly defies the Roman Catholic ban on female ordination.
The ordination took place in Asheville, North Carolina in Jubilee!, a nondenominational faith community.
The Catholic Diocese of Charlotte has a presence in 46 countries. It is joined by other Catholic groups that ordain women.
A news release about the ordination of Eltzroth from a group called the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests said that 250 women in 10 countries have been ordained as Catholic priests.
“It’s time for a change and we’re in the forefront, leading the charge,” said Eltzroth who is planning on starting a faith community in Charlotte.
She told the Observer that, “We expect that eventually everybody is going to follow us.”
The Roman Catholic Church does not share Eltzroth’s enthusiasm. In 2007 Pope Benedict XVI blessed the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith decree of automatic excommunication against anyone “who attempts to confer a sacred order on a woman, and the woman who attempts to receive a sacred order.”
Locally, Eltzroth faces opposition as well. David Hains, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte, said: “I hope that Catholics in the diocese will understand that it would be sinful to receive a fake sacrament from a woman priest and that includes attending a fake Mass.”
Eltzroth remains undeterred: “I’m sure that I will be (excommunicated) if I haven’t been already. But there are plenty of saints who have been excommunicated. So that’s not going to stop us.”
The Adventist denomination has also been plagued by strong disagreements over women’s ordination.
Delegates at the 2015 General Conference (GC) Session in San Antonio, Texas, voted not to permit the denomination’s world “Divisions” (continental regions) to decide for themselves whether or not to ordain women clergy despite a report from the denomination’s Bible scholars stating there is now Scripture prohibition.
This left in place the traditional church practice which does not include the ordination of female clergy. However, some units of the denomination have been ordaining female pastors for years and are likely to continue the practice.
There is disagreement among Adventist denominational executives as to whether or not denominational policy actually prohibits ordination for women clergy. The San Antonio vote did not explicitly establish a policy because (1) GC Session is not the body that has the duty of policy-making for the denomination and (2) the vote was against a proposal, not a proactive adoption of a resolution or document.