Monday, September 08, 2008

Bahamian Anglicans Ordain Two More Women

The controversial ordination of "The Philadelphia Eleven" on 29 July 1974 was deemed by the hierarchy of the U.S. Episcopal Church to be "irregular" and it wasn't until a resolution was passed to change the church's canon law on 16 September 1976, over two years later, that the ordinations of these women were finally recognized. The church of England did not approve the ordination of women to the Anglican priesthood until sixteen years later on 11 November 1992. And here in the Bahamas, it would be eight more years until Angela Palacious would become the first Bahamian woman ordained into the Anglican priesthood on 30 May 2000. Since that time, four other Bahamian women have been ordained to the Anglican priesthood as well. The most recent additions are Paulette Maria Cartwright of St. Paul's Anglican Church on Long Island and Marie Antoinette Roach of St. Gregory's Anglican Church on Carmichael Road in Nassau.

The Nassau Guardian reports:

It was on Monday, Aug. 25, that Deacons Paulette Maria Cartwright, assistant curate at St. Paul's Anglican Church, Long Island, and Deacon Marie Antoinette Roach, assistant curate at St. Gregory's Anglican Church, Carmichael Road, were both ordained to the sacred priesthood during the Feast of St. Bartholomew, the Apostle, at Christ Church Cathedral, bringing the number of Bahamian-born female priests up to five. The Rev. Erma Ambrose is foreign-born but married to a Bahamian.

Cartwright says that in itself is a remarkable feeling.

"I feel that being a woman has nothing to do with my calling or nothing to do with God calling me. If I had allowed the fact that I was a woman to dominate my thoughts when God called me, then I would not be where I am now. But I know within myself, and I'm quite comfortable with the fact that God has called me to ministry and that He has placed me into the ministry that I am in today, even though I am a woman."

Despite the fact that there were people that protested Cartwright doing what she has done, she said that she did not allow the negativity towards women in ministry to bother her.

"If I had dwelled on that fact and said that ministry is not for women and convinced myself that I was going to have a difficult time then I wouldn't be where I am," she said. "I was just simply being obedient to God."

Cartwright says she can honestly say that she knew what God wanted her to do, and is obediently doing it, which makes her feel all the more comfortable with who she is, what she is, and that she has done the right thing.

Despite her enthusiasm, Cartwright was not always on this road. She was a teacher for 20 years, before she was ordained to ministry.

"Many years ago, I received what most people would call, a call from God to return from the city of Nassau to live in Long Island. I'm sure it was because He had work for me to do here. I was involved in the various ministries within the Anglican Church and during that time I just kept within myself wondering what it was that God wanted me to do. It just never seemed as though I was actually doing what he really wanted me to do. So it was in 2002 that I received another revelation to go into ministry and being obedient that's what I did."

Cartwright says she would encourage other women in her position to follow their dream if they want to become priests. "But, in encouraging them I'm not going to make it seem to be something that's going to be an easy road for them. I'm the type of person who uses my life experiences to help somebody else and so I will share all that I had experienced with others. I'm not hesitant in doing that. Also, I want every young person and young lady who so desires to enter the ministry and to become a priest to do so because I don't want to hinder God's call for anybody, and so if I believe that your call is a genuine call from God then I will encourage you. And in encouraging you, I would prepare you as best as I can for what may or may not lie ahead."

Roach is just as delighted to be one of the five Bahamian-born female priests in the country. "Saying that this feels good is a very simple way of putting it ... It feels like I'm in the right place and its been a long journey to get here, but there is now a sense of peace within me because I know that this is where God wants me to be, and it's good to be His servant and to be used by Him."

The recent joint ordination opens more doors for more females, according to Roach who says that there are more out there who have been called to the ordained ministry.

"I think that a lot more women are realizing that the call of God is not just for men and that its also for women of all ages, from all different sectors of society. God chooses who He wants, and I think a lot more people who have been questioning their call in the past are now realizing that this is something that they can do," she said.

With the ordinations of Cartwright and Roach, the number of female priests in the Anglican Diocese in the country has increased to six. The ordination was also historic, for Roach, as she and her father, Canon Neil Roach became the first father/daughter priest combination in the country.

The above testimony suggests that the journey of Bahamian women into the Anglican priesthood has been much less controversial than was the case in either the U.S. or the U.K. Even the journey of the Rev. Angela Palacious, which I inquired about during a Q&A session following a panel discussion on Bahamian religion at the College of the Bahamas back in 2003, was more similar to the testimonies that Cartwright and Roach recounted above than that of women who were part of the "Philadelphia Eleven" in the U.S. or the Movement for the Ordination of Women (MOW) in the U.K.

Congratulations to both Rev. Cartwright and Rev. Roach and may God richly bless your ministries!

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