From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 04 May 1996 20:40:52


                         by Stephen Brown 
                  Ecumenical News International 
Edinburgh, Scotland--Milan Opocensky, general secretary of the World 
Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), has warned that WARC member churches 
that "stubbornly" refuse to ordain women could face censure for embracing 
"a kind of heretical position." 
     In a speech here to a gathering of representatives of Europe's 
Reformed churches, he outlined five issues -- racism, weapons of mass 
destruction, equality between women and men, worldwide economic justice, 
and responsibility for the environment -- as matters that should be treated 
as "status confessionis," or "impinging on the heart of the Christian 
     Opocensky drew a parallel between the five issues and apartheid, which 
WARC defined as "status confessionis."  In the 1980s it suspended member 
churches in southern Africa that did not repudiate apartheid. 
     He said that some WARC member churches "still seriously reason 
biblically and theologically that it is justified to exclude women from 
ministry.  In that case I think that we who have a different opinion are 
obliged to challenge that position, and not because it is a question of 
justice and a question of equality, but to challenge it on the basis of the 
confession and on the basis of faith." 
     Figures for 1992 showed that a quarter of WARC's 198 member churches 
did not yet ordain women.  In his speech, Opocensky questioned whether "we 
can have full communion with churches which exclude women from ministry and 
other functions." 
     Opocensky warned that the credibility of the proclamation of the 
gospel was at stake "if churches do not practice a fully inclusive 
partnership."  He said that he "would not be prepared yet to exclude these 
churches which do not ordain women from the fellowship of the Reformed 
family," but, he said, "I think that we have to be much more consistent and 
much more serious in having a very serious and earnest dialogue with these 
churches on that matter." 
     Asked about the implications of his stance for relations with other 
denominations, such as the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox 
churches, which do not ordain women, Opocensky said that "we should refrain 
from a kind of cheap ecumenism which very often is neglecting this question 
because it is a very controversial question for the Roman Catholic Church 
and for the Eastern Orthodox churches. 
     "But to be consistent and faithful to our conviction, it seems to me 
that also with regard to these questions we should be more decisive and we 
should be ready to challenge the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox 
position and not just to gloss over this issue very lightly." 

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