Protestant pastor apologizes to Catholics over minister’s role in female ‘ordinations’

Protestant pastor apologizes to Catholics over minister’s role in female ‘ordinations’

Cardinal Sean O'Malley
Cardinal Sean O'Malley


Just over a week ago, the dissident group Womenpriests claimed to “ordain” three women as priests at a Boston-area Church of Christ location. The move was condemned by the Archdiocese of Boston and now the Rev. David Runnion-Bareford, a Church of Christ minister, is apologizing to the archdiocese for his fellow minister’s sanctioning of the event.  

On Sunday, July 20, Roman Catholic Womenpriests held an alleged ordination ceremony of three women at the Church of the Covenant, which is affiliated with both the Presbyterian Church and the United Church of Christ (UCC).

The former president of the UCC in Massachusetts, Rev. Nancy Taylor attended the ceremony to show her support for the women and told the Boston Globe that she saw the women as being discriminated against by the Catholic Church. “Prejudice in liturgical clothing is still prejudice,” she said.

The Archdiocese of Boston responded to event by saying, “the ordination of men to the priesthood is not merely a matter of practice or discipline within the Catholic Church, but rather, it is part of the unalterable Deposit of Faith handed down by Christ through his apostles.”

Reiterating that Womenpriests is not an entity of the Catholic Church, the archdiocese said “Catholics who attempt to confer a sacred order on a woman, and the women who attempt to receive a sacred order, are by their own actions separating themselves from the Church.”

Rev. David Runnion-Bareford, Executive Director of the Confessing Movement in the United Church of Christ, responded to the situation by sending an open letter to Boston area Catholics via Cardinal Sean O'Malley. In his letter, he apologized for the "division and confusion" caused by Rev. Nancy Taylor and the Church of the Covenant—the church were the ceremony was held.

"Please accept our deepest and sincere apology for the behavior of Rev. Nancy Taylor of Old South Church, UCC and the UCC related Church of the Covenant. They do not reflect the heart and mind of our United Church of Christ whose premise is 'that all may be one.' Those of us who truly value the unity of all Christians and treasure our ecumenical relationships with you as Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ are grieved,” Runnion-Bareford wrote.

The Confessing Movement UCC pastor also said that his movement is also “fully aware that this event was not motivated by a sincere desire to honor the call of God and the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the ministry of committed Christian women.” 

Rev. Runnion-Bradford further criticized the women for refusing to take a vow of chastity and for promoting a self-centered gospel, citing the “Body, Sex and Gender” section of the group’s web page.

“We know that 'Womenpriests' openly include candidates who are engaged in the practice of sexual license. It is significant that the participants would not take the vow of obedience or chastity. We are aware of the statements on their website proclaiming a false gospel of self and mutual affirmation, denying the fall of humanity and our need for repentance from sin and personal transformation through the atoning crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

"We note that it is not incidental that this event was hosted in Boston by a church that is prideful about its aggressive religious sanction of homosexual, bi-sexual and transgender relationships and same gender 'marriage.' We also note that the pansexual activist group Integrity participated and assisted with hospitality," Runnion-Bradford observed in his letter.

Rev. Nancy Taylor also received a letter from Rev. Runnion-Bradford according to a press release from the Confessing Movement pastor. In his letter he took Taylor to task for her “divisive statements and behavior” saying that they “appear to violate the Minister's Code of the United Church of Christ, which says, 'I will be a responsible representative of the Church Universal and participate in those activities that strengthen its unity, witness, and mission'."

Rev. Taylor’s appearance and words of support for the women who attempted ordination could have implications for UCC practices as well, said Rev. Runnion-Bradford. He asked Taylor, “Can we infer from your actions of this last week that you would approve of groups who have justice issues with the United Church of Christ carrying out their own ordinations of individuals they believe valid regardless of our church's standards and protocols?"