The Church of the Province of Central Africa does not ordain women nor allow them to exercise their episcopal or priestly ministry within its jurisdiction. However, the bishops of the Central African church made a decision to treat the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka Zambia as neutral ground for the duration of the ACC – 16. Within the confines of the cathedral, women could exercise their ordained ministry during the worship services of the gathering. The cathedral acted as an “embassy” of the Anglican Consultative Council for that time.
That appears to boil down to women bishops and priests who were representing Anglican Communion provinces which ordain women, presiding at the eucharists of ACC – 16, if invited to do so. It’s hard to tell how often that happened as there are not a lot of photos available of women at the communion table at ACC – 16. The above photo seems to be all that the Episcopal News Service and the Anglican Communion News Service could come up with on the topic. It shows the Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, chaplain to the Speaker of the UK House of Commons and priest vicar at Westminster Abbey, presiding at an ACC – 16 eucharist.
However, if any of the ordained women visited local Anglican parishes while in Zambia, they again fell under the jurisdiction of the Province of Central Africa and were not to act in any priestly capacity. According to the Revd Canon Bob Shiubula, who organized much of the worship at ACC – 16, this situation is acceptable to the folks in that province, in spite of women actually being responsible for much of the worship in the Central African parishes. Women are Lay Readers and they may serve Communion, but they may not preside at the table.
Canon Shiubula was quite proud of the fact that in the Central African province folks who advocate for women’s ordination are happy to wait for their fellow Anglicans who oppose women’s ordination.
The ordination of women priests is a matter of time. There have been dioceses, over the years, who have gone to the Synod and said we agree to ordain women to the Diaconate; and said “OK, that’s our position as a diocese, as a Synod, however we will not break it. We will wait for our brethren to join us. We will let them know how we feel.”
And that unity – we kept the church together not because everybody agreed; but everybody agreed to disagree. This province has that beauty.
There are several people who would ordain women to the priesthood tomorrow if they were together as one mind of the Province. That is part of the sacrificial waiting, sacrificial giving – not because we are in agreement but because we believe we want to do it together.
That sounds a lot like former Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori’s comment a few years ago about LGBT folks standing in a crucified place!