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Traditionalist Anglican Priest Interrupts Ordination of First Woman Bishop

John Burger - published on 01/27/15

Clergyman ignored as he shouts out "It's not in the Bible."

In a way, it was sort of like when the cleric officiating at a wedding asks, “If any of you has reasons why these two should not be married, speak now or forever hold your peace.”

Usually, no one objects, except in movies.

The ceremony that took place in England’s Yorkminster Monday will be memorable for the historic nature of it, to be sure, but also because one man did not hold his peace.

The Anglican Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, gave the congregation one last chance to sign off on the consecration of Rev. Libby Lane, 48, as the Church of England’s first woman bishop.

"Is it now your will that she should be ordained?" he called out. The crowd of some 1000 in the historic church responded in the affirmative. But as the echo died out, a man dressed in black stepped forward in front of the sanctuary and shouted "No!"

“It is not in the Bible,” said the man, the Rev. Paul Williamson. “With respect, your grace, I ask to speak on this absolute impediment.”

According to the London Telegraph, Sentamu had been warned of Williamson’s presence. He instructed the congregation that the law had been changed to allow women bishops in the Church of England. Williamson stood in front of the front pew for a few moments, then returned quietly to his seat. Sentamu asked again for the congregation’s assent, and this time “It is!” rang out even more thunderously.

Known as a long-time opponent of women’s ordination, Williamson, the rector of St. George’s in Hanworth, Middlesex, has fought the Church of England so much in court that he has been deemed a “vexatious litigant” and forbidden to bring cases to court unless he has express permission.

He once tried to put the Church of England hierarchy on trial for “treason” for ordaining women priests.

Williamson’s love of tradition is apparent in a welcoming message at the website of St. George’s Church, where he writes, “We are honored of our history that dates back to Saxon times, and that our community has built, loved, and cared for the Church for more than 1000 years. We are proud, too, of our Christian (catholic) faith and practice as members of the Church of England.”

But lest anyone think Williamson would be a prime candidate to join the “Anglican Ordinariate,” which was set up a few years ago to receive Episcopalians who wish to become Catholic, the Telegraph points out that he was publicly supported in his efforts against women’s ordination by the Rev. Ian Paisley, the hard-line Ulster Protestant cleric, and later First Minister, who regularly denounced the Pope as the “anti-Christ.”

The Telegraph adds more background to Monday’s episcopal ordination:

The ruling General Synod voted overwhelmingly last summer finally to open all ranks of ministry to people of both sexes.

Although a substantial minority within the conservative evangelical and traditionalist Anglo-Catholic wings of the Church resisted the change to the end, leading opponents have accepted the Synod vote and pledged to work with new opt-out arrangements. …

Rev. Lane went on to study theology at St. Peter’s College, at Oxford University, where she met her husband, and the pair were ordained together in July 1994, with Mrs. Lane becoming one of the first female priests in the Church of England.

John Burger is news editor for Aleteia’s English edition.

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