September 16, 2021

Now online: Arthur C.A. Hall, “Women and Holy Orders” (1928), and C.S. Lewis, “Priestesses in the Church?” (1948)

Arthur C.A. Hall, Women and Holy Orders (1921)

Timely and relevant are these two historic texts from the Anglican tradition, on the questions of women in holy orders. Arthur C.A. Hall, the then Bishop of Vermont in the Episcopal Church, has written one of the first works dealing with the question in 1921. Speaking for the majority at the time, he presented the arguments for the traditional theology of holy orders. Many of the points he made then would later be repeated by dozens of subsequent authors and treatises.

Bishop Hall divides his work into three parts: scripture, reason, and tradition. He addresses the then new question of Women’s Ordination from all three angles: a close analysis of Scripture, the argument from reason and natural law, and finally the argument from tradition. In a measured tone he covers the key loci touched by this question, and provides us with reflections and plenty of topics to consider and ruminate about. Written in 1921, this work was written exactly a century before ago. Could he imagine everything that would come to pass from then until our time in 2021?

C.S. Lewis, Priestesses in the Church? (1948)

The famous C.S. Lewis has perhaps one of the most thought-provoking works written on this topic. The Church of England then, especially with her intransigent and principled stand during the Abdication Controversy, stood at the peak of her eminence. But new forces had begun to gather, arguing for changes to her core constitution, and among other eminent theologians, C.S. Lewis submitted this essay as a contribution to the conversation.

In just a handful of pages, Lewis sought to address what he saw to be the core constitution of the Church, and even of Humanity itself. Thus he went deeper than Hall’s scripture/reason/tradition analysis, and plumbed the metaphysics of creation itself. With prescient insight he predicted new proposals in theology that would come, once the new core understanding had come to pass. His work, from back in 1948, stands to us as a monument of a different time, with plenty of food for thought about the decades that are yet to come.