Old Catholics Agree to Disagree on Women's Ordination
The International Old Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Union of Utrecht (IBC) met in Wislikofen, Switzerland, July 6-16, 1997. It evaluated the study process which, according to the decisions taken at the IBC meeting in 1991, took place in the member churches on the issue of the ordination of women and its consequences for the churches and their ecumenical relations.
This process became necessary because of the divergent development on the issue of the ordination of women in the member churches of the Union of Utrecht. As a consequence the statement of the IBC of 1976, which excludes the possibility of the ordination of women, could not be supported any longer by all member churches.
The evaluation of the results brought the Bishops' Conference to realize that some Old Catholic churches deem the ordination of women necessary for the sake of the credibility of their mission, which is why they want to implement the ordination as soon as possible. Other churches are convinced that they cannot ordain women, because their internal and external credibility would be damaged. Faced with this situation, the Bishops' Conference states that a provision of the Agreement of the Union of Utrecht, which is one of the fundamental documents of the churches united in the Union of Utrecht, cannot be fully implemented any longer. According to this provision, the Old Catholic churches are in full communion with each other. Since some churches cannot, for the sake of their convictions, recognize the ordination of women, this communion is no longer fully shared.
Therefore the IBC decided to review this situation of the Union of Utrecht within six years. Considering this situation the IBC declared by majority vote that the introduction of the ordination of women to the priestly ministry lies in the responsibility of each local or national Old Catholic church.
At the request of the Old Catholic Church of the Czech Republic, the IBC gave consent for the consecration of the Bishop-elect Dusan Hejbal.
The next meeting of the IBC will take place February 1-17, 1998, in Chicago.