Project Canterbury

Women and the Ministry
Some considerations on the Report of the Archbishops’ Commission on The Ministry of Women, published on behalf of the Council of the Church Union.

London: The Church Literature Association, 1936.

THE majority of members of the Church of England will cordially welcome the contents of the Report which has been issued by the Archbishops’ Commission on the Ministry of Women. None can doubt that the present age demands a fair-minded survey of the historical attitude of the Church of the past towards the services that can be appropriately rendered to the Body of Christ by the female sex, and of the official organizations of ministering women which have held a significant place in the life of the Church during the several centuries of her existence. Such a survey is demanded at a time when women have unprecedented opportunities of playing a valuable part in the public life of the nation, and are successfully pursuing vocations in many branches of secular activity which were closed to them in previous generations. It would be strange if the Church, which in the past has been the pioneer in the task of exalting the dignity of womanhood, and has impressed on civilization a new and more honourable conception of the contribution which the female sex can make to the life of the community, whether secular or spiritual, should today fail to estimate at its due value the work which women can perform for the propagation of the gospel and the enrichment of the life of the Church, or should not consider how best such work may be assisted and organized to the greater glory of God.

We would commend to the study of all thoughtful Churchmen the scholarly and accurate account of the Historical Considerations germane to the subject, [1] which makes much use of the information contained in the essay written by the late Professor C. H. Turner on Ministries of Women in the Primitive Church. [2] This section of the Report provides a fair survey of the work of prayer and the pastoral functions officially performed by female organizations during the first five centuries of the life of the Church, and notes the historical conception of the character of the Order of deaconesses, and the duties fulfilled by those admitted to that Order. In particular, exact information is given of the extent to which deaconesses assisted in the performance of sacramental rites—a matter to which we shall refer later in this essay.

We would also desire to express our appreciation of the careful statement on the subject of Women and the Priesthood. [3] The Report expresses its conclusion on the subject in the following terms:

After full consideration we do not feel able in view of the past history and existing conditions of the Christian Church to recommend the admission of women to the priesthood.”

This conclusion is based, not on any a priori theological principles, but rather on the practical difficulties which would ensue from such an innovation, and the breach which would be caused with the traditions of Christendom in past ages, and the present maintenance of that tradition by other Christian Communions which have retained the three historic Orders of the ministry. [4]

There are many churchmen who are convinced that female human nature is incapable of receiving the sacrament of Order. The Report rightly takes into account the theological arguments which can be brought in defence of this proposition, and concludes that they cannot form a final settlement of the question. Such arguments as those of St. Thomas Aquinas [5] do not appear to many Christian thinkers today to present conclusive grounds for debarring women from the exercise of the priesthood; on the other hand, the continuous tradition of the Church in favour of an exclusively male priesthood cannot be lightly set aside as a restriction obsolete today in view of the increased opportunities now accorded to women in other walks of life. The Report states:

While the Commission as a whole would not give their positive assent to the view that a woman is inherently incapable of receiving the grace of Order, and consequently of admission to any of the three Orders, we believe that the general mind of the Church is still in accord with the continuous tradition of a male priesthood. It is our conviction that this consensus of tradition and opinion is based on the will of God and is, for the Church of today, a sufficient witness to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We are therefore of the opinion that the case for a change in the Church’s rule has not been made out. The theological justification offered in support of such a change does not appear to us convincing, nor do we believe that the objections to the admission of women to the traditional Orders are mere prejudices based on outworn notions as to the relations of man and woman to one another.” [6]

Attention is also called to the doubts which would arise in the minds of many both within and without the Anglican Communion as to the lawfulness of such a change, and the nature of the authority which would enable any part of the Church to make such a striking breach with tradition, in isolation from other religious bodies which retain the threefold ministry. Finally, considerations of practical expediency are discussed. The most serious of these relates to the incompatibility of the due performance of the duties of a wife and mother with the fulfilment of the duty which is laid on priests at their ordination, when they are solemnly charged by the bishop “to forsake and set aside all worldly cares and studies.” The birth and upbringing of children, and the care of husband and home, would prevent a married woman from giving unrestricted attention to parochial duties; and the Commission rejects the suggestion that this difficulty might be obviated by the taking of a vow of celibacy. [7] The psychological and physiological evidence presented to the Commission does not, in its view, supply any data relevant to the admissibility of women to the priesthood.

Dr. W. R. Matthews, Dean of St. Paul’s, in a Memorandum expressing his dissent from this section of the Report, criticizes the argument from Church authority and tradition against the ordination of women. He defends the view that it would be in the competence of the Anglican Communion to sanction such an innovation without waiting for the consent of the universal Church, on the ground that drastic changes were made in the practice and discipline of the English Church during the sixteenth century. [8] The Dean’s argument may, however, be discounted by thoughtful readers, since he chooses as instances of such changes the repudiation of Papal authority and the abolition of the celibacy of the clergy. No serious historian of any communion would maintain that the discipline of clerical celibacy has been uniformly enforced on the Church’s ministers semper et ubique; while it was the contention of the English Reformers (and is still the contention of the Anglican Communion) that the universal jurisdiction of the Pope likewise forms no part of the primitive system of faith and discipline as it was universally accepted. But all cases falling within the first five centuries of the Christian era in which it appears that women have exercised the sacramental and sacrificial functions peculiar to the Christian priesthood occur, as the Report reminds us, [9] “outside the communion of the Great Church, and are mentioned only to be immediately condemned.” For the Anglican Communion to authorize the ordination of women to the priesthood, in view of the universal primitive refusal to contemplate the existence of such a ministry, would be an act parallel not to the disciplinary changes introduced by the Anglican Reformers (who consistently appealed to the custom of the primitive Church in defence of their lawfulness), but to the bizarre innovations sanctioned in the same centuries by the Anabaptist sects. [10]

We have recounted at length the principal arguments which the Commission has examined in discussing the question of women and the priesthood, because many of the arguments which the Commission recognizes as cogent to its conclusions have a bearing on the question of the organization of other forms of female ministry in the Church. In particular we believe that the Commission has not given such careful attention to either historical or practical considerations in its discussion of the status and functions of deaconesses as it has given in its examination of the former question. Since the most significant (and also the most controversial) conclusions of the Report are those which relate to the office of deaconess, we may now proceed to comment on some of the statements made and practical measures advocated in reference to that office.


The most definite and concrete proposal of the Report to the end that “the Church should secure for women as full opportunities and scope for the exercise of their characteristic gifts and capacities in its ministry as it secures for men in the exercise of theirs” [11] lies in its advocacy of a considerable development and extension of the ministry of deaconesses. The Commission is aware of the revolutionary nature of this policy. “It must be recognized that if our proposals are carried into effect . . . deaconesses . . . would hold a position quite different from that now accorded to them.” [12] It may be added that if the proposals of the Report are carried out in their present form, deaconesses in the Anglican Communion would hold a position quite different from that accorded them in any age and in any part of the universal Church. These proposals involve drastic innovations in church order, both as regards the status and as regards the functions of a deaconess. We do not suggest that the proposals should be rejected simply on the grounds that they are innovations. Enquiry must first be made as to whether the status proposed is such as may be legitimately assigned to this order; and whether the functions proposed are such as may be legitimately and expediently performed by its members. We will therefore first consider the question of status.

The conclusions of the Report on this subject are phrased thus:

“We believe it to be of great importance that the office of deaconess should be developed to its full possibilities and that the Church should define as clearly as possible the status of the deaconess and the work to which she is commissioned. In our opinion it should be recognized that a deaconess is in Holy Orders, and that the ‘grace of Orders’ is bestowed upon her by the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands with prayer. This Order should not be regarded as equivalent with the diaconate of men, but rather as the one existing Holy Order for women. It should, however, carry with it recognition of the deaconess as one of the clergy, together with such consequences as follow in respect of precedence and membership of ecclesiastical bodies. We think that a service for the ordination of a deaconess should be included along with the other ordination services in the Ordinal.” [13]

The first important proposal contained in this quotation is that “it should be recognized that a deaconess is in Holy Orders.” In view of the caution and prudence with which the Commission has shown itself determined to conserve the age-long traditions of the Church in its discussion of the question of the admission of women to the priesthood, these words come with a certain shock to the reader. If he is familiar with the doctrine of the Church of England in relation to ministerial Orders, as it is succinctly expressed in the preface to the Ordinal appended to the Book of Common Prayer, he will know that the Church of England recognizes three such Orders, bishops, priests, and deacons, on the ground that these Orders have existed in Christ’s Church “from the Apostles’ time.” He will doubtless be familiar also with the fact that the historic “minor Orders” have ceased to exist in the Anglican Communion since the Reformation. [14] The words of the Report make it quite clear that it is not the intention of the Commission, while debarring women from admission to the priesthood, to admit them to the Order of deacons, as it is conceived of in the Ordinal, for it is explicitly stated that the Order of deaconesses “should not be regarded as equivalent to the diaconate of men.” The intention of the Commission must therefore be either to revive a Holy Order which existed in the Apostles’ time, but which has been allowed to fall into desuetude; or to recognize as a Holy Order an Order which has been previously regarded not as one of the sacri ordines, but as possessed merely of the character of a minor Order.

The familiar term “Holy Orders” is nowhere to be found in the Anglican Ordinal or the Book of Common Prayer; [15] but the Canons of 1603 use this term and the equivalent term “Sacred Orders” as referring to the threefold ministry. [16] Historically the distinction between Holy Orders and minor Orders would seem to be twofold.

I. Holy Orders are those which have existed in the Church from the time of the Apostles onwards. This, as we have seen, is the character emphasized in the preface to the Ordinal. While references to episkopoi, presbuteroi, diakonoi are plentiful in the New Testament, no mention is found of acolytes, exorcists, lectors or porters. Now it appears probable that the term diakonos, while in some passages referring to a distinct Order of church official, at other times is used simply in the general sense of “servant” or “church worker,” implying no position more official than that of a district visitor or sidesman today. The reference, however, to Phebe susan diakonon tes ekklesias tes en Kenchreais, [17] seems to imply that she was regarded as occupying the same position and fulfilling the same functions as a male diakonos. [18] This solitary reference may be judged by some to be sufficient to prove the existence of a primitive Order of female deacons, or deaconesses; [19] but even so, the qualifications necessary to a “Holy Order” would not belong to the Order of deaconesses. A Holy Order must have the quality ascribed to the threefold ministry by the Ordinal; it must have maintained its existence “from the Apostles’ time,” and not merely in the Apostles’ time. In this respect the Order of deaconesses differs fundamentally from the three Holy Orders of the Christian ministry. Of the latter we find, as it were, the germs in existence at the period of the New Testament writings; in the course of time further apostolic powers are delegated to the members of these Orders, until they attain their present status in the ministerial system of the universal Church. But the Order of deaconesses, though possibly originating in the apostolic age, and attaining the position of a recognized ecclesiastical institution by the third century in the East and by the fourth century in the West, appears to have disappeared at least by the beginning of the second millennium of the Christian era. It is legitimate and has proved expedient that this Order should be revived; and it may well be desirable that it should be restored to something of the ancient dignity which it enjoyed especially in the East. But it is a misuse of words to call an institution which has not maintained a constant existence in the Church, as a recognized part of the Christian ministry, a Holy Order. [20]

2. Apart from this, the term “Holy Orders” is confined to those Orders in the ministry which share to some degree in the sacerdotium conferred by our Lord upon the Apostles. All members of the Church by virtue of their baptism may be said to have a share in the priestly functions exercised in his earthly life by Jesus Christ as the Redeemer and Representative of mankind. Yet it is clear that the Lord set apart his Apostles to fulfil certain special functions in the administration of the gifts of salvation and the carrying out of the divine mission of the atonement of man with God. Much of his ministry was occupied in the training of the Twelve. On the same night that he was betrayed it was the Twelve to whom he gave commandment to make the solemn liturgical commemoration of his death. To the Eleven he gave his final commission: “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you;” [21] and to them he entrusted his own authority to remit and to retain sin. [22] Though doubts have been raised by New Testament scholars as to whether our Lord actually uttered these charges to the Apostles after his resurrection in the precise form which the Evangelists record, yet it is at least necessary to suppose that these logia must represent the substance of charges actually delivered by their Master to the Eleven, if a satisfactory explanation is to be found for the fact that after the ascension the Eleven occupy an unchallenged position as leaders of the community of the disciples of the Lord Jesus. [23]

At first no question of the delegation of the powers bestowed on the Apostles seems to have arisen. But practical circumstances necessitated the appointment of the Seven. [24] Whether these inferior ministers represent the first deacons of the Church in accordance with traditional belief, or whether, as some suggest, they represent the first presbyters, [25] their duties seem to have been concerned mainly with matters of practical organization, rather than with the spiritual functions of the Apostles’ ministry, although at least one of their number preaches and administers baptism. [26] External matters of organization and government seem also to have been the subject of the ministry of the officials in local churches which were subsequently founded—both those who held the subordinate position of diakonoi and the higher officials known as presbuteroi or episkopoi. Indeed, it is natural that at first the Apostles should have jealously guarded the spiritual functions entrusted to them and only delegated the “secular” side of their ministry to others. But eventually we find a threefold order of bishops, priests, and deacons in the Church, which has emerged from this primitive administrative local ministry as the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis. This threefold ministry claims to exercise the spiritual functions bestowed by Christ himself on the apostolate, and to have inherited those powers, transmitted through the laying on of hands in direct succession from the Apostles themselves. The episcopate and the presbyterate come to exercise the liturgical function of presiding at the solemn offering of the Eucharist, and also to administer the forgiveness of sins through the sacrament of penance. The diaconate, while never admitted to the fullness of the sacerdotium, has a distinctive part to play in all early liturgies, concerned especially with the care of the sacred vessels and the administration of the consecrated elements. It had also an important place in rites of baptism, and in the procedure connected with the sacrament of penance.

This second sense of the term “Holy Orders” is equally inapplicable to the Order of deaconesses. There seems no evidence that deaconesses ever lawfully performed any liturgical part in the offering of the Eucharist; and local instances of the administration of the sacrament to sick women by the hands of deaconesses occur, as the Report rightly points out, [27] at periods when in cases of need lay persons were entitled to administer Holy Communion. It is true that in the Didascalia (A.D. 300) the deaconess has a distinctive part to play in the baptism of women catechumens; though definitely forbidden herself to administer either the baptismal form or matter, she anoints their bodies (their heads being anointed by the bishop) and receives them as they emerge from the water. [28] But this was clearly a matter of convenience and propriety in days when baptism was normally administered to adult recipients and by a ceremony which involved the pouring of water over the body as well as the head. Normally the duties of the deaconess, whether in East or West, seem to have consisted in charitable offices, the instruction of catechumens, the visitation of the sick, and the maintenance of order and reverence among the female element of the congregation. The Apostolic Constitutions, which is certainly one of the documents which tends to magnify the office of deaconess, explicitly denies the right of the deaconess to perform sacramental or sacerdotal acts. “A deaconess does not bless, nor perform anything belonging to the office of presbyters or deacons, but only is to keep the doors, and to minister to the presbyters in the baptizing of women, on account of decency.” [29

It might be urged that the form for the ordination of deaconesses, found in the same work, and obviously modelled on the rite for the ordination of a deacon, testifies to the conception of deaconesses being “in Holy Orders” as prevalent at least in Syria in the fourth century. But the differences in the two rites are at least as striking as their similarities. The clause supplicating for the bestowal of the Holy Spirit, which is said in the prayer at the ordination of a deaconess, is found likewise in the prayer at the ordination of a subdeacon, and again at that of a reader; while in the case of the deacon that supplication is amplified by the phrase: “Replenish him with thy Holy Spirit, and with power, as thou didst replenish Stephen, who was thy martyr, and the follower of the sufferings of thy Christ.” [30] Later rites, which included such ceremonies as the bestowal of the stole on deaconesses, must largely have been influenced by a natural tendency on account of the similarity of nomenclature to equate the office of deaconess to a female counterpart to that of the deacon, in spite of the distinctive liturgical duties of the latter. [31] “There were no doubt influences at work at one time or another which tended to exaggerate the position of these women-helpers. . . . Still, there is no more reason to attach importance to these pretensions than there is to regard seriously the spasmodic attempts of certain deacons to exceed their powers and to claim, for example, authority to consecrate.” [32]

It seems therefore a matter of historical fact that at no time in the Church’s existence have deaconesses been accorded a part in the performance of the Christian liturgy, or in the administration of the sacraments sufficient to warrant their being described as “in Holy Orders.” It may be maintained that the functions of the minor Orders can be described as liturgical and sacramental, as well as those of the sacri ordines; and indeed all Christians may be said to partake in Christ’s sacerdotium, since the laity have the right to celebrate certain of the sacraments, [33] and besides take an essentially sacerdotal part in the liturgy as often as they receive Holy Communion. But the term “Holy Orders” has historically been confined to those who play the principal and most intimate parts in the offering of the Eucharist; and the fact that in the West the liturgical ministry of the subdeacon is a prominent part of the normal rite is the only justification for describing the subdiaconate as a Holy Order. [34]

It will be seen that in no case is there any justification for describing a deaconess as “being in Holy Orders.” The diaconissate is not an Order which has subsisted as an essential part of the Christian ministry from the apostolic age to the present. Nor have any liturgical functions in the offering of the Holy Sacrifice ever been delegated to deaconesses. At best their liturgical functions in the public celebration of the sacraments have consisted in the performance of minor duties in the rite of baptism. It is therefore gravely misleading to speak of the diaconissate as a Holy Order. The Church of England cannot invent a new Holy Order. The most that it can do is to authorize the creation or revival of a minor Order.

There remains the question whether it is desirable, in accordance with the findings of the Commission, that a deaconess should be recognized as “one of the clergy.” [35] The Commission makes clear that it does not contemplate any pressure for the alteration of the civil law which would affect the legal status of a woman who had been admitted into the Order of deaconesses, and render her liable to the disabilities to which the clerical profession is subject, or qualify her for the exemptions which it enjoys. Whether the clerical status of a deaconess can be affirmed, without a more careful consideration of the legal issues involved than has been given by the Commission, seems doubtful; and many will think the Commission would have been better advised to observe the reticence of the 1930 Lambeth Conference, which expressed itself in more guarded terms on the subject of the status of deaconesses, precisely because of this difficulty. [36] If, however, it is recognized that the diaconissate constitutes the revival of a “minor Order” which has been in abeyance through several centuries of the Church’s life, but is now to be reconstituted, it would be correct in modern ecclesiastical parlance to refer to a deaconess as a member of the clergy. The ranks of the clergy include historically those who have been admitted into the minor Orders; while modern Roman Catholic custom extends the use of the term by courtesy to members of the religious Orders who are not ordained clerks, and even to “laics, men or women, who render service to a regular community, such as by begging, provided they wear a clerical dress and reside near the monastery or convent.” [37]

The practical recommendations of the Commission [38] in this respect are largely such as will not give any ground for objection from any section of the Church. No one will disagree with the recommendation that prayers for deaconesses should be offered in the public services of the Church, or that they should wear “a special dress or emblem.” [39] Nor can any fault be found with the suggestion that where a deaconess is licensed to a parish she should be regarded as a member of the parish staff. In many parishes where women who are members of a religious community perform parochial duties they are so regarded; and even paid lay-workers are usually consulted over matters upon which the parochial clergy deliberate. In any case membership of “the staff” of a parish carries with it no rights; the responsibility for the conduct of a parish rests ultimately with the incumbent, and not with his assistants, whether clergy or laity. Four recommendations as to the admission of deaconesses by virtue of their office to the consultative and deliberative bodies of the Church are matters beyond the scope of the present article. In our opinion this question should be decided by reference to the desires of the clergy who at present serve on those bodies. We note that the Commission recognizes that the admission of deaconesses, as members of the clergy, to the Church Assembly will raise constitutional problems.

The Commission also recommends that “there should be assigned to the deaconess ... a distinctive seat in church.” It is not clear whether it is contemplated that this seat should be in the body of the church (like the seats customarily reserved for churchwardens, and commonly distinguished by the juxtaposition of their staves of office) or in the choir. No objection will be raised against the former alternative; the objections against the latter will be noted later in this article.

There remains the recommendation that a deaconess “may be properly addressed as ‘Reverend.’” This form of address is regarded legally as “not being a title of honour and dignity” [40] and is accorded by contemporary custom to ministers of religion of all denominations. Roman Catholic custom, while restricting its “proper” use to persons in Holy Orders, extends it by courtesy to “tonsured and minor clerics, to choir-nuns and all who have the title of ‘Mother.’” [41] There seems therefore no ultimate objection to the use of this term of address towards persons who are not strictly in Holy Orders or to persons of the female sex. It is doubtful, however, whether its application to deaconesses is likely to commend itself to use in England. Even if it may be defended in strict logic, there will appear to the ordinary Englishman to be something abnormal and bizarre in the use of this term in addressing, for instance, a letter to a woman. Even if this be an irrational prejudice, we submit that it is one which cannot be ignored. We believe the use of this title will have precisely the opposite effect to that of enhancing the dignity of the diaconissate. And to a lesser degree this must apply also to all official descriptions of deaconesses as members of “the clergy.”


There remain for consideration the functions assigned by the Report to be performed by deaconesses. We may say at once that there can be no objection to the non-liturgical, non-homiletic, and non-sacramental functions so assigned. These functions could be, and in fact are, discharged by good churchwomen who have not the status of the diaconissate. Nor can objection be raised against the suggestion that a deaconess should read the services of the Church, and deliver addresses at such services, in the chapels of girls’ schools and women’s colleges, or other places where the congregation is exclusively female. The Commission, however, goes much further than this in its recommendations, suggesting that

it should be made possible for the bishop under provincial sanction, and on the request of the parish priest, to entrust to the deaconess the functions of reading in church the services of Morning and Evening Prayer and the Litany, with the exception of such portions as are reserved to the priest, and of leading the congregation in prayer; and further (if he think fit to grant a licence for this purpose) to authorize her to instruct and preach in church, except in the service of the Holy Communion; to officiate at the Churching of Women and to baptize in the absence of the parish priest” (pp. 50 ff.).

It is clear that the Commission does not intend that the exercise of these functions should be limited to services at which the congregation consists entirely of women, since they recommend also that the office of lay-reader should be open to women; that women should “be allowed to take such services as can at present be taken by lay men,” and “should be authorized on occasion to preach; and that their preaching should not be confined to non-liturgical services or to congregations of women and children.” [42]

The Commission also recommends that “where there may be special need, as, for instance, in girls’ schools and women’s colleges,” the deaconess should administer the chalice.

All these recommendations with the exception of the last are contained in the proposals of the Lambeth Conference of 1930. These proposals were accepted by the Upper Houses of Convocation in both provinces. The Upper House of the Convocation of Canterbury resolved that a deaconess should only baptize in church in exceptional circumstances, and the Upper House of York added this qualification not only to the celebration of public baptism but also to the officiating by a deaconess at the Churching of Women. The Lower House of the Convocation of York, after considering the same resolution, approved the proposals that a deaconess should assist the minister in the preparation of candidates for baptism and for confirmation, and that she should assist in the administration of Holy Baptism by virtue of her office; it rejected the proposal that she should baptize in church and officiate at churchings; and deferred the consideration of the proposal that she should read the services of the Church, lead in prayer, and preach if licensed by the bishop, until the Commission on the Ministry of Women had reported. The Lower House of the Convocation of Canterbury deferred all consideration of the functions of deaconesses until the Report of the Commission should be in its hands. [43]

The recommendations of the Commission under this head may be divided into three classes: sacramental duties to be performed by deaconesses; the officiating at public non-sacramental services by deaconesses or women lay-readers; and the preaching of sermons or delivery of instruction in church by women.

I. The first class of recommendation appears to be the consequence of a confusion, which the Commission expresses itself as anxious to repudiate—the confusion between the historic functions of a deacon and those of a deaconess. The Report explicitly states that the Order of deaconesses “should not be regarded as equivalent with the diaconate of men,” [44] and approves a similar statement in the Report of the Lambeth Conference of 1930. [45] But to authorize the deaconess to celebrate the rite of public baptism and to administer the chalice (even though the performance of these functions is subject to certain qualifying conditions) [46] is precisely to delegate to the deaconess those functions which are properly among the duties of the deacon. We have seen that there is no historical precedent for the performance of either of these functions by a deaconess. We therefore believe that the Lower House of the York Convocation acted judiciously in accepting the proposal of the Lambeth Conference that the deaconess should assist at the ministration of public baptism, [47] but rejecting the proposal that she should be entitled to officiate herself at that ceremony.

Far stronger practical arguments can be brought in support of the Commission’s proposal that in exceptional circumstances the deaconess should be authorized to administer the chalice at Holy Communion. The circumstances of “special need” contemplated appear to be those of girls’ schools and women’s colleges; but it is nowhere explicitly stated that the administration of the chalice by a deaconess should be confined to services where the congregations are exclusively female. We shall refer below to what appears to us a grave and conclusive practical objection to the administration of the chalice by a woman to congregations consisting of both sexes. But assuming that the Report is only suggesting that this course be adopted in institutions for girls and women (whether educational or otherwise), it must be admitted that this proposal would seem to obviate the grave inconvenience which is caused to a large congregation of communicants on the principal feasts of the Church, first communions after confirmation, corporate communions of large guilds and societies, and other such occasions, when the Holy Communion is celebrated by a single-handed priest. Often the long period of time which is occupied by the administration of the Sacred Elements places a grave strain on both the devotional and physical powers of the members of the congregation. [48] But it must be recognized that this difficulty arises with equal force in many parish churches where the celebrating priest can have no deacon or second priest to assist in the administration. Against the advantages of practical convenience must be set the age-long custom of the universal Church whereby the duty of administering Holy Communion in the liturgy has always been performed by members of the three major Orders only. [49] The anomaly of violating the invariable practice of the Church in this particular by a novel regulation instituted only by the authority of a “local church” would seem to outweigh the practical advantages of the proposal. [50]

2. Apart, however, from sacramental rites, there are other services at which the Report recommends that deaconesses be allowed to officiate. It is proposed that they be eligible to read Morning and Evening Prayer and the Litany (except for those portions reserved to the priest), to lead the congregation in prayer, and to conduct the office for the Churching of Women. The first of these three duties is already entrusted to deaconesses in the provinces of the Anglican Communion within the United States. [51] There is, of course, no objection in principle to the performance of these non-sacramental functions by a lay person who has been duly authorized; and the first two at least of these duties are frequently performed by licensed lay-readers. The training and education which are to be demanded of a deaconess before she is admitted to the Order and licensed to a parish, as also the solemn commission that she is given, and the promises required of her when she is set apart for ministerial work, would seem to render her an appropriate person to perform these functions, as far as character, learning, and ecclesiastical status are concerned. In fact the only ground on which opposition can be made to this proposal is the fact that she is a woman.

There is no doubt (as the Report recognizes) that strong feeling is aroused over this proposal on this ground and on this ground alone. It remains to ask whether this feeling has any rational basis, or whether objection to the public ministration of women at divine service is merely an “infantile fixation,” which, although originating from no logical or rational process of the intellect, is deeply seated inHhe unconscious minds of the objectors, and exercises a powerful influence on their emotional reactions on the subject. The latter view is that put forth by Dr. Grensted in Appendix I. of the Report. “The admission of women to the ministry of the sanctuary is commonly regarded as something shameful. This sense of shame cannot be regarded in any other light than as a non-rational sex-taboo.” [52]

Now if the truth of this dictum be accepted (and almost these precise words are adopted in the Report itself), [53] the widespread opposition which is admitted to exist to the performance of liturgical and sacramental functions by women would cease to be a forcible argument against the introduction of such a practice. It is impossible to suppose that in grave matters the Church should allow its policy to be governed by the irrational psychological aberrations of some of its members. Nevertheless, the fact that hostility to these proposals is widespread, and that “this hostility is especially strong among keen and instructed churchpeople, both men and women,” [54] suggests that the theory of its origin which has been advanced by Dr. Grensted is neither sound nor adequate. To explain feelings and convictions which are normally found in ordinary men and women in terms of psychological abnormality is always a process of doubtful validity. Usually a simpler explanation can be found. And this we believe to be the case as regards the question under discussion.

The explanation appears to us to lie in the characteristic genius of Christian worship. The public worship of the Church, unlike many of its pagan counterparts, has always been essentially sexless in its character and atmosphere. Like the highest forms of secular representative or symbolic art, it eschews all appeal to passions and emotions connected with man’s animal nature. The traditional rites of the Church, with their attendant forms of music and ceremonial, have an aesthetic appeal which rises above the natural instincts, so that the worshipper finds himself in a supernatural atmosphere where “there is neither male nor female.” We may say that the genius of the liturgical action of the Eucharist, or the solemn recital of the Divine Office, is more akin to that of military ceremonial functions, such as the trooping of the colour, than to the sensuous beauty of grand opera or the Russian Ballet. It is true that instances can be produced of occasions when the Church has fallen short of this high ideal of worship. The introduction of quasi-operatic music (such as the masses of Gounod), the extravagant adornment of the sanctuary, the attempt to achieve a disproportionate appeal to the sense through the elaboration of ceremonial, and the decoration of churches by a vulgar type of statuary, have sometimes led to the degradation of the dignity of the Church’s services. But such aberrations have been merely local and temporary, and have normally had the practical result of creating an individualistic and emotional pietism in the laity, while obscuring the true nature of the corporate act of worship performed by a Christian congregation, whether at “the breaking of bread” or “the prayers.”

It is our submission that the outward presentation of Christian worship would be fundamentally altered if the female sex were admitted to the performance of liturgical duties at public services. To assert this is in no way to suggest that the exclusion of women from choir and sanctuary is necessitated by any intrinsic “inferiority” in their sex. It is rather the deficiencies of the male sex which are the motive for the maintenance of this regulation. But we maintain that the ministration of women, whether as servers at the altar, singers in the liturgical choir, or readers of the divine offices, in the face of congregations which include men, will tend to produce a lowering of the spiritual tone of Christian worship, such as is not produced by the ministrations of men before congregations largely or exclusively female. It is a tribute to the quality of Christian womanhood that it is possible to make this statement; but it would appear to be simple matter of fact that in the thoughts and desires of that sex the natural is more easily made subordinate to the supernatural, the carnal to the spiritual, than is the case with men; and that the ministrations of a male priesthood do not normally arouse that side of female human nature which should be quiescent during the times of the adoration of almighty God. We believe, on the other hand, that it would be impossible for the male members of the average Anglican congregation to be present at a service at which a woman ministered without becoming unduly conscious of her sex. As soon as this consciousness makes itself felt, it inevitably lowers the spiritual level of the act of worship and the devotions of the congregation. Practical experience, we believe, bears witness to this. Anglican churches in America frequently maintain a choir of adult women, varying between twenty and forty years of age, who perform that part of the singing which is normally performed in England by a boys’ choir, who are vested in surplice and cassock and occupy the seats assigned to the liturgical choir. It is no mere irrationally conservative or obscurantist outlook which finds this custom inappropriate and outlandish. Both the eye and the ear of the worshipper are disturbed by an element which conflicts with the spiritual quality of Christian worship, and which assimilates the rendering of divine service to the performances of the theatre or the concert hall. We believe, therefore, that there are strong practical grounds for the maintenance of the traditional discipline of the Church which assigns the service of the sanctuary and the places in the liturgical choir to the male sex alone, and the treble parts in liturgical music to the passionless rendering of unbroken male voices. And especially is there grave objection on this score to the performance by women of the principal functions in public services, whether sacramental or non-sacramental. We drew above a comparison between military ceremonial and the outward presentation of Christian worship, and contrasted both with dramatic spectacles. But it must be remembered that in one particular detail this comparison and contrast fail to hold good. Military evolutions gain their impressive character from the fact that they are a concerted movement of a body or group. The individuality of the persons who compose it, even of the officers commanding it, is almost entirely lost from sight. On the other hand, in Christian worship the celebrant of a sacramental rite or the reader of an office has a striking and conspicuous part to play. However much his individual personality may be concealed by his adoption of the traditional gestures or tones of voice associated with the function which he is performing, he remains nevertheless the leader of the congregation and is conspicuous as such. It would be impossible for a woman to conduct liturgical services without immediate attention being directed to the “difference” which is the inevitable consequence of her sex.

We believe, therefore, that the Report makes a grave error in its suggestion that it is a “sense of shame” which prompts the objection widely felt to the ministry of women in choir or sanctuary. We believe the feeling to which they refer would more correctly be described as a “sense of inappropriateness” and that there are well-founded reasons for supposing that the licensing of women ministers to conduct divine service or to lead the congregation in prayer would alter the fundamental character of the Church’s worship; and that this alteration would bring loss which no advantages of immediate or local convenience would outweigh. This practical objection would not apply, of course, to exclusively female congregations; there we think it may be highly desirable that a woman should officiate at non-sacramental services; nor can there be any objection to women leading devotions at children’s services, or at a celebration of the Communion attended mainly by children; [55] but at the public services of the church which are normally attended by adults of both sexes we believe that neither deaconess nor female lay-reader should be permitted to officiate.

There remains for consideration the proposal that deaconesses should officiate at the office for the Churching of Women. This office originally declared the Church’s blessing on a woman after childbirth, and therefore was formerly invariably conducted by a priest. The present jejune form provided in the Book of Common Prayer contains no blessing [56] and no prayer or form of words which might not lawfully be recited by a layman. The office today is frequently, if not normally, read at a time other than that of divine service, and in the presence of none but the woman who comes to give thanks. It might therefore be held that this is an occasion when the deaconess might conveniently and lawfully perform a liturgical function. We should agree, if we were not satisfied that the present conduct of this office is wholly satisfactory. But the rubrics indicate that normally the woman who comes to give thanks should receive Holy Communion if there be opportunity. Hence the officiating minister is described in the rubrics as “the priest,” [57] being presumably the celebrant of the Communion which it is assumed will follow. We conclude that, while there can be little objection to the deaconess conducting this office if it be said, as is frequently the case today, in a quasi-private manner, and if it is divorced in practice from the reception of Holy Communion, these methods do not seem in themselves commendable or worthy of the occasion; and it is much to be desired that churchings should take place immediately before the celebration of the Communion, whenever this is possible.

3. The practical objections that have been raised against the performance by women of liturgical functions apply a fortiori to their performance of homiletic functions. It would be untrue and unfair to assert or suggest that women are not capable of preaching excellent sermons. But one of the necessary arts to be cultivated by the preacher consists in “getting his personality across.” Whereas the idiosyncrasy of the minister at divine service is partially concealed by his use of set liturgical forms and the care he will normally take to avoid dramatization or individualism of expression, the preacher cannot perform his function in a wholly impersonal manner. We have indicated that there is grave danger that the character of Christian worship may be altered for the worse by the introduction of a feminine element; we believe there is even greater danger if a woman be permitted to preach that her “femininity” will attract still more attention in mixed congregations. On the other hand, that women should address female congregations, conduct retreats for women, etc., seems to us a legitimate and highly desirable proposal.


It may seem that our animadversions on some of the proposals contained in the Report are of the nature of purely negative criticism; and that this essay has not really faced the fundamental problem which the Report seeks to solve as to how the services which women can render to the cause of religion may best be organized for the benefit of the Church. We therefore conclude this essay by a positive suggestion towards the solution of this problem.

The most important practical proposals of the Report consist in the extension of the duties of deaconesses. Although we have indicated some objections to the statement that a deaconess can be said to be “in Holy Orders,” and to her performance of liturgical functions in normal parochial worship, we are far from desiring to deny that valuable work is at present performed by deaconesses in many parishes, and we earnestly hope that vocations to that work will be widely embraced in the future. On the other hand, it is doubtful whether the enlargement of the diaconissate and the extension of its functions will really solve the problem under consideration.

We believe that the Report has not given sufficient attention to the question of the relation of the work of the diaconissate and the married life. It is argued that admission to the office and work of a deaconess “conveys an indelible character [58] and involves the obligation of lifelong service,” and that the status of a deaconess “has the permanence which belongs to Holy Orders.” [59] In this judgment the Report follows the opinion of the Lambeth Conference of 1930. [60] The promises therefore which a deaconess makes at her ordination [61] are lifelong vows which she is bound to maintain, in as far as she is able, until the day of her death; she may not relinquish her diaconissal duties except for some grave cause, such as physical inability to discharge her usual functions. Now it is maintained in the Report that it would seem to be impossible for a married woman to fulfil the duties of a deaconess; [62] in fact, the Commission does not seem to share the view expressed by the Lambeth Conference: [63] “We believe that there is a real place for married deaconesses, and much special and valuable work that they can do.” And it will be seen that many of the arguments which the Report brings forward as practical objections to the ordination of women to the priesthood would apply also to the undertaking of any lifelong ministry by married women or women eligible for marriage. If the duties of the diaconissate are such that they cannot be performed by a wife or mother, it must be recognized either that a deaconess is debarred from marriage or that her ordination promises have not the permanent nature which is attributed to those made by deacon or priest at ordination. In the provinces in the United States the latter alternative seems to be recognized. “A woman of devout character and proved fitness, unmarried or widowed, may be appointed deaconess by any bishop of this Church. Such appointment shall be vacated by marriage.” [64] We believe that this practical issue must be faced if the status of the deaconess in the Church is to be determined satisfactorily. It may be urged that the imposition of a vow of celibacy is “unfair,” since no such vow is exacted from priests and deacons of the Anglican Communion; and that the vocation to the celibate life is “specialized,” and that therefore such an obligation cannot be fitly required of all who respond to the call to the ministry of the diaconissate.

Whatever final decision be reached on the subject, the problem itself suggests that the Commission has failed to pay sufficient attention to a form in which women’s work on behalf of the Church is already organized on a large scale—viz., the female Religious Orders. It is true that a vocation to the religious life may justly be called “specialized;” yet the fact remains that far more devout women appear to respond to this vocation than offer themselves for service as deaconesses. Indeed, the Lambeth Conference of 1930 stated: “Our enquiries show us that the number of women asking for ordination as deaconesses is comparatively small, and that far more women of the stamp and qualifications envisaged find scope for their gifts in other ways.” [65] The latest statistics show that there are 240 deaconesses on active service in the parishes of the provinces of Canterbury and York. [66] It is less easy to assess the number of women in the Religious Orders of the Anglican Communion. Many such Orders object to giving any statistics of their numbers; and the respective strength of the Orders varies widely, some having less than 10 members, while others have several hundred. But some 50 such communities exist in the two provinces; the largest of these alone numbers 450, while several others approximate to this number. [67] It seems a serious defect in the Report that mention of these communities is confined to a single sentence, [68] and a reference to the work of two particular communities. [69] We believe that the work of the religious communities needs the stamp of approval, recognition and guidance in as full and generous measure as is conceded to that of the diaconissate. [70] We believe that these communities may well form a training-ground and base for the ministry of women workers in the Church such as can be provided by no other organization.

It must be admitted that, whatever the numbers of professed Sisters in our Communion, the vocation to the religious life is a “specialized” one; and we are far from wishing that women’s work for the Church should be confined to that performed by those who have embraced the threefold vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience. We do suggest, however, that there is scope in the Church for the development of Tertiary Orders for married or unmarried women connected with the larger communities; and that the members of these Tertiary Orders might be regarded as specially qualified for the performance of active lay work in the parishes. Such women would undergo some period of discipline and training at a religious house; while not observing the threefold vow in its strict form, they would nevertheless be bound to the keeping of a devotional rule of life; and they would enjoy the benefit of the advice and guidance of the head of the community, and of periodical visits for retreat and conference at the community’s mother house. In such a way might arise organizations of women, who would be recognized as devout persons, capable of performing the work in the parishes for which the assistance of skilled and trained women is sorely needed today.

[1] Report, pp. 11-24.

[2] Originally published in the Constructive Quarterly for September, 1919, and reprinted in Catholic and Apostolic (Mowbray, 1931).

[3] Report, pp. 8-10.

[4] See Report, pp. 29-31.

[5] Sentences, IV. 25. ii. i. See also Summa Theologica, Suppl. Q. XXXIX., Art. i.

[6] Report, p. 29.

[7] Report, pp. 10, 33. It seems questionable if the argument against a vow of celibacy being imposed on women ministers on the ground that it “would involve injustice, since it is not required of men,” is altogether convincing.

[8] Report, p. 77.

[9] P. 26.

[10] It is fair to add that Dr. Matthews, while accepting in principle the eligibility of women for the priesthood, definitely expresses as his opinion that “it would be inexpedient to proceed at once to admit women to the priesthood” (p. 78).

[11] Report, p. 10.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Report, pp. 6 f.

[14] Some, however, maintain that the official position accorded to lay-readers (“clerks”) even in the sixteenth century represents a survival of the Order of Lectors.

[15] Though the priesthood is referred to in the rite of Ordering of Priests as a “holy ministry” and a “holy office.”

[16] See especially Canons xxxi.-xxxv.

[17] Rom. xvi. I.

[18] So Turner, “Ministries of Women,” in Catholic and Apostolic, p. 329.

[19] The term diakonissa is a later formation.

[20] Objection may be raised to the argument of this paragraph on the ground that most Latin theologians recognize the subdiaconate as one of the sacri ordines, although there is universal agreement that its institution is posterior in date to the apostolic age. The earliest mention of the subdiaconate is found in a letter of Pope Cornelius (255); while the Decree of Gratian (1150) expressly states that it is of ecclesiastical institution, and Urban II. at the Council of Beneventum (1095) excludes this Order from the sacri ordines. The subdiaconate was finally declared a major or sacred Order by Innocent III. in the thirteenth century. It may be argued that it would likewise be within the competence of the Anglican Communion today to place the diaconissate within the ranks of the Orders accounted to be sacri ordines. But it must be remembered that the Eastern Church has always consistently regarded the subdiaconate as merely a minor Order; and to follow an exclusively Latin precedent in adding to the number of the sacri ordines is not a course which is likely to commend itself to the majority of English churchmen. Moreover, the reason for the subdiaconate being regarded as a major Order in the Roman Church lies in the liturgical functions assigned to the sub-deacon in Western Eucharistic rites, and in particular to his duties in regard to the sacred vessels. No parallel function to be performed by the deaconess at the Eucharist is proposed by the Report, with the possible exception of the administration of the chalice to female congregations, (p. 7), which is clearly not regarded as one of her normal or more important duties; indeed, it is proposed that the Eucharist should be the one service at which she shall be debarred from preaching (p. 7). It may finally be added that most Roman theologians do not regard ordination to the subdiaconate as a sacrament, and consequently also maintain that no sacramental grace is conferred in that rite (J. Pohle and A. Preuss, The Sacraments [Herder, 1918], vol. iv., pt. ii., ch. ii., section 4; P. Gasparri, De Sacra Ordinatione [Delhomme and Briguet, 1894], vol. i., 33-35i A. Tanquerey, Synopsis Theologiæ Dogmaticæ [Desclée, 1929], vol. iii., 1006; Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. xiv., p. 320, article, “Sub-deacon”).

[21] St. John xx. 21.

[22] St. John xx, 23. It seems natural to suppose that “the disciples” in this passage refers to the Eleven with the exception of St. Thomas. This is certainly suggested by the use of the word apestalken. In any case, St. Matt, xxviii. 16-20 represents a similar charge, delivered to the Eleven only, and including a command to dispense the forgiveness of sin.

[23] See Acts i.-v. For a full discussion of the bald statements of this paragraph, see K. Mackenzie, The Case for Episcopacy, chs. i. and ii.

[24] Acts vi. 1-6.

[25] Mackenzie, op. cit., p. 13.

[26] It is possible that this is a case of a “charismatic ministry” exercised by Philip the Deacon in virtue of prophetic gifts which he possessed. But St. Stephen seems also to have exercised a “teaching office.”

[27] P. 17.

[28] Report, p. 16.

[29] Const. Apost., viii., 28. Transl. Donaldson.

[30] Ibid., viii., 18.

[31] Modern advocates of the revival of the diaconissate seem to overlook this obvious confusion. In spite of the assurance that this Order is not to “be regarded as equivalent with the diaconate of men,” there is no doubt that the general opinion of the simpler laity will tend to regard a deaconess, who is styled “The Reverend” and who ranks with the clergy, as at least the equal in Order of a male deacon.

[32] H. Thurston, article, “Deaconesses,” in Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. iv.

[33] Baptism is validly administered by a layman; while in the sacrament of Matrimony the contracting parties are the celebrants.

[34] Summa Theologica, Suppl. Q. XXXVII., Art. 3. “Ordo sacerdicitur qui habct aliquem actum circa rem aliquam consecratam. Et sic sunt tres tantum ordines sacri, scilicet sacerdotium et diaconatus, qui habent actum circa corpus Christi et sanguinem consecratum, et subdiaconatus, qui habet actum circa vasa consecrata.” The editor of the Supplement follows the opinion of many Western theologians in regarding the episcopate as not being a distinct Order from the priesthood.

[35] Report, p. 7.

[36] Report, p. 45.

[37] Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. iv., article, “Cleric.”

[38] Report, pp. 48 f.

[39] The Report adds somewhat sardonically, “though not necessarily the costume at present customary.”

[40] In the case of Keet v. Smith, it was decided in an appeal (reversing on this point the decisions of two lower courts) that the presence of the word “Reverend,” applied to a Wesleyan minister in an inscription on a tombstone, would not justify the incumbent in refusing to allow the erection of the tombstone (cited J. M. Dale, Clergyman’s Legal Handbook, 6th ed., 1881).

[41] Catholic Encyclopedia Dictionary, Cassell, 1931, article, “Reverend.”

[42] Report, pp. 54-56.

[43] Report, pp. 42 f.

[44] Report, p. 7.

[45] Report, p. 44, citing Lambeth Conference, 1930, Report, p. 178.

[46] The qualification in the case of baptism is “in the absence of the priest to baptize infants.” This qualification is also expressly mentioned in the Ordinal as governing the ministration of public baptism by a deacon. “In the absence of the priest” in this case is usually interpreted as meaning not “on occasions when the priest is unavoidably absent from the parish” but “on occasions when the priest does not happen to be in church.” Presumably the qualification would be similarly interpreted in its application to deaconesses; and consequently the deaconess in many parishes would be called on to officiate at the public baptism of infants on any occasion when the parish priest for some slight cause might wish to be relieved of this duty.

[47] It is nowhere made clear in the Report, nor (so far as we have been able to ascertain) in any other document, what are the precise duties of a deaconess “assisting at the administration of Holy Baptism by virtue of her office.” The part of the ancient baptismal ceremonial which has been historically associated with the ministry of deaconesses—viz., the anointing of female catechumens—has no place in the rite of the Church of England. Presumably the deaconess could fulfil a useful duty in holding the infant, and could act as godmother in cases where the parents have failed to provide the sponsors required by the rubric.

[48] This difficulty does not arise in the rites of the Roman Catholic or Orthodox Communions. In the former, Holy Communion is administered to the laity under one kind only; in the latter, the congregation at the liturgy receives both kinds simultaneously. While the Anglican practice is certainly preferable to either of these methods, in so far as it follows more closely the ceremonies of the divine institution and the rites of the primitive Church, the consequent practical difficulties have never been seriously faced. They appear to have been felt more strongly in America than in England, in certain parish churches in the provinces of the Anglican Communion within the United States, Holy Communion is commonly administered during the liturgy by the method of intinction; while in others it is administered tinder one kind only. The sanction of authority to these methods seems doubtful; but the latter practice is by no means confined to “high” churches.

[49] This duty does not seem to have been delegated to subdeacons either in the East or the West.

[50] This judgment would of course apply equally to the proposal contained in Resolution 65 of the Lambeth Conference of 1930, that the chalice should on occasion be administered by lay-readers.

[51] Deaconesses in those provinces are also allowed to baptize infants in the absence of priest and deacon. See Constitution and Canons for the Government of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (printed 1934), Canon 24, ii. (b), 4, 6.

[52] Report, p. 81.

[53] Report, pp. 34 f. “It is especially significant that the admission of women to the ministry of the sanctuary should so often be regarded as something shameful. From evidence submitted to us we are driven to the conclusion that this sense of shame is very largely based on an irrational sex-taboo.”

[54] Report, p. 81.

[55] It is not unusual to find persons of the female sex conducting devotions or leading in the recital of the Rosary, etc., during the celebration of Mass in Roman Catholic countries. But these persons are either nuns or females of extremely mature age or occasionally young children below the age of puberty.

[56] A blessing is added in the proposed revision of 1928, to be said if there be no Communion. Presumably it was not contemplated that this blessing should be given by a deaconess.

[57] The proposed revision of 1928 alters the term “priest” to “minister” wherever it occurs in the rubrics to this office. This appears to be one of several instances of alterations from the book of 1662 which were not noted in the book of 1928 by the usual marginal indications.

[58] If the diaconissate be regarded as a minor Order, this term is perhaps inadmissible. According to Western theology, ordination to the minor Orders does not constitute a sacrament or imprint an indelible character. Gasparri, De Sacra Ordinatione, i., 41: “Si eae ordinationes (infra diaconatum), semel validæ collatæ, numquam repeti debent, id facile quoque explicatur ex voluntate Ecclesiæ, quæ eas instituit ad instar ordinationum juris divini, quin necesse sit admittere eas characterem indelibilem in anima imprimere.”

[59] Report, p. 47. It will be seen that this statement can be accepted without admitting the theory that a deaconess is in Holy Orders.

[60] Resolution 69.

[61] The use of this term seems legitimate, if the diaconissate be accepted as a minor Order.

It is true that there is no reference to the permanence through life of the binding character of those promises in the “Form and Manner of Making of Deaconesses,” printed with the “Book Annexed to the Prayer Book Measure,” as issued in 1927. But there is a similar absence of such reference in the English Rites for Ordination to the Sacred Orders.

[62] Report, p. 47. “The deaconess is precluded from accepting any responsibilities which must necessarily conflict with such lifelong service. We do not recommend that the Church should exact a profession of celibacy from deaconesses, but, as far as we can judge from the evidence submitted to us, the prevalent view held by deaconesses is that their vocation is incompatible with marriage.”

[63] Lambeth Conference, 1930, Report, p. 179.

[64] Canon of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the U.S.A., No. 24, i.

[65] Lambeth Conference, 1930, Report, p. 177.

[66] The Churchman’s Handbook, 1936, p. 141.

[67] It is fair to state that of course not all these are “on active service in the parishes;” while several of the smaller Orders are devoted to the contemplative life.

[68] Report, p. 5.

[69] Report, p. 68.

[70] This was apparently the desire of the Lambeth Conference of 1930. See its Report, pp. 184-187, and Resolution 74. Nor has the question of the status of the Religious Orders been ignored by the Upper House of Convocation in recent years. But it is strangely inappropriate that their work should be largely ignored in a Report dealing with the Ministry of Women.

In the Anglican Communion in the U.S.A. religious communities are recognized by the canons as well as the diaconissate. Canon 25 of the Protestant Episcopal Church provides rules governing the constitution of such communities, both male and female.