Tuesday, October 27, 2009

With Great Rejoicing!

It is with great rejoicing that we make the following announcement.

Thirty-three years after the Episcopal Church approved the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate, the first woman will be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

At 5:00 P.M. on Sunday Nov. 15 in St. Luke’s in the Meadow Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Fort Worth, the Rt. Rev. Edwin F. [Ted] Gulick Jr. will ordain Deacon Susan Slaughter to the priesthood.

She will be the first woman ordained to the priesthood in the history of the Fort Worth diocese, which was founded in 1983. The Rev. Ms. Slaughter also will be the first woman rector of a parish in the diocese. The Episcopal Church approved women’s ordination to the priesthood and episcopate in 1976 and the first women were ordained priests in January 1977.

Susan Slaughter



When Susan Slaughter was 8 years old, two friends, independently of each other, invited her to go to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Houston, TX.

“I loved the liturgy, joined the junior choir and was confirmed at age 12. I was the first in my family to attend and be confirmed in the Episcopal Church,” she said. She soon brought her parents and brothers into the church with her.
She graduated from Bellaire High School and received a Bachelor of Arts in Teaching in Speech Pathology and Audiology from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX. She married Jerry Slaughter and then went on to get a Master of Education in Guidance and Counseling from North Texas State University in Denton, TX. Susan and Jerry each had two children when they married. When Jerry died in 2007 they had been married for 28 years. Susan has seven grandchildren.
She completed seminary training at the Anglican School of Theology, Dallas, TX and is currently enrolled in the Master of Theological Studies at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, TX. For the past several years, she has served as deacon at St. Luke’s in the Meadow. Her leadership and ministry helped stabilize that parish through the rocky time prior to the departure of the former bishop and other diocesan leaders and in the transition time after their departure in November 2008 and before the diocese was reorganized in February 2009.

She began sensing a call to the ordained ministry in the 1980s when she became actively involved in lay ministry at her home parish of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Arlington, TX.

“Before initiating Stephen Ministry in my parish, I began noticing an internal struggle regarding my possible call to ordination,” she said. The Stephen Ministry trains and organizes lay people to provide one-to-one Christian care to hurting people in and around their congregations.

She talked with her rector. But no matter how supportive her rector may have been neither Bishop A. Donald Davies nor his successors Clarence Pope and Jack Iker would ordain women to the priesthood. So she developed the Stephen Ministry program, served as lay reader and server, led women’s Bible studies and taught adult Christian Education.

“Believing I was particularly suited to coordinate, train and supervise Stephen Ministry, I attempted to rationalize my not pursuing ordination. When I could no longer deny the persistent drawing, I met with Bishop Pope. In my particular diocese women were not candidates for ordination to the priesthood. Once again, I tried to push aside the sense of call,” she said.

After eleven years of taking seminary courses for her own edification and continuing her discernment process, she met with Jack Iker, the newly consecrated bishop.

“He pointed me in the direction of another diocese. Circumstances prevented me from entertaining the possibility of relocating,” she said.

When she learned women could be ordained deacons in the Fort Worth diocese, she again tried to discern the nature of her ministry. Eventually she returned to Iker believing that her call must be to the diaconate. She was ordained a deacon on Oct. 12, 2002. But over time the realization grew that her call was to the priesthood. After Bp. Gulick was elected, she visited with him and he and the Commission on Ministry agreed she was called to the priesthood.

“It is with a deep sense of awe in the mysterious ways of our Lord that I arrive at this moment. I am filled with gratitude toward those persons, lay and clergy, who have encouraged and supported me over the years. St. Luke’s in the Meadow has been especially supportive and has helped me discern more clearly my true vocation,” she said.

This day was a long time coming. Indeed, had the Rev. Ms. Slaughter lived in any other diocese, she would most likely have been ordained a priest years ago. The long awaited fulfillment of her call adds a deep sweetness to the day.

History of women’s ordination in diocese

The Diocese of Fort Worth was formed from the western part of the Diocese of Dallas, in part out of opposition to the ordination of women to the priesthood. The founding bishop, A. Donald Davies, and both his successors, Clarence C. Pope and Jack L. Iker, all left the Episcopal Church over women’s ordination. Under those bishops, women feeling called to the priesthood either had to give up their call or leave the diocese to be ordained elsewhere. At least fifteen women have done so—and all have been invited “home” for the ordination.

The diocese reorganized after Iker’s departure and elected Bishop Gulick as provisional bishop in February. Under his leadership two women priests have been licensed to serve in the diocese—the Rev. Ms. Maurine Lewis who retired to Fort Worth from the Diocese of Milwaukee in 2008 and does supply work among the displaced parishes; and the Rev. Ms. Melanie R. Barbarito, who was hired in August by All Saints Episcopal Church in Fort Worth as parochial associate for evangelism and engagement. She came to Fort Worth from the Diocese of Missouri. She is the first woman to be hired on the staff of a parish here.

But the Rev. Ms. Slaughter is the first woman from this diocese to be ordained a priest, an event that marks a historic turning point in the life of diocese and perhaps more than any other one event, signals what a new day it is in the Diocese of Fort Worth.

A second woman, Deacon ClayOla Gitane, will be ordained on Dec. 5 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Fort Worth by the Rt. Rev. Bavi Edna "Nedi" Rivera of the Diocese of Olympia. The Rev. Ms. Gitane began the process while Jack Iker was bishop. He refused to ordain women to the priesthood and so she had to leave the diocese to pursue her call. This will be the first time a female bishop has performed an episcopal act in the Diocese of Fort Worth.

Shield the joyous.

11 comments:

Marcia King said...

Why in the world do you refer to female priests as "the Rev MS?" Never seen that before, ever. It's especially interesting since it sets female priests apart in an article glorifying the ordination of women.

Furthermore, (and you know this), Bp Iker did not leave TEC over women's ordination. He left over the apostasy of the TEC.

The Rev. Marcia King

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

Mazel tov! (And Susan's son has been a visitor to All Saints Church ... what a delight to share your good news!)

Katie Sherrod said...

Marcia,
The Rev. Mr. or the Rev. Ms. or the Rev. Dr. is the grammatically correct form of the address. Just because the press and most people use it incorrectly doesn't make it right. It has nothing to do with the gender of the priest or minister.

And Iker himself has made it clear for years that it is the ordination of women that he couldn't abide. The canons say the church cannot discriminate. No bishop can be forced to ordain anyone he or she doesn't want to ordain.

Not once in Iker's episcopacy was he threatened with presentment over this issue. He liked to claim that he was, but NO ONE ever even attempted to bring charges against him for not ordaining women. Why? For the very reason I've stated above. Just as no priest can be forced to marry anyone, neither can a bishop be forced to ordain anyone.

Marcia King said...

Thanks for responding, Katie. I stand corrected. It is interesting that one does not see (even on your website) The Rev MR. Why refer to the new female priest as The Rev MS (rhetorical, no need to respond)

Regarding Bp Iker, yes, ordination is up to the bishop's discernment. He could have left years ago due the women's ordination issue, but he didn't. I don't live in Ft Worth as you do but do follow this closely. TEC was closing in on the 3 dioceses who refused to ordain women.

But, that is not the ultimate reason for the departure of Bp Iker and thousands like him. The loss of membership is because TEC has lost its way.

Katie Sherrod said...

Marcia,
Here's the story on why you haven't seen the Rev. Mr. OR the Rev. Ms. before in my writing -- it's because, while I knew it was grammatically correct, I used the Rev. Whoever because it was the style of the newspapers for which I wrote.

But a dear friend who is a English teacher pointed out that, for this historic event, we ought to be grammatically correct. I agreed with him, and so, there it is.

It was done for love of a friend.

All the mainline Protestant churches, including the Southern Baptists, are experiencing a decline in membership. This includes even conservative evangelical churches. Everyone needs to be concerned about this. I disagree with you as to the cause of TEC's loss of membership, but then, you knew that.

I don't know how "TEC was closing in on" the Diocese of Fort Worth. You must know something about that that I do not, because it was clear here that Bishop Iker could have gone on refusing to ordain women with impunity. It was a frustrating reality that those of us who disgreed with him acknowledged. He DID have the right to refuse to ordain women. None of us ever disputed that. We just hoped he would find a way to work with those of us who wanted to have the opportunity to esperience the minstry of women priests on a regular basis. He never did.

But he's not the bishop here any more. Ted Gulick is, and so things have changed. We are happy about that. I hope you can understand some of the joy we are feeling.

Marcia King said...

Hi Katie: "It was done for the love of a friend." Friendship is very important and is something on which we do agree. It helps to understand the genesis of the sudden change.

On the other hand, I suspect we will never agree on the other issues. I only comment on the progressive blogs occasionally. Was just surprised with the honorific. Now makes perfect sense. Thanks for taking the time to explain.

PS I do understand the joy y'all feel. Congratulations to Susan! Together, male and female priests working collaboratively can better represent the image of God

SCG said...

Seems some people want to rain on your parade. I, on the other hand, rejoice with you in this news!
Congratulations and blessings all around.

David said...

Katie
this is WONDERFUL news, and on the 15th we'll sit in prayer in solidarity with y'all here in Montreal.

Marcia, sorry but I have real trouble of with your simplistic, rather cavalier dismissal of the life of TEC and my own ACC.

Did you ever for a moment consider that perhaps the real story behind the dparture of Iker et al was that they were afraid?

That for too long perhaps 'faith' had been a venue of personal power, and whoa, but here was the Holy Spirit, clearly at work renewing the Church, calling us all out of our little lives, as She unfailingly does, and 'certain parties' just couldn't let go and let God- couldn't open their hearts or minds?

just a thought

thanks Katie

David@Montreal

Marcia King said...

Hi David: thanks for your thoughts. Interesting that a different POV is "simplistic and cavilier." Actually, no, it is neither.

The "renewal" you indicate that the Holy Spirit is doing is resulting in whole dioceses and thousands of individuals leaving the Episcopal Church. I do not believe that type of fruit would be the work of the Holy Spirit. This is not just a gay issue, not by any means. We should and do welcome all people. It is an issue of scriptural authority, leadership of the National Church and the abandonment of the faith delivered to the apostles.

Clearly we will never agree on this but the most recent reports released by 815 (which do not even include the recent departures) speak for themselves. As Katie indicates, we are not the only denomination losing members, however, we are losing them at a faster rate and for a defined and common reason.

EHC said...

"This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes."
Ps 118:23 NRSV

DavidJustinLynch said...

The usual form of address for Anglo-Catholic female priests is, for example, "Mother Melissa" or "Mother Skelton." "Ms.___ is for low church female priests (don't need 'em but we got 'em). Broad Church is usually "Susan" or similar, as they believe in "the priesthood of all believers". I more or less go by what the particular priest likes, except I think "Ms." is a bit too formal.