A Modest Proposal

In Washington, D. C., Episcopal bishop William F. Creighton recently announced that until the Protestant Episcopal Church begins ordaining women to its priesthood, he will not ordain any men. Now, some columnists, less scrupulous in their journalistic principles than Eutychus, would use this incident to get into the whole question of ordaining women. We choose to focus more narrowly on the bishop himself and the good that can be drawn from his example, whether we consider his attitude right or wrong.

Because the bishop is not allowed to do something he wants to do, he refuses to do something he is appointed, hired, and paid to do. At first glance this may seem unreasonable, even unethical. Some would say that if Bishop Creighton feels ordination is wrong, then, since one of the chief functions of a bishop in the Episcopal Church is to ordain, perhaps he ought to resign his see. However, this would be rather a lot to ask of a bishop in these days of rising prices and high unemployment. It also seems a bit unfair to demand that bishops do what no one else has to do (especially since at least two Episcopal bishops of note have gotten away with not doing something that every Christian is supposed to do: proclaim the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ).

This practical lesson—that the way to protest not being allowed to do something you want to do is to refuse to do something you are supposed to do—would find ready acceptance in countless situations. For example, the policeman who is not allowed to beat up suspects could refuse to arrest them at all. The doctor not allowed to practice acupuncture could refuse to inoculate against contagious diseases. The automobile manufacturer not allowed to use non-safety glass ...

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