Tag Archive | Ordination of women

Remembering my Ordination

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As I prepare to retire from active ministry, no longer physically able to serve a congregation, I am reminded that ordination is for life.  I will find ways to continue to honor these vows I took on November 4, 2007.

Act of Ordination                                                                     led by Dan Mansergh

Dan Mansergh: In the Unitarian Universalist tradition of religious freedom, the authority and privilege of ordaining ministers rests solely with the people of the congregation. Ordination is recognition of a unique commitment to leadership in a religious community.

Theresa Jane Novak, you have been a member and a lay leader of this congregation.  It is here that you discovered Unitarian Universalism and first felt the call to ministry.  We proudly recognize your call and your preparation for Unitarian Universalist ministry.  You have earned your Master of Divinity Degree from Starr King School for the Ministry, served a year as the intern minister in the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis in Maryland, and received the recommendation of the Ministerial Fellowship Committee.  By the authority of the vote of the members of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Marin, we are pleased to offer you ordination.

Are you ready to accept ordination to the Unitarian Universalist ministry?

Theresa Novak:  Yes, I am.

Dan Mansergh:  Theresa, in the sacred work of ministry, do you pledge to lead and to serve our faith fully; to speak, act and live as a voice of courage and of hope; to champion justice, freedom, and compassion?

Theresa Novak: Yes, I do.

Dan Mansergh: Theresa, in your ministry, do you pledge to preach, teach, and live the principles of our faith; to honor those of all ages and of all sorts and conditions; to serve in your ministry freely, among all those who are in need?

Theresa Novak: Yes, I do

Dan Mansergh:  Will the members of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Marin please rise?

Members of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Marin:  We, the members of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Marin do hereby ordain you, Theresa Jane Novak, to the Unitarian Universalist ministry.

We charge you to minister faithfully and courageously. May you always lead in the ways of justice, liberty and compassion; minister to all alike in human joy and sorrow; celebrate and share our liberal faith; and nourish the Spirit of Life within yourself and others.

Theresa Novak:  With deep humility, I accept ordination to the Unitarian Universalist ministry.  I pledge that I shall always endeavor to speak, to write and to live guided by the principles of our faith, with love, with courage, and in hope, for as long as I shall live.


Dan Mansergh:  Will Theresa’s family, friends and colleagues, please stand and join in the affirmation of this act of ordination.


All:  Theresa, we have each walked with you and shared with you on your life’s journey that has led you to professional ministry.  We rejoice with you on this occasion, and offer you our continuing friendship and support.  With pride and love, we offer you our blessings on your ministry.

Dan Mansergh:  Will the representatives of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden please come forward.

Bill Hackett and Dan Arnow:  Theresa, you have been ministering to us and to our church since September.  It is a pleasure and an honor to be here with you for this sacred ceremony. We are grateful for those in this room and elsewhere who have helped you become the minister you are.

Theresa Novak: It is with gratitude, joy, and serious commitment that I accept ordination and I promise to dedicate myself to living the ministry which you have entrusted to me.  With my mind, body, soul, and most of all with my heart, and sustained by all that is holy and all that is human, I pledge to fulfill the offices of priest, pastor, prophet and teacher, according to the needs of our tradition, and to commit myself to the ministry to which you have ordained me.

All: Theresa, with this act of ordination we send you forth as a minister.  May your ministry be one filled with love, faith, and the joy of worthwhile work.  May you make a difference in the lives of those you serve, and may you help to heal some of our hurting world.  Blessings on you and upon your ministry.

Below are some pictures from that day.






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Ordination of Women and LGBT Acceptance

A few days ago, I posted about the LDS church and their continued opposition to the ordination of women as well as their persistence in naming  same gender relationships as sinful.  (Click here to read that post.)  I commented that I thought the two issues were related.

I do know that my own faith tradition of Unitarian Universalism has been in the forefront of the struggle for full inclusion of both women and LGBT people.  The first  woman in the US to be ordained by a national denomination was Olympia Brown, who was ordained by the Universalist Church of America on June 25, 1863.  Antoinette Louisa Brown Blackwell was earlier on Sept. 15, 1853 by a local congregational church.  She later became a Unitarian and preached frequently in Unitarian churches.  In terms of of LGBT issues, as early as 1970, shortly after Stonewall, our General Assembly called for an end to discrimination based upon sexual orientation.  Currently, roughly half of our ordained clergy are female and we have many ministers serving our congregations who are openly LGBT.  I am one of them.

Many different denominations will now ordain women but relatively few will ordain openly gay ministers, particularly if they are in a marriage or relationship.   What is striking is that there is no religious tradition that is at all supportive of same gender relationships that does not also ordain women.  (I started to research various other world religions, but gave up as the information of GLBT acceptance was much harder to find.  Someone else may wish to do so.  I suspect the same dynamic would be there.)

The major examples of Christian denominations that ordain non-celebate LGBT people are the United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA), and the Episcopal Church.  All ordain women.

Most of the other mainline Christian denominations are still dealing with the issue.  The Methodists, Presbyterians, American Baptists, and the Disciples Of Christ (all of whom ordain women) have not reached a consensus on the issues of GLBT ordination but they are not actively engaged in trying to stop GLBT progress in the area of civil rights including civil marriage.

Who are the major Christian denominations that are actively opposing full civil rights for GLBT people?

The Southern Baptist Convention

The Missouri Synod Lutherans

The Catholic Church

The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints.

None of them ordain women.

I suspect it is mainly about patriarchy.  Stable loving same gender relationship challenge the patriarchal ideal of men always needing to be in the leadership role both in the family and in the church.   Male privilege and power is threatened both by women who demand significant roles in religious life and by marriages that are based upon equality.  Women should no longer be silent in church.  Paul would never have written that infamous line anyway if there were not already a lot of sisters making their opinions known in the churches of that time.

Jesus spent a lot of his ministry with women and he never said anything to indicate that same gender relationships were sinful.

The struggle of women and of GLBT people for full inclusion in society and in religious institutions are clearly linked.  If women are not equal participants in a faith community, then GLBT people have not been accepted there either.   So there is a good reason for LGBT people to be cheering on those working for the ordination of women in male dominated faiths.  Not that we wouldn’t be doing so anyway.  It is both a justice issue and a spiritual one.