So is she a priest or not?

As I have mentioned many times in GetReligion posts, the Baltimore Sun is the newspaper that lands in my front yard every morning (I get the Washington Post at work) and, as you would expect, the former copy desk man in me has learned a few things about my local newspaper.

The Sun is a liberal paper on many issues and, certainly, on all issues that have anything to do with religion. Suffice it to say that the churches of liberal Protestantism can do no wrong and the Catholic Church is praised whenever it acts like, well, the Episcopal Church.

Trust me when I say this: The last thing that Sun folks would want to do is mishandle a style issue in a manner that would, in any way, slight a female Episcopal priest. Heck the Sun editors wouldn’t want to do anything to slight female Roman Catholic priests and they don’t exist.

So what are we to make of the top of this recent police-and-crime story?

She’s known simply as Pastor Alice, and the last time she saw Keith Ray Jr. alive was in early September 2007. He was lying in a gutter on a Remington Street, struggling with a Baltimore officer who was trying to put handcuffs on his wrists.

Ray kept screaming at the officer, calling him a “punk.” His friend, 22-year-old John Mooney, pleaded with Ray to shut his mouth: “Just be quiet, be calm, be calm.”

The pastor was walking home with groceries, and she paused at the scene unfolding before her eyes. Another day on another street in Baltimore, where the struggles of a neighborhood, its people and its police officers collide in a gutter in front of an Episcopal priest.

A few days later, Ray’s decomposing body was found off Wyman Park Drive, hidden under a pile of logs and brush, a bullet wound to the back of his head. And soon, the victim’s best friend, who had talked him through his arrest days earlier, was charged with killing him.

They had argued over $1,000 that Mooney said Ray had stolen. …

Alice M. Jellema, the vicar of the Church of the Guardian Angel on Huntingdon Avenue in Remington, knew both Ray and Mooney. She saw them regularly on the streets, and she knew Ray’s four children, one of whom she had gotten into a summer camp and a homework club.

Now, I have no doubt that Jellema is, in fact, known as “Pastor Alice” to members of her flock. However, in journalism terms, the word “pastor” is not a formal title in the Episcopal Church — as opposed to the way that Lutherans use “pastor” as a formal title.

But ordained women in the Episcopal Church face a problem. Obviously, they cannot be called “father.” So what should they be called?

I have noticed, in recent years, that fewer newspapers are referring to Catholic and Orthodox priests as “father,” using the term as a title. Two decades ago, when I was on the beat in Denver, I know that the problem of what to call ordained women became entangled with this issue. In other words, if there is no similar title for women, then the “father” title should vanish for men. So there.

So what saith the gods of Associated Press style?

This is what struck me about this Sun story. Note the formal reference to this priest, as opposed to the “Pastor Alice” nod in the lede. Here is that reference again:

Alice M. Jellema, the vicar of the Church of the Guardian Angel on Huntingdon Avenue in Remington, knew both Ray and Mooney.

Simply stated, this is a mistake. That should say, “The Rev. Alice M. Jellema.” She is a priest. She should have the same formal title as a male who has been ordained into this oldline Protestant body. Right?

So, hey, Sun editors. If she is a priest, you need to run a correction.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Jon in the Nati

    This is an interesting question, and (in my experience) varies widely throughout the ECUSA according to a few different factors.

    “The Rev. Alice M. Jellema” would be the full title. The corresponding title for a female priest (“priestess” is technically incorrect and officially discouraged) would be ‘Mother X’; however, this makes a lot of people uncomfortable for several reasons. I know priests, both male and female, who go by a first name only, or as “Priest [First Name]“, “Pastor [First Name]“, or “Reverend [First Name]“.

    There is also the churchmanship (churchpersonship?) question. Low church or evangelical Anglicans prefer terms like pastor or minister rather than priest, and thus shy away from using Father or Mother at all. High-church or Anglo-Catholic Anglicans (whose clerical ranks, it should be noted, are dominated by men) have an understanding of the priesthood similar to the Catholic one, and as such would be far more likely to use Father.

    You are of course correct, TMatt, that whether or not one wishes to think of her as a “priest”, she is still an ordained minister and as such is entitled to be styled “the Reverend”, just as any minister in any church would.

  • Deacon Michael D. Harmon

    The gods of AP style say, “father: Use the Rev. in first reference before the names of Episcopal, Orthodox and Roman Catholic priests. Use Father before a name only in direct quotations.”

    So the article does not conform to style. Not that such things are unknown in journalistic practice. My own paper has more than 100 exceptions to AP style, and even where it applies, no reporter or editor knows the stylebook by heart anymore. I don’t think there’s anything planned about this example, just a reporter using a familiar term and not knowing or looking up the right one.

    Or, she could have said she wanted to be called pastor, and the reported obliged her. I don’t see anything here about “father” being intentionally eschewed, but it is implicit in the AP rule…. almost certainly for the reasons tmatt cites.

  • Dave

    I became acquainted with a clutch of Lutheran seminarians and young clergy, male and female, at an annual interfaith conference at a Unitarian Universalist retreat center. One of the young women told me that, as soon as she appeared among her fellow Lutheran ministers back home, they started calling each other “Father Bob,” “Father John,” etc. So thereafter I called her “Father Heidi,” even after she quit the clergy and went into carpentry.

  • Bern

    AP rules aside–and this was an obvious dereliction–just for the sake of coherence the reporter should have said The Rev. Alice etc. I thought for a second it was some other Alice being referred to!

  • Judi Sato

    I am going to be an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church (referred to as TEC now not ECUSA) in January (God willing). I actually have no problem being called Father Judi. To me it’s a title I have earned. Everyone else though says they have a problem w/ calling me Father Judi. The other female clergy in my diocese do not want me to be called Mother Judi. I don’t have a problem with that title because I was a full time mother before hearing the call to ordination. I think the church can use those skills right now as we try to keep the children from fighting with each other. I will probable end up being called Rev. Judi or just Judi. I do not like Pastor Judi.

  • Jerry

    Now, I have no doubt that Jellema is, in fact, known as “Pastor Alice” to members of her flock. However, in journalism terms, the word “pastor” is not a formal title in the Episcopal Church

    I have no doubt that by the rules of journalism you’re correct. But, to me, using a title that is used by members of her flock is no sin, or if a sin, a very minor one. So this section of the story is fine She’s known simply as Pastor Alice. Later on I do agree that “the pastor…” is not correct and another, more accurate title should have been used.

  • Jon in the Nati

    I actually have no problem being called Father Judi. To me it’s a title I have earned. Everyone else though says they have a problem w/ calling me Father Judi. The other female clergy in my diocese do not want me to be called Mother Judi.

    Interesting. I have never called a female priest/minister “Father X,” but I sort of like it.

    At the risk of straying from journalism, I am reminded that, in some militaries and law-enforcement services where women are commissioned officers, they are referred to as “Sir” and not as “Ma’am” by their subordinates. I am unsure if this is the case in the United States military, but am told it is somewhat common in European and former British Empire militaries.

  • http://home.sandiego.edu/~baber H. E. Baber

    I was around when women were first ordained in TEC. What to call them, along with how they’d look in dog collars, was a big issue. I thought “Mother” would have been the best option. Pre-Vatican II, nuns in some orders were called “Mother.” In some black churches I think also women elders are called “Mother.” Seemed natural to me. “Father” would have been fine too.

    But it was primarily the women who were first ordained that nixed these titles. In those days, in the early ’70s, there were objections to hierarchy and to “Father” as a title. The line many women took was that the ordination of women wasn’t or at least shouldn’t be a matter of just plugging women into the same roles men had occupied: the roles and the structure had to change; “Father” had to go.

    Of course this was impossible. In the US virtually every male Episcopal priest is called “Father.” The only time any are called “Mr” is when they’re being pretentious Anglophiles. You can’t change these entrenched linguistic habits.

    So now there’s a persisting asymmetry that will likely never go away. Male priests are called “Father” and no one really knows what to call priests who are women.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    H.E. Baber: “So now there’s a persisting asymmetry that will likely never go away. Male priests are called “Father” and no one really knows what to call priests who are women.”

    How about priestess?

    I know one former TEc priestess, incidentally named Alice too, Alice Linsley, who rejected Women’s Ordination and left The Episcopal Church.

    Read her post: Telling My Story: A Priestess Comes to Repentance.

  • http://bendingthetwigs.blogspot.com Crimson Wife

    My mom’s family is Episcopalian. All the female priests I’ve ever met through them have been called “Rev. Firstname”: Rev. Diana, Rev. Lisa, Rev. Carol, etc. “Mother” sounds like a Catholic nun’s title. “Father” is a gender-specific title and to my ears sounds odd when paired with a female name.

    For Jon in #7- the U.S. military uses “ma’am” when referring to a female superior.

  • James

    “I actually have no problem being called Father Judi.”

    Are you serious? You are a WOMAN.

    I can’t take any more of this. Come, Lord Jesus!

  • http://home.sandiego.edu/~baber H. E. Baber

    “Come Lord Jesus indeed.” It’s comments like this, and remarks about “priestesses” that come so close to being a reducio of Christianity that I have to grit my teeth to keep from jumping overboard.

  • http://college-ethics.blogspot.com Alice C. Linsley

    Here is my essay on Why Women Were Never Priests:
    http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2009/04/why-women-were-never-priests.html

    It is related to this essay on Ideologies Opposed to Holy Tradition:

    http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2009/01/ideologies-opposed-to-holy-tradition.html

    I also recommend C.S. Lewis’ fine essay on Women Priests. It is here:

    http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2009/01/cs-lewis-on-women-priests.html

  • James

    H.E.,
    It seems you think women priests are a good idea? Okay. I didn’t say anything about ‘priestesses’. I simply asked God to come save us who are now drowning in a sea of our own stupidity. Women cannot be Fathers. Men cannot be Mothers. Period. Speaking of reductios, I can’t think of anything more absurd, quite frankly, that a woman asking people to call her Father.

    Or am I misinterpreting your comment?

  • http://home.sandiego.edu/~baber H. E. Baber

    So it’s silly, like a boy named ‘Sue.” Big deal. Maybe there’s something silly about calling women ‘bachelors,’ ‘masters’ and ‘doctors’ of arts rather than ‘spinsters,’ ‘mistresses’ and ‘doctresses.’ Who the heck cares?

    I think this discussion is getting off track so I’ll leave it here. The bottom line for me is that if Christianity says that gender is theologically significant or in some way deep, if it says that it’s something other than a trivial matter, a worldly constraint from which we should be liberated, then Christianity is not for me.

  • Julia

    The gods of AP style say, “father: Use the Rev. in first reference before the names of Episcopal, Orthodox and Roman Catholic priests.

    What is the rule for Catholic priests who are not “Roman”?

  • James

    “The bottom line for me is that if Christianity says that gender is theologically significant or in some way deep, if it says that it’s something other than a trivial matter, a worldly constraint from which we should be liberated, then Christianity is not for me.”

    Indeed. Though Christianity is for all, it appears that at this point in your life, you are not for Christianity.

  • http://college-ethics.blogspot.com Alice C. Linsley

    Gender distinction is significant in EVERY world religion. The binary distinction of male-female is fundamental to every known expression of religion. That’s an anthropological fact. Now, as to what this means… that is the significant question!

  • James

    Dear in Christ Alice,
    I wanted to let you know I posted a comment over at you blog post on the historical roots if the priesthood. I’d be very interested to hear your response. In the meantime, keep up the good work!
    James

  • James

    Also from your other post: “The two bloods were never to mix. That’s why women didn’t participate in war, hunting and ritual sacrifices. That’s why men were not permitted in the birthing hut.”

    Insofar as the Orthodox Christian temple is a place of Sacrifice, but also a (re)birthing hut, I suppose the Temple was also a type of this birthing hut; could this be why David, a warrior, was banned from building the Temple? Was God already beginning to limit what types of male-associated blood could enter his House?

  • Jon in the Nati

    Boy, I kinda have a feeling a lot of this will be spiked…

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    #17, James,

    I’d have to agree with your assessment.

    Is Scripture over us and our Authority? Or are we the authority over Scripture? Do we submit to the Living Word and His Written Word? Or do we have the Word submit to us?

    The palatability of a Teaching from Scripture does not determine its veracity.

    If God declares something that we don’t like, that doesn’t make it untrue. Or that we can declare it untrue or to say something like, ““The bottom line for me is that if Christianity says that gender is theologically significant or in some way deep, if it says that it’s something other than a trivial matter, a worldly constraint from which we should be liberated, then Christianity is not for me.”

    P.S. If you want me to provide verses showing that gender is theologically significant, I could easily do so. Instead, I suggest that all go and read the posts that Alice Linsley kindly provided.

  • http://college-ethics.blogspot.com Alice C. Linsley

    Excellent observation, James!

    From thousands of years ago the blood work of men and that of women spoke of the distinction between life and death and the meaning that comes from the supplementarity of the opposite of male and female. God used this to teach archaic man to observe the distinction between life and death. God still wants us to keep that distinction clear in our minds. These days the distinction is blurred and people are confused. Simply consider how easily people accept abortion and euthanasia.

  • Dave

    could this be why David, a warrior, was banned from building the Temple? Was God already beginning to limit what types of male-associated blood could enter his House?

    David was banned because of his sin with Bathsheba and against Uriah.

  • Passing By

    My understanding has always been that the correct title is “The Reverend Mr/Dr/Fr./Canon Firstname Lastname”. For an ordained woman, I’d add “Miss/Mrs./Ms. to the options, as she prefers. In matters of address, I go with what the person prefers. It’s NEVER “Rev. Firstname (or) Lastname”.

    FWIW, when I was Episcopalian in the low church (not Anglophile) Diocese of Texas in the 70s, “Mr.” was a common form of address. The man who instructed and presented me was “Fr. Mack” Morris, but my next rector was “Mr. Sumner” (Charles, not Tom). Moving to the Diocese of Dallas, I found “Fr.” to be the more common address, variations being “Fr. Firstname” or “Fr. Lastname”. Women clergy were just coming into the diocese, and the few (a couple) I encountered preferred the first name without title.

    Which is to say that actual usage is all over the place, and “Pastor Alice”, while outside the norm, certainly makes sense. Sorry if AP style doesn’t work with that.
    :-)

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Alice Linsley hit the nail on the head when mentioning that gender distinction is significant in every world religion. Many others claim that without such distinction you get cultural and religious anarchy which often degenerates into moral anarchy. Which seems to be the road that what used to be called Western Christendom is careening down. And sadly it seems to be the classic Reformation churches leading the way while the Catholic and Orthodox Churches get excoriated-especially in the media– for not joining the destructive new ways.

  • james

    David was banned because of his sin with Bathsheba and against Uriah.

    Um, what about this:

    But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build an house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight.

  • http://aconservativesiteforpeace.info The young fogey

    As a religion journo myself:

    I agree that ‘The Rev.’ should have gone before her full name. I don’t see a slight in ‘the pastor’ especially in context (it already said she’s called Pastor Alice).

    Outside of work:

    Never got used to Episcopal priests who are not Anglo-Catholics using ‘Father’.

  • steve

    When did this “The Rev.” stuff ever get started?

    The old rule was to write, “Rev. John Doe,” which was to be pronounced, “The Reverend John Doe.”

    By the way, “Reverend” is an adjective, not a noun, so “The Reverend Doe” is wrong. If you wish to omit the forename, then it should be “The Reverend Mr. Doe.”

    Or at least that’s the way I learned it.

  • http://www.biblebeltblogger.com Frank Lockwood

    “The Reverend” is an honorific, just like calling a judge “the Honorable.” And in practical terms, it conveys very little in the way of useful information to readers.

  • http://college-ethics.blogspot.com Alice C. Linsley

    I’ve known a good number of irreverent reverends!

    In fact, some of the most disrepectful to Holy Things are clergy. Just goes to show that they know not the One who they profess.

  • Dave

    By gum, james, you’re right. I’m forced to conclude that my dear late Methodist maiden aunt spun the Bathsheeba story for me sixty years ago. :-(

  • d.burns

    You would think titles for clergy of established churches would be easy. The Houston Chronicle this past week ran an obit on the passing of my parish priest at St. Joseph’s Orthodox Church and titled him the Rev. Friar Matthew MacKay. Fr. Matthew was an Archpriest in the Antiochian Orthodox Church. The church’s’ web site (http://www.saintjosephorthodox.org/) listed him as The Very Rev. Fr. Matthew MacKay.

    Friar’s do not exist in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, they’re a type of Roman Catholic monk. I would think that some very basic research could have corrected the problem before publication.

    btw… the obit has been somewhat corrected on the papers web site http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7129217.html however they only list him as the Rev. Matthew MacKay.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    James: “H.E.,
    It seems you think women priests are a good idea? Okay. I didn’t say anything about ‘priestesses’.”

    I was the one who brought up the term priestess as a sincere reply to H.E. Faber’s comment: “Male priests are called “Father” and no one really knows what to call priests who are women.”

    With regards to the idea of “women priests” the Catholic Church does not affirm this proposal. See this recent article titled Vatican labels the ordination of women a ‘grave crime’ to be dealt with in the same way as sex abuse.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    Ooops. “Faber” is a typo in the comment above. It should be “Baber.”

  • http://college-ethics.blogspot.com Alice C. Linsley

    One of the discoveries of Linguistics is that words are signs for ontological realities. Father and mother are words for male progenitor and female progenitor. Spiritual fathers may be priests, monks, deacons, ascetics, those with whom we share confidences and even relatives. Spiritual mothers may be nuns, abbesses, ascetics, women with whom we share confidences, and close friends and relatives. The only office that “mother” doesn’t apply to is priest, suggesting that the priesthood is ontologically male.

    When I was an Episcopal priest the only time I was called “father” was when people were joking. I served an African American congregation that called me “Mother Alice”. I had asked to be called by my given name, but the people there considered that disrespectful.

  • Jimmy Mac

    The Times this Friday referred to an Episcopal priest as Mr. Johnson.

  • Juli

    This whole story (not the original story; your commentary) has me confused. The first line of the story says that “known simply as Pastor Alice” – what is wrong with calling her that in the story? I know male Episcopal priests who eschew the title “Father,” and presumably their wishes would be respecting in a story spotlighting them personally. Style books provide handy guidance for when you’re not sure how to refer to someone, but they don’t take precedence over accuracy in a news story.

    I’ve known female Episcopal priests who were called Mother [First Name] and others who preferred to be addressed just by their first name … obviously a news story would add a title (the Rev?) or use the last name without a title (NY Times style now generally – for clergy, too?).

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    JULI:

    OK, I am back from vacation.

    There is nothing wrong with calling her “Pastor,” except that this is not a title in the Episcopal Church — a formal title.

    I am noting that the Sun story simply FORGOT to give her the formal title of a priest — The Rev. etc.

    Very, very few people in this comment thread, once again, are commenting about the actual journalistic issue that I raised.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    So is she a priest or not?

    No.

    She’s a priestess.

  • http://college-ethics.blogspot.com Alice C. Linsley

    Regardless of the title, a female is not a priest in the true Church. This innovation of the Episcopal Church is without support in Scripture, in Holy Tradition, and in catholic order, but TEC, which ordains according to its own rules, doesn’t care. It is a lawless denomination in the spirit of the times.

  • http://aconservativesiteforpeace.info The young fogey

    That’s not the point of this discussion. Again the only mistake the writer made was minor. I’m a perfectionist at my newspaper job but even I wouldn’t lose much sleep over it. He forgot to write ‘the Rev.’ in front of her full name.

  • Jon in the Nati

    Regardless of the title, a female is not a priest in the true Church. This innovation of the Episcopal Church is without support in Scripture, in Holy Tradition, and in catholic order, but TEC, which ordains according to its own rules, doesn’t care. It is a lawless denomination in the spirit of the times.

    Three words:

    JOUR NA LISM

  • http://college-ethics.blogspot.com Alice C. Linsley

    Jon, I believe you are “journalist” who wrote:

    “The death penalty, as a matter of morality, is a reprehensible and indefensible practice. As a practical matter, it is unworkable; “beyond a reasonable doubt” doesn’t work for me. Too many people on death row (that is, people who are guilty “beyond reasonable doubt”) have been exonerated in various ways. As a purely practical matter, we need to either raise the standard of proof in death penalty cases, or stop executing people. I don’t care either way, but we have to do something, because it is almost a mathematical certainty that some innocent person has been put to death… and that is unacceptable.”

    Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/crunchycon/2009/09/texas-in-justice-rides-again.html#ixzz0va8EDE00

    Your opinion is the popular one and gets lots of media coverage. My opinion is constantly dis-credited, though I speak from experience. Were you ever on death row?

  • James

    BTW Dave,

    I think you are also right lol. David shed much blood. In war, but also in murdering Uriah. I wouldn’t discount that that had anything to do with it.

  • Jon in the Nati

    Alice, I am not sure what you’re getting at. I was suggesting that the discussion as to whether women can *actually* be priests (a matter on which, I should note, I agree with you) is well beyond the scope of the journalistic issues we are here to discuss. That’s all.

    If you want to discuss my views on the death penalty (views I expressed almost a year ago, on a blog I do not read anymore), I suppose we can do that, although I doubt either of us would gain much from doing so.


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