Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Hoosier Episcopalians, the Coming of Women's Ordination, and the 1979 Book of Common Prayer

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Hoosier Episcopalians, the Coming of Women's Ordination, and the 1979 Book of Common Prayer

Article excerpt

Indiana, rightly or wrongly, is not known for being at the forefront of cultural changes. Its conservative reputation has such a firm basis in reality that historian James H. Madison reported with confidence that the Hoosier State faces changes in an evolutionary not a revolutionary manner.1 Yet, thirty years ago, it was Hoosier Episcopalians who made possible two major ecclesiological reformations in the Anglican Communion: by legally ordaining the first female priests and by helping construct a new prayer book and hymnal. The driving force behind these changes was John P. Graine, bishop of the diocese of Indianapolis.

Though not born a Hoosier, Graine became one by virtue of his installation as a priest in Indianapolis, and then by his consecration as bishop of the diocese of Indianapolis. In 1951, Eli Lilly, heir to the pharmaceutical company that bore his name, brought Graine to Christ Church from a parish in Seattle. Graine was a young rector with a family, perfect for "the little church on the Circle" that Lilly loved. The older man had fought to bring him to the church, over the objections of half the congregation. Lilly saw in Graine a stronger leader than the local candidate. Craine's relationship to Lilly was a special one, "they held each other in great esteem and friendship."2 In December 1956, Craine was named bishop coadjutor of the diocese. In the opinion of Lilly this election insured that the next leader of the diocese would be a good man.'1 In February 1959, Lilly seconded Craine's nomination as bishop with the comment "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, especially if it's a Craine!" Craine's tenure as leader of the diocese would be marked by more growth and new challenges, all stemming from the foundation laid by his predecessor, Richard Kirchhoffer's twenty-year episcopate. Craine's vision for what had been called a "missionary district" when he first arrived in Indianapolis was broad in its scope. He was the undisputed leader of the diocese, became a respected member of the House of Bishops, and is still recalled as "gracious and kind," "a great leader," and "a giant."4

Craine's reputation was forged in the turmoil that gripped his denomination during the 1960s and 1970s. The challenges of women's ordination and a revised liturgy based upon a new prayer book and hymnal, because of the possible ecclesiological reorientation inherent to both, many thought jeopardized the very soul of the Communion.5 It was with these forces that Craine would have to contend during the final decade of his life.

By 1969, many Episcopalians believed that their church no longer stood for anything. The old idea of being conservative towards God and liberal towards men was breaking down. For not a few Episcopalians, it was about to get worse, as the issues of women's ordination and prayer book revision entered the debate.6 Women's ordination can only be understood within the context of prayer book revision, and both only through the lens of the social and cultural rift that was engulfing the denomination. No one in the Episcopal Church was taken by surprise by these debates. Since the emergence of the civil rights movement, the denomination had suffered from tensions between laity, clergy, and the denominational bureaucracy. But the ordination of women was to be more disruptive to it than the civil rights movement. Women had a long history of being involved in social activism within the denomination. But in the 1960s, women started to desire more than participation, they wanted equality before God and man. They wanted to be leaders of the church that they had so faithfully served. They wanted to become priests and they organized to achieve that goal.7

The struggle started gradually, and came simultaneously from the grassroots and from the top down. In the late 1940s and early 1950s it was the laity of the Episcopal Church, not the presiding bishops, who had a problem with women being seated as deputies at General Conventions. …

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