Dr. Willie Explains His Resignation

Episcopal News Service. August 25, 1976 [76286]

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Dr. Charles V. Willie -- who resigned as vice-president of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church's General Convention in the wake of the furor over the ordination of women -- has chosen the eve of the Convention's next meeting to explain that he stepped down because "I could no longer enforce procedures which I knew were evil and sinful."

The Harvard educator and prominent Episcopal leader was the preacher at the July 29, 1974, occasion in Philadelphia at which 11 women deacons participated in a disputed ordination service. In the controversy that followed that service, Dr. Willie had appealed to the bishops of the Church to call a special session of the General Convention. He claims in his recent letter that he was rebuffed in this effort and that it was this that led him to resign his office.

In his 17-page statement -- dated on the second anniversary of the Philadelphia service -- Dr. Willie said of his role as an officer of the Church: "An officer is a servant of the people who attends to their collective life on the basis of common rules and regulations developed by and for the community or association. Either I had to enforce sexist laws, or get the church to change them, or resign as Vice-President of the House of Deputies.

"I could not act like Pilate and do what I knew was wrong. I could not segregate, alienate and discriminate against women because it was legal to do this, and claim to be acting in love. When that which is legal and that which is loving are in contention with each other, legality must give way to love. If the Episcopal Church would not change its sexist ways, I had to resign as an officer of the church for I could no longer enforce procedures which I knew were evil and sinful."

The General Convention will meet in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn., September 11-23, at which time resolutions to open the priesthood and episcopacy to women are expected to be considered.