Readings for Florence Li Tim-Oi for the January 24
“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
Paul spoke from the heart of God in his proclamation that “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” But this message seems to be difficult for us to receive. Such is the case with regard to the full utilization of women to do the work God has given them to do. Today we look at Florence Li Tim-Oi as reported in our “Great Cloud of Witnesses for January 24 (GCW)
“Named by her father “much beloved daughter,” Li Tim-Oi was born in Hong Kong in 1907. When she was baptized as a student, she chose the name of Florence in honor of Florence Nightingale. Florence studied at Union Theological College in Guangzhou (Canton). In 1938, upon graduation, she served in a lay capacity, first in Kowloon and then in nearby Macao.” In May 1941 Florence was ordained deaconess. Some months later, Hong Kong fell to Japanese invaders, and priests could not travel to Macao to celebrate the Eucharist. Despite this setback, Florence continued her ministry. Her work came to the attention of Bishop Ronald Hall of Hong Kong, who decided that “God’s work would reap better results if she had the proper title” of priest. On January 25, 1944, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Bishop Hall ordained her priest, the first woman so ordained in the Anglican Communion. When World War II came to an end, Florence Li Tim-Oi’s ordination was the subject of much controversy. She made the personal decision not to exercise her priesthood until it was acknowledged by the wider Anglican Communion. Undeterred, she continued to minister with great faithfulness, and in 1947 was appointed rector of St. Barnabas Church in Hepu where, on Bishop Hall’s instructions, she was still to be called priest.” (GCW)
I’m going to stop here but there is much more to the Florence Li Tim-Oi story that you should read about. What I want to shout about is the fact that the Right Reverend Ronald Hall heard God and saw beyond male and female. He saw Christian communities who were going without Holy Communion. They needed a priest. Florence was educated and dedicated and present. Bishop Hall did what was right in the sight of God if not humanity. With God it seems it is always the “what” before the “who.” Too often we want to raise up who was sent without acknowledging the vision of those who followed God’s dream. We did the same thing in acknowledging Absalom Jones with way too little regard for Bishop White who ordained Jones, the first African American priest. Both Bishops Hall and White were English descendents. We tend not to acknowledge that important fact. But more important than that is their following what the Spirit of God was telling them. Li Tim-Oi went through more suffering before finally ending up in Canada. Her story is a great story.
Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through the saints of God and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do. John