Chad of Lichfield vs. Florence Li-Tim Oi

February 26, 2013
Tim Schenck

After a bruising match-up between two heavyweights, I think everyone's ready to get back to a bit of Lent Madness "normalcy." Yesterday's match-up had emotions running high as Martin Luther King, Jr. took on Martin Luther. This was like Kentucky squaring off against Duke in the first round or Borg taking on McEnroe in a Wimbledon qualifier. It wasn't fair; it was mean; it was diabolical; it was Lent Madness.

In the end, Martin Luther King advanced in heavy voting 55% to 45% sending his namesake to the heavenly showers. We were happy to welcome many of our Lutheran brothers and sisters to Lent Madness and we encourage you to stick around! Who knows? Maybe we'll have an Oktoberfest-themed play-in round next year.

Today we have a 7th-century Celtic saint taking on the first woman ever ordained in the Anglican communion. The SEC is paying special attention to issues of voter irregularity in case supporters of "Hanging Chad" of Lichfield try any funny business. We expect heavy, if controversial, voting from Broward County, Florida.

In case you missed yesterday's edition of Monday Madness, Tim and Scott reveal some interesting news about the timing of the pope's retirement and announce a rare joint appearance coming up later this week.

St ChadChad of Lichfield

Chad (or, in Celtic spelling Ceadda), was one of four brothers who lived lives in service of the Church. Chad was a native of Northumbria, and was a pupil of St. Aidan of Lindisfarne. Chad’s eldest brother, Cedd, was Abbot of a large monastery at Lastingham. Upon his brother’s death in 664, the abbacy passed to Chad. The Venerable Bede recounts that Chad was “a holy man, modest in his ways, learned in the Scriptures, and zealous in carrying out their teaching.”

Around the time he became Abbot of Lastingham, the Bishop of Northumbria died, setting in play a strange series of events in which Chad would ultimately become intricately involved. Oswiu, the King of Northumbria, chose Wilfrid, a Northumbrian noble, to become Bishop. However, due to an outbreak of the plague in England, Wilfrid found himself unable to find the three bishops necessary to ordain him; undeterred, he sailed for France to seek ordination.

The Venerable Bede notes that during Wilfrid’s absence, the King of Northumbria became impatient with the vacancy and decided to take further action. Impressed by Chad’s holiness, the King appointed him to take Wilfrid’s place as Bishop of Northumbria. Chad encountered the same problems in tracking down bishops as Wilfrid did; ultimately, he traveled to Wessex, where he was irregularly ordained bishop by two British and one Welsh bishop – none of whom were recognized by Rome. Bede recounts that Chad diligently set himself to the work of administering his see.

By the time Wilfrid returned from France, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Theodore of Tarsus, denied the legitimacy of Chad’s appointment, and announced his intention to install Wilfrid to Chad’s see. Theodore instructed Chad to step down from his position as Bishop of Northumbria. In an act of profound humility and obedience, Chad did so without hesitation or reserve, and he returned to his abbacy at Lastingham.

Later that same year, the King of Mercia requested a Bishop. Remembering Chad’s example of humility and holiness, Archbishop Theodore recalled Chad from his retirement to Lastingham, and had him re-ordained as a bishop. Chad’s humility was most acutely seen when he refused to use a horse to travel his diocese, preferring to follow the example of the apostles by walking. Archbishop Theodore ultimately ordered Chad to use a horse for his longer travels, and Bede recounts that the Archbishop once went so far as to lift Chad into the saddle on one occasion.

Chad ran his new diocese as diligently as he had administered his former one, establishing a Monastery at Barrow. Two and a half years after his re-ordination, Chad succumbed to the plague in 672. Bede recounts that Chad was “mindful to his end of all that the Lord did.”

Collect for Chad of Lichfield
Almighty God, for the peace of the Church your servant Chad relinquished cheerfully the honors that had been thrust upon him, only to be rewarded with equal responsibility: Keep us, we pray, from thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, and ready at all times to step aside for others, that the cause of Christ may be advanced; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-- David Sibley

imagesFlorence Li Tim-Oi

Born on May 5, 1907, in Hong Kong, she was named Li Tim-Oi by her father, which means "much beloved daughter." She took the name Florence when she was baptized as a student, because she came to respect the example of Florence Nightingale so much. From the time she was born, Florence Li Tim-Oi was encouraged to believe and to live into her essential, God-given worth.

At that time, women were allowed to be ordained 'deaconesses,' and it was at one of these ordinations in 1931 that Florence first felt a call to the ordained ministry herself. She pursued a theological degree in Canton, and was ordained to the diaconate in 1941. Upon her ordination, the local bishop assigned her to a congregation all her own in Macau.

Macau was, at the time, a Portuguese colony that was filling up with Chinese refugees who were fleeing from the war in the Pacific. Florence had her hands full, but she was on it. She fed those who needed food, started a huge Sunday school for the kids, educational opportunities for the adults, and ran the congregation by herself. This was great news for the congregation, but soon presented an eccesiological conundrum for the bishop. Because of the war, no priest could get to Macau to celebrate the Eucharist.

So, after pondering this puzzle for a bit, and flying over to the US to talk this over with Reinhold Niebuhr, the local bishop, Ronald Hall, came to a conclusion, and in January, 1944, Florence became the first woman ordained to the priesthood in the Anglican Communion. She literally had to sneak through the Japanese army’s encampment to attend her own ordination.

She served as a priest in Macau until the war ended in 1946, and word got around in the Communion about what had happened. Consternation ensued. To keep the peace in Dodge/Lambeth, Florence relinquished her license to officiate, but she never, ever renounced her vows.

For the next thirty years, she lived as a Christian priest in secret, living the gospel in silent deeds. She went to help a parish near the Vietnam border, as a lay minister. She started a large maternity home trying to ensure the survival of infant girls. When the Communist takeover hit China, she was under constant suspicion by the authorities. At one point, the Red Guards made her cut up her own vestments with scissors.  She was removed from her parish and made to work on a chicken farm. She was sent to re-education camps and brainwashed.

Finally, she resumed ordained parish ministry in 1981 when she moved to Toronto. She died in 1992, but not before she saw women accepted as priests in other corners of the communion.

Collect for Florence Li Tim-Oi
Gracious God, we thank you for calling Florence Li Tim-Oi, much beloved daughter, to be the first woman to exercise the office of priest in our Communion: by the grace of your Spirit, inspire us to follow her example, serving your people with patience and happiness all our days, and witnessing in every circumstance to our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the same Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

-- Megan Castellan


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144 comments on “Chad of Lichfield vs. Florence Li-Tim Oi”

    1. Dear Maple Anglican, the Archbishops' update videos are a great addition to Lent Madness--thank you!

    1. Even though I was Confirmed by the Bishop of Lichfield (a little later than Chad's time needless to say!) I still voted for Florence
      A wonderful woman

  1. No trouble for me on this one. FloLiOi – nuthin’ but net. Amazing story of perseverance, dedication to her calling, to God and to others.

    Lord, what a warrior!

    Never knew her before. Shame on me.

  2. I do so love Celtic saints, but had to go with Flo! What an inspiring story. Now onto more important issues...I live in Broward County Florida and am highly insulted by the insinuation that there will be voting irregularities coming from my county. I see no hanging chads evident!! (Can I vote again though?)

    1. I served as deacon to a wonderful woman when she was in a nursing home and her name, by marriage was Edsall. Her daughter still lives in Nashville. Got any Nashville kin? I still miss my friend so much.

    1. This is the true diabolical match-up. Two humble servants who voluntarily stepped aside to serve God and people. The only reason I went with the modern over the historic was performing ministry under hostile civil conditions.

  3. Nothing against Chad, but my vote is for Florence Li-Tim Oi. There is space dedicated in her honor in the library of Renison University College, my alma mater and an Anglican college on the campus of the University of Waterloo. Sharing a Canadian connection with her, I stand solidly in support of the "much beloved daughter!"

  4. This was an easy one for me, Florence was amazing and gets my vote. I must admit, though, I do like Chad.

  5. I had the privilege to be pastor to Amelia Hill, another deaconess who in practice became the priest of Allakaket, AK though not so ordained officially. For thirty years she was the postmistress, nurse, teacher, catechist and general savior of the village. When I celebrated Easter there a few years ago, the village elders told me many. many stories of her saintly ministry. I vote for Florence with pure joy in honor of "The Angel of Allakaket".

    1. Thank you for sharing that wonderful story of Amelia Hill. You make me wonder how many others there might be. Florence's is an amazing story. I remember much of it from the last time she was in Lent MAdness....

    2. George, thank you for sharing a story about the unsung saints among us. What an amazing person Amelia must have been!

  6. Umm, I'm not a Welsh speaker, but I can muddle my way thru the pronunciation anyway, and 'Ceadda' and 'Cedd' come out just about the same (Keth or Kathe, with a voiced th). So is this a case of naming the sons the same in case one or both dies in infancy? I suppose life in WWII Phillipines vs plague-ridden Europe isn't too terribly different--death all over the place either way, and agod's people a light in the darkness.

  7. Ah, to hear how Flo became a priest in our church in spite of itself! Thank you for sharing this wonderful account. Interesting how she was first drawn to ministry by deaconesses - would that they have been ordained deacons instead of later being shifted in an "oh by the way . . ."

  8. This is an uneven match up . . . Fond as I am of the Celtic saints, and as much as I enjoyed my visit to Lichfield in recent years, there's no way I would vote against Li Tim Oi! I had to write a major church history paper during my own irregular preparation for ordination, and I chose to write about her. She holds a place in my heart that no Celt could ever take. Go Flo!

  9. Easy for me today. Florence Li-Tim Oi - what an amazing story and witness. What an example of living into God's call to serve in ways unexpected, unplanned, but always present to God's people.

  10. My bloodlines are Celtic on my mother's side. My theology is more Celtic that Western Catholic I think. My vote goes to Florence who suffered such misery and prejudice in the faithful performance of her ministry. I hope that my EDS sisters and brothers rush out to vote for her along with all of the Lent Madness voters.

  11. Our morning prayer group honors any Saint, whose day falls on Thursday. We recently celebrated Florence Li-Tim Oi. What a great story! My vote must go to her.

  12. Florence lived through a difficult and tumultuous period of Chinese history and was able not only to keep her faith but also to shine in her ministry. May all women look to her as an example of strength and courage to do the right thing!

  13. My grandmother was named Florence Nightingale. I so admire the work done by the first Florence that it was a forgone conclusion that Florence Li-Tim Oi would get my vote. What an example of faith and stamina for the journey Florence presents us with.

  14. "Consternation ensued." - a magnificent bit of irony that. God says "..see, I am doing something new..." and we can count on a "loyal" opposition to immediately counter with "whoa, not so fast there Creator dude!" Today's is a battle of the humbly obedient - thanks to this match-up I learned something new and inspiring. Peace to all.

    1. I also caught that magnificent irony, and I think I shall use the euphemism "consternation ensued" any time from now on when all hell breaks loose.

  15. I'm always torn between the past and the present in these match ups and usually I go with the more contemporary. Why not this time, especially when Florence Li-TimOi exemplifies living sainthood? I guess because this morning I see Chad as a moving example of learning, faith, humility--living out through his life Christ's in the world--to the point of walking to his consecration because that's what Jesus would do. His model must have inspired others to follow or at least to contemplate how they lived their own lives, and thus insured the growth and survival of not just the church but the faith and model. Where would we be without him?

    1. You verbalized what I was feeling. Both showed remarkable dedication and humility. Both stepped aside when asked but continued to be engaged--not an easy task. While I too have voted for more recent examples, I believe the timing of Chad's efforts may have provided guidance or inspiration for those who followed. So I am going with Chad, the trendsetter.

  16. Much as I admire Florence, here is another case of "it's too soon". There are many saints to choose from who have been in heaven longer than 50 years. Fifty years out gives a better filter. How about this criteria for our present time: Link eligibility to the history of color photography. If it is possible for a color photograph of the person to exist, it's too soon to put him/her up for consideration.

  17. Also notice previous posts. People have been posting that they knew her personally. Is that bias? or what?
    Yes, it is Lent Madness, but it isn't playing fair.

    1. More or less what she said! Although they broke it in this case and a few others, the SCLM's usual standard for entry into the Calendar is dead for 50 years -- and I think it a good one, and one worth keeping for LM.

    2. Florence is not the first of this year's contenders who was known personally by voters. Also, prophets don't necessarily fare better among those who actually know them. In any case, Lent Madness not about fairness or sanity. Our choices come from a three-pillared foundation of biographies, whim, and potential tscotchkes. We pretend to use our heads and logic and fairness and what have you, but in truth each vote is a warm fuzzy to someone special to to the voter. They are all of them Saints of God, all worthy and wonderful. As I've said before, everybody wins. Today, in my case, I am happy to have met both saints for the first time, and equally happy to cast a vote for Florence. Go ahead and vote your heart. It feels good.

      1. More rules? Nooooo! "The SEC decides" -- that's good enough for me!
        If LM goes the route of documenting miracles, etc, and only using "official" saints my heart will be sad, because something important will have been lost. Saints are people who help you learn something about Christ by their life or example. Being so blessed as to have met one of these inspiring people in person would only increase their effectiveness as saints of God, IMHO! : )

        1. A Catholic priest once told me, in jest, that I could be a cardinal because I have red hair. (It's really strawberry blonde - currently with the assistance of hair dye; then it was real.) Since I was then a member of the ELCA, I retorted, "But in my church I'm a saint!"

          I embrace the belief that we are both saints and sinners. So I support the "fewer rules" approach to identifying saints for inclusion in Lent Madness.

    3. Didn't Jesus say that the prophet is never recognized by his hometown? If so, what does it mean when the prophet is recognized as such by his/her contemporaries? I agree also with Peg, in that most votes end up being based on which story moves the voter more, emotionally, not intellectually. Without passion, faith is merely discipline. Voting from the heart is just as valid as voting from head.

  18. My vote goes to Florence Li Tim-Oi for her service to her people without
    thinking of her position in the church.