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

Vote!

Chad of Lichfield vs. Florence Li-Tim Oi

  • Florence Li-Tim Oi (84%, 3,327 Votes)
  • Chad of Lichfield (16%, 629 Votes)

Total Voters: 3,955

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

  1. As a deacon of lo, these 23 years. I honor Sister Florence with my vote. In viewing the ordination of Barbara Harris via a gift of a videotape, I too saw this noble priest. Also, anybody who would have to be lifted on a horse to keep him from walking must have bats in his belfry. I force myself to walk for health reasons as I hate, hate, hate walking. I do believe God made Chevies so I don't have to walk.....OK, GMAC did before Detroit self-destructed.

  2. Ack! I voted against a Northumbrian saint! To what depths will I go in the throes of Lent Madness!? I guess "You can't make a Lent Madness omelette without scrambling some theological preferences." Hmmm... Gotta cross stitch that one...

  3. " From the time she was born, Florence Li Tim-Oi was encouraged to believe and to live into her essential, God-given worth." Imagine what the world would be like if all children were to be treated with such love and respect - no matter what age they are.

  4. Both great stories of God using what's available to minister to the people. But Florence gets the edge, in large because of the astonishing period of history she lived through.

  5. Go Flo! Her's was a ministry of perseverance and patience that was filled with the Holy Spirit. Thanks for a great story I was not previously aware of!

  6. I voted for Chad, because he's way behind. And I'd vote for Florence if their situations were reversed. Happy to see either of them head to the next round; wonderful witnesses, both.

    I really love that photo, too....

  7. Poor Chad is not doing well in the match up. But remember Lichfield, England inspired the development of Litchfield, Conn. under the auspices of King George II from whom I have some land assigned. Of course I no longer have it since we became independent - such is the price of independence - the requirement that you share.

    1. The Episcopal Church has a different process for deciding who gets a feast day than the Roman Catholic Church does. Episcopalians believe we are all saints, by virtue of our baptism, but that some people are especially good examples of a life lived following the example of Christ.
      So every three years, at our General Convention, people can submit someone for special recognition on our calendar and Convention votes on whether this person merits churchwide recognition.

  8. Florence Li Tim-Oi, my beloved sister in Christ.

    You heard your name called.

    You dared to answer, "Here am I, Lord. Send me."

  9. Once again I go with the under....priest! The connection to Lindisfare and the double ordination turned me to Chad.

  10. How could I not vote for the saint who began homes for infant girls in China? Both of my girls were found abandoned in China, now living happy lives in the U.S. with their forever family.

  11. Poor Chad! I would vote 1000 times if I could get away with it. If only there were not the commandment "Thou shalt not steal(the election)'. How could this humble saint be faring so poorly? It's time to let some of these martyred women fight it out amongst themselves and not deliver a knock out punch some of the quieter, obedient males. The world would probably be better off with more obedient males... Despite my feminist nature Chad is the one! After all, who do you think blessed him with choirs of angels, uncreated light in the bottom of the well where he would go to pray, and a week's warning that he was to die?

    1. "It's time to let some of these martyred women fight it out among themselves and not deliver a knock out punch to some of the quieter, obedient males. "
      AMEN.
      (What were the ferrets thinking????)

  12. I had to go with Flo! I am so grateful for all the women who went before me to make my ordination to the priesthood possible.

  13. WOW!! Total Recall!! Such a pairing is amazing ... but had to vote for Tim-Oi, who I have championed since she was first added to the Calendar of Saints'!

  14. The story of Florence reminds me a little of that saying about Ginger Rogers, that she did everything that Fred Astaire did, but in high heels and backwards. So it has been for women in the church for centuries. I'm please to vote for a woman who finally got to lead, officially.

  15. I confess I did not even bother to read about the good Florence, knowing that I would probably be persuaded to vote for her. As soon as I learned that Chad demanded the right to WALK humbly with his God, I knew he was my man. I raced down to the vote button.

  16. I had to vote for Chad because I was ordained to the priesthood on his feast day--in Florida, ironically.