Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Role of Women in the Clergy of the Anglican Communion

Women's Day (March 8) is an ideal time to look at the role of women in the clergy of the Anglican Communion. While there has been significant progress women still do not have the same opportunities as men throughout the Anglican Communion.

In 2013 a report was released that stated ordained Anglican women face a stained glass ceiling. This report explained that throughout the Anglican Communion women still have a hard time getting the top jobs.

In recent years we have seen a patchwork of progress in the Anglican Communion. Although the ordination of women to all three orders of ministry (bishop, priest, deacon) is canonically possible, there are still provinces within the Anglican Communion where women are prohibited from participating in any of the three holy orders.

On the upside women bishops have been consecrated in many countries including Canada, the US, India, Ireland and most recently England. Female Bishops have also been consecrated in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Australia, South Africa and Cuba (extra-provincial diocese). Female Bishops have not been consecrated in a large number of other countries including Bangladesh, Brazil, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Sudan, and Uganda. There has been no ordination of women in Central Africa, Melanesia, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea and South East Asia. In some places like the Diocese of Sydney women are only ordained to the diaconate.

Chronological History of the Ordination of Female Priests in the Anglican Communion

The first woman ordained to the priesthood in the Anglican Communion was Florence Li Tim-Oi, who was ordained on January 25, 1944 in Hong Kong. However, to avoid controversy, she resigned her license (though not her priestly orders) after the end of the war. It was only in 1971, when the Synod of Hong Kong and Macao became the first Anglican province to officially permit the ordination of women to the priesthood. Jane Hwang and Joyce Bennett were subsequently ordained as priests.

In US 11 women (known as the "Philadelphia Eleven") were controversially ordained to the priesthood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1974. Four more women (the "Washington Four") were ordained in 1975 in Washington D.C. However, all of these ordinations were ruled "irregular" because they had been done without the authorization of the Episcopal Church's General Convention. The ordinations were regularized in 1976 following the approval by the General Convention of measures to provide for the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate. The first regular ordination occurred on January 1, 1977, when the Rev Jacqueline Means was ordained at the Episcopal Church of All Saints, Indianapolis.

In 1975, the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) passed enabling legislation for women priests; the first six women priests in the ACC were ordained on November 30, 1976. In 1977, the Anglican Church in New Zealand ordained five female priests. In 1980, the Anglican Church of Kenya agreed in principle that women could be ordained, and that each diocese was to be autonomous in taking up the issue. In 1983, the Bishop of the Diocese of Maseno South in the Anglican Church of Kenya ordained the Rev Lucia Okuthe as priest. In the same year, the Church of Uganda ordained three women as priest, the Rev Monica Sebidega, Rev Deborah Micungwa Rukara and Rev Margaret Kizanye Byekwaso. Formal legislation for the ordination of women as priests was ultimately approved in both provinces in 1990. Also in 1990, Irene Templeton and Kathleen Young were the first women to be ordained as priests in the Church of Ireland.

In 1992, the general synod of the Anglican Church of Australia approved legislation allowing dioceses to decide whether to ordain women to the priesthood. In the same year, 90 women were ordained in Australia and two others who had been ordained overseas were recognized.

Also in 1992, the Church of Southern Africa authorized the ordination of women as priests, and in September of that year the Rev Prof Nancy Charlton, the Rev Bride Dickson and the Rev Sue Groves were ordained.

The General Synod of the Church of England passed a vote to ordain women in 1992 and in1994 the first women priests were ordained. However, the legality of the ordination of women in the Church of England was challenged in civil courts.

In 1996, Rev Sonia Hinds and Rev Beverley Sealy became the first women to be ordained in the Diocese of Barbados.

The first woman ordained in the Philippines Independent Church was the Rev Rosalina Villaruel Rabaria who was ordained priest in 1997.

Chronological History of Ordination of Female Bishops

The first woman bishop in the Episcopal Church (US) was Barbara Harris, who was ordained suffragan bishop of Massachusetts in in February 1989. Approximately 20 women have since been elected to the episcopate across the church. In 2010 the Rt Rev Mary Douglas Glasspool, was elected suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles. The Episcopal Church in the United States has also elected the first woman primate (or senior bishop of a national church), the Most Rev Katharine Jefferts Schori, who was elected as Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church at the 2006 General Convention.

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia elected Rt Rev Penny Jamieson Bishop of Dunedin in 1989.

The first woman bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada was the Rt Rev Victoria Matthews who was elected suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Toronto in 1993 and was ordained to the episcopate on February 12, 1994. She later was the first woman diocesan bishop in Canada when she was elected as Bishop of Edmonton in 1997. She was subsequently elected Bishop of Christchurch in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia in 2008. Since Bishop Matthews’ election, seven more women have been elected to the episcopate in Canada. They are the Rt Rev Lady Ann Tottenham (suffragan, Toronto, 1997); the Rt Rev Sue Moxley (suffragan, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, 2004; diocesan, 2007); the Rt Rev Jane Alexander (diocesan, Edmonton, 2008); the Rt Rev Linda Nicholls (suffragan, Toronto, 2008); the Rt Revd Barbara Andrews (Bishop Suffragan to the Metropolitan with responsibilities for the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior, 2009); the Rt Rev Lydia Mamakwa (Area Bishop for Northern Ontario within the Diocese of Keewatin, with special responsibility for the predominantly aboriginal parishes of the area, 2010); and the Rt Rev Melissa Skelton (diocesan, New Westminster, 2013). 

The Episcopal Church of Cuba is the only extra-provincial church to ordain women as bishops, the first of whom was the Rt Rev Nerva Cot Aguilera who was appointed as a bishop suffragan in 2007. Bishop Aguilera was appointed by the Metropolitan Council, the ecclesiastical authority for the Episcopal Church of Cuba which in January 2010 appointed the Rt Rev Griselda Delgato Del Carpio (who, along with Bishop Aguilera, was one of the first two women priests ordained in Cuba in 1986) as bishop coadjutor (assistant bishop with the right of succession). She was ordained to the episcopate on February 7, 2010, and installed as diocesan on November 28, 2010.

The Scottish Episcopal Church provided for the ordination of women as bishops in 2003 and nominated of the Rev Canon Alison Peden as one of three nominees for election as Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway in January 2010.

In the Anglican Church of Australia the first women ordained as bishops were the Rt Rev Kay Goldsworthy (assistant bishop, Diocese of Perth) in 2008 (subsequently elected 12th bishop of the Diocese of Gippsland in the south-eastern Australian state of Victoria in 2014) and the Rt Rev Barbara Darling (assistant bishop, Anglican Diocese of Melbourne) in 2008. Three more women have since been ordained as bishops: the Rt Rev Genieve Blackwell, Regional Bishop of Wagga Wagga, in the Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn (2012), the Rt Rev Alison Taylor, Bishop of the Southern Region, Anglican Diocese of Brisbane (2013) and the Rt Rev Sarah Macneil, Bishop of the Diocese of Grafton and the first woman to be a diocesan bishop in the church (2014.)

The first women to become a bishop in the Anglican Church of South Africa was the Rt Rev Ellinah Ntombi Wamukoya who was elected Bishop of the Diocese of Swaziland in July 2012 and ordained and installed on November 10, 2012. Her appointment was closely followed by the election of the Rt Revd Margaret Vertueas Bishop of the Diocese of False Bay in October 2012. She was consecrated and installed on January 19, 2013.

On September 12, 2013, the Governing Body of the Church in Wales passed a bill to enable women to be ordained as bishops.

The first women in the episcopate from the Church of Ireland was Rt Rev Pat Storey, who was consecrated Bishop of the Diocese of Meath and Kildare in 2013.

The Rt Rev Eggoni Pushpa Lalitha was the first woman elected as a bishop in the Church of South India. She was ordained and installed as Bishop of the Diocese of Nandyal in 2013.

Although the legal obstacles preventing women from becoming bishops in the Church of England were removed between 2005 and 2008. After the General Synod failed to pass the proposed legislation for the ordination of women as bishops in 2012 the new Archbishop Justin Welby said there will be women Bishops at the head of the Anglican church.

In 2013 the House of Bishops expressed its commitment "to publishing new ways forward to enable women to become bishops." Legislation allowing women to become Bishops passed all three houses of General Synod and in July 2014 the Church of England announced that it would allow female Bishops.

In December 2014, it was announced that the first woman bishop in the Church of England will be the Revd Libby Lane. She was consecrated as the 8th Bishop of Stockport at a ceremony at York Minster on Monday 26 January 2015.

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