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Letter to Women

The Anglican Communion

Documents on our website

More will follow.
Please, draw our attention to other important classic texts!

The past

  • The First Blast of the Trumpet by John Knox, Geneva, 1558 AD (showing the common Christian prejudice against women of the time.)
  • A complete Manual of Canon Law by the Anglican theologian Oswald J. Reichel, Volume I ‘The Sacraments’, John Hodges, London 1896 -- which documents that at the time Anglicans and Catholics shared practically all legal Church restrictions imposed on women.

Ordination dates

In the United States, the General Synod of the Episcopal Church recognised in 1976 as “valid” the priestly ordination by three retired bishops of eleven deaconesses which had taken place “illicitly” in Philadelphia on 29 July 1974. That had been preceded by three ordinations in Hong Kong as far back as 1971. The General Synods of the following churches had declared themselves in principle for the ordination of women: Burma (1972), Indian Ocean (1974), New Zealand (also 1974,) Wales, Canada and England (all 1975). However, in the United States a slight majority had reached a negative decision in 1973. In England the formal decisions were taken for deacons in 1988, for priests in 1993 (for bishops still pending). On 12 February 1989 Barbara Harris was ordained as the first bishop of the Episcopalian church in America.

Archbishop Robert Runcie and the first 15 women to be ordained deacons for the Church of England.
Canterbury Cathedral, February 1988

Study and reflection leading up to the ordinations

Read: Chronology of Major Anglican Documents and actions Concerning Women in Holy Orders, 1862 - 1972.

1966 Archbishops’ Commission on ‘Women and Holy Orders Church of England, UK
1966 Progress Report to the House of Bishops from the Committee to study the Proper Place of Women in the Ministry of the Church Episcopal Church, USA
1968 Working Party, Women in Ministry: a Study
Church of England, UK
1970 Report of the Joint Commission on Ordained and Licensed Ministries Episcopal Church, USA
1972 M. Bruce & G. E. Duffield, ‘Why Not? Priesthood & the Ministry of Women’
Church of England, UK
1972 E. L. Mascall, Women Priests? Church of England, UK.
1972 The Ordinaton of Women to the Priesthood by the Advisory Council for the Church's Ministry Church of England, UK.
1975 Harold Wilson (ed.), Women Priests? Yes - Now!. Church of England, UK.
1975 Robert E. Terwilliger and Urban T. Holmes(eds.), To be a priest. Episcopal Church, USA.
1975 Michael P.Hamilton and Nancy S.Montgomery (eds), The Ordination of Women: Pro and Con. Episcopal Church, USA.
1976 Marianne H. Micks & Charles R. Price (eds.), Toward a New Theology of Ordination: Essays on the Ordination of Women. Episcopal Church, USA.
1976 E. C. Hewitt & S.R.Hiatt, ‘Women Priests, Yes or No?’ Episcopal Church, USA.
1976 C. Heyward, ‘A Priest Forever’
Carter Heyward was the first Episcopalian woman to be ordained priest in the USA
Episcopal Church, USA.
1978 Peter Moore (ed.), Man, Woman, and Priesthood. Church of England, UK.
1978 Hugh Montefiori (ed.), Yes to Women Priests. Church of England, UK.
  More to follow!!  

Roman Catholic - Anglican dialogue

  • Correspondence between Archbishops of Canterbury and the Pope on the ordination of women, in 1975-1976 and 1984 - 1986.
  • Anglican - Roman Catholic Consultation, ‘Pro and Con: On the Ordination of Women’ (in preparation), 1976.
Deacons gathered for their ordination as priests. In total 32 women were ordained on the occasion, the first women to serve the Church of England as priests.
Bristol Cathedral, 12 March 1994.

Mavis Rose, Freedom From Sanctified Sexism - Women Transforming the Church, 1996, Anglican Church, Australia.

Read these three vocation stories:

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Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

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