Friday, July 29

The Philadelphia Eleven

Today is an important date in the history of The Episcopal Church: 11 women were ordained to the Episcopal priesthood on July 29, 1974 in Philadelphia!

These ordinations, performed by retired or resigned bishops, were denounced as “irregular” and the women became known as the “Philadelphia Eleven.”

Charles V. Willie of Harvard University, who gave the sermon, favorably compared the ordinations to African Americans refusing to sit at the back of the bus. 

According to The Episcopal Church:
The 11 women who were ordained priests at the Church of the Advocate, Philadelphia, on the feast of St. Mary and St. Martha, July 29, 1974, two years before General Convention authorized the ordination of women. The women ordained were Merrill Bittner, Alla Bozarth-Campbell, Alison Cheek, Emily Hewitt, Carter Heyward, Suzanne Hiatt, Marie Moorefield, Jeanette Piccard, Betty Schiess, Katrina Swanson, and Nancy Wittig. The bishops who presided at the service were Daniel Corrigan, Robert DeWitt, and Edward Welles II. These ordinations, and the ordinations of four more women in Sept. 1975 in Washington, D.C., were widely criticized as irregular because the Episcopal Church had not yet authorized the ordination of women to the priesthood. In 1976 the House of Bishops affirmed the validity of the ordinations by requiring of the 15 women only "an act of completion" that would be "a liturgical incorporation of what was done on those two occasions" in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. All of the "Philadelphia Eleven" participated in public events of "completion" within the following year, with the exception of Marie Moorefield who left the Episcopal Church to join the United Methodist Church.

Bishops Jefferts Schori (left) and Harris

Barbara Harris, a Philadelphia native who became the first woman bishop in 1989, participated in 1974 as a laywoman and bearer of the cross.

And finally, The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori was elected in 2006 as the first female Presiding Bishop in the history of The Episcopal Church and also the first female primate in the Anglican Communion.

Let's hear it for women breaking the stained-glass ceiling! 

I have newfound respect for Episcopal Priest Barbierector of St. Barbara's-by-the-Sea in ... Malibu, Calif., of course.

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