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Movement for the Ordination of Women (MOW)

Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the decision that women could become priests in the Church of England, and her own ordination to the priesthood at that  time, Jan spoke very eloquently and movingly of her journey following her realisation that God was calling her to serve in that way.


The  question “can women be priests”  had been posed many times, notably by Dame Christian Howard in 1972, but it was to take 20 years before enabling legislation was passed by the General Synod by the two/thirds majority required.

In 1972, Dame Christian Howard emphasized that ordaining women is a church matter, not just a women's issue, but  despite debates in 1975 and 1978, the Church of England initially rejected women priests, following which the Movement for the Ordination of Women (MOW) was established in 1979. By 1986, women could be ordained as deacons, and by 1992, the General Synod voted by the required two-thirds majority in favour of women priests, leading to the disbandment of MOW in 1994.

Women and the Church (WATCH) was then founded in 1996 to further gender justice. It wasn't until 2014 that the General Synod allowed women bishops, and in 2015, Libby Lane became the first female Bishop of Stockport.

Jan acknowledged that these decisions had upset a number of people, which she very much regretted; she was also sorry that, despite the passing of the legislation, there remain those who refuse to accept the authority of a woman priest, in some cases citing  Paul’s first letter to Timothy. There are also some countries where the legislation is still not accepted.

Thanking  Jan for an excellent and thought provoking talk (as well as for providing the wine and cake!), Mary Lumley expressed her amazement that before 1992, despite being able to work  in almost any professional and scientific role, they could not be ordained as priests, but noted that since then, despite some continuing frustrations considerable progress has been made. It remains to be seen when the Church of England will have its first female Archbishop!

Mike Hay


York Rotary News

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