The 25th anniversary of the first ordination of a woman Church of England (C of E) priest has been celebrated at Lambeth Palace.

More than 80 women priests – including Rev Prebendary Angela Berners-Wilson, the first ever woman (C of E) priest – were invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury to his official residence.

Most Rev Justin Welby said: “Many of those here today have been pioneers as they work out what it means to be an ordained woman in the Church of England – not just for themselves and their communities, but for the whole of the Body of Christ. 

“Today, let us bear witness to those who paved the way in 1994, as well as upholding those whose way into ministry has been opened up since.”

Campaigners who demanded the right of women to pursue ordination also attended, as did five Church of England bishops.

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Rev Berners-Wilson was ordained to the priesthood in Bristol Cathedral on 12th March 1994.

She said: “For 25 years, it has been the greatest privilege to finally be able to live out my calling, after a 15-year probationary period first as a Deaconess then as a Deacon.

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“Today has been a day to celebrate all the women priests who have been enabled to grow into the fullness of who God has called them to be as bearers of Christ’s good news for the world.” 

Bishop Barry Rogerson, who presided over Rev Berners-Wilson’s ordination service, said: “Over the last twenty five years, I have observed and received the ministry of women in parishes, but also in chaplaincies; hospitals and hospices, schools, universities and prisons and know what an innovative and positive contribution women priests have made.

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“Perhaps today we might give a thought for all those women, worldwide whose vocations to the priesthood have still been neither recognised nor tested.” 

In 2014, the Church of England formally approved legislation which allowed women bishops, a move opposed by conservative evangelicals who argue such a move is incompatible with Christian doctrine.

Date published: 10/03/2019
Written by: Alex Williams
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