An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Ordination of Women

In 1976 the General Convention approved the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate in the Episcopal Church and stated that such ordinations might begin on Jan. 1, 1977. Similar resolutions had been narrowly defeated at the 1970 and 1973 General Conventions. A 1967 General Convention resolution had opened the diaconate to women and recognized that women currently serving as deaconesses were members of the diaconate. On July 29, 1974, three bishops, claiming that “obedience to the Spirit” justified their action, ordained eleven women deacons to the priesthood. The ensuing controversy surrounding these irregular ordinations highlighted divisions evident in the church over this issue. After the 1976 vote, most dioceses accepted the ordination of women, and ordinations of women proceeded at a rapid rate. The 1997 General Convention revised the canons to prevent any diocese from denying access to the ordination process, or refusing to license a member of the clergy to officiate, solely on the grounds of gender. See Philadelphia Eleven, The.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.