40 years since first Anglican women priests ordained in NZ

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia is preparing to celebrate 40 years since women priests were first ordained here.

When it ordained five women on 3 December 1977, New Zealand was the fourth province of the Anglican Church to ordain women priests.

The first woman ordained an Anglican priest was Li Tim Oi, ordained extra-canonically in 1944 in Hong Kong.

32 years later, in 1974, 11 women were ordained (defying canon law) in the Episcopal Church USA.

Canada gained its first women priests in 1976, the Church of North India in 1984, and Brazil in 1985.

The remainder of the 16 provinces which have now ordained women did not do so until the 1990s or later.

In 1990, former Bishop of Dunedin Penny Jamieson became the first female diocesan bishop in the Anglican Communion.

In 1989 Bishop Barbara Harris had become the first female Anglican bishop in history, on her appointment as a Suffragan Bishop in the Diocese of Massachusetts.

To help parishes and ministry units celebrate the anniversary, Archdeacon of Auckland Carole Hughes has worked with a three-Tikanga group of advisers to prepare a commemorative liturgy of the Eucharist for use on 3 December.

The Reverend Jean Brookes was one of those ordained in 1977.

She thinks it is good to use milestones such as this year’s anniversary to recognise all women who have ministered in this Church.

“There are stories that we need occasions like this to retell – to prevent them being lost,” she said. “There is an enormous variety and richness in the ministries women have exercised.

“For example, we cannot forget the remarkable ministry of many women who chose to remain as deaconesses, who were in ordained ministry already and valued the continuity of that special ministry, even as others moved into the priesthood.”

Brookes has also been impressed at how many women in these islands have taken up ministry as priests.


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News category: New Zealand.

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