Philadelphia 11 Ordinations Marked With Calls for Justice

by | Jul 28, 2014

[Episcopal News Service – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] A joyous celebration of the 40th anniversary of women’s priestly ordination on July 26 here included calls for people to realize that the dream of a more egalitarian and less patriarchal Episcopal Church – and society – that was embodied by the Philadelphia 11′s ordinations requires much more work.

“I wonder why we cannot speed up the work of gender justice and aligned oppressions in the days and years ahead,” Fredrica Thompsett Harris, Mary Wolfe Professor Emerita of Historical Theology at Episcopal Divinity School, asked during her keynote address to a symposium that kicked off a day meant to celebrate the July 29, 1974, ordinations of 11 women deacons at Church of the Advocate here. “This would be one way to honor our courageous sisters and those who stood with them.”

The Rev. Merrill Bittner, the Rev. Alison Cheek, the Rev. Alla Bozarth, the Rev. Emily C. Hewitt, the Rev. Carter Heyward, the Rev. Suzanne R. Hiatt, the Rev. Marie Moorefield, the Rev. Jeanette Piccard, the Rev. Betty Bone Schiess, the Rev. Katrina Welles Swanson and the Rev. Nancy Hatch Wittig were ordained on that day in 1974, slightly more than two years before the General Convention of the Episcopal Church gave its explicit permission for women to become priests. Read more…

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PHOTO: Among those who attended the July 26 celebration in Philadelphia were some history-makers. They included, left to right, the Rev. Alison Cheek (Philadelphia 11), retired Bishop of Costa Rica Antonio Ramos (who joined in the laying on of hands at the Philadelphia 11 ordinations), the Rev. Carter Heyward (Philadelphia 11), Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori (whose election in 2006 made her the first women primate in the Anglican Communion), the Rev. Merrill Bittner (Philadelphia 11), the Rev. Betty Powell (one of the Washington Four who were ordained in September 1975), the Rev. Marie Moorefield Fleischer (Philadelphia 11), the Rev. Nancy Wittig (Philadelphia 11) and retired Massachusetts Bishop Suffragan Barbara Harris (who is this year celebrating the 25th anniversary of her consecration as the first woman bishop in the Anglican Communion). Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service