Forty ordained women “firsts” — first priests, first bishops, first deacons — are being honored on “Episcopal Commons,” a Facebook page dedicated to notable people, events and history that are the legacy of the Episcopal Church.
Robert Williams, canon for community relations for the Diocese of Los Angeles, is coordinating the series and the page. He is writing and posting 40 stories of women clergy, counting down the days to July 29, the 40th anniversary of the day that 11 women were “irregularly” ordained to the Episcopal priesthood at a service in Philadelphia in 1974. General Convention authorized the ordination of women to the priesthood in 1976.
Williams has already profiled two of the Philadelphia 11; Jeannette Piccard of Minnesota, a scientist and high-altitude balloonist considered the first woman in space, and community organizer and social worker Suzanne Radley Hiatt of Pennsylvania.
But the story of women’s ordination didn’t start there, and Williams has reached further back into history to write about the very first woman to be ordained in the Anglican Communion, the Rev. Li Tim-Oi, made a priest in 1944 by Bishop Ronald Hall of Hong Kong to serve Christians in Macau who were cut off from all other clergy during the Sino-Japanese War. Li suffered “re-education” and forced labor under Chinese communists and rejection from the worldwide Anglican church for decades after her service in Macau.
Williams’ series also includes Phyllis Edwards, the first woman ordained as a deacon; Pauli Murray, the first African American woman ordained an Episcopal priest; and Mary Michael Simpson, first nun to be ordained a priest. Others entries will profile Barbara Harris, the first woman bishop in the Anglican Communion; Katharine Jefferts Schori, first woman presiding bishop; and Diane Jardine Bruce and Mary D. Glasspool, first women bishops in the Diocese of Los Angeles.
To read their stories, search “Episcopal Commons” on Facebook or click here.