What an interesting question! And one I frequently was asked – along with how long has it been – during the days surrounding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s investiture and seating as presiding bishop. For me that wonderful weekend was a culmination of almost 40 years of devotion to the cause of women and their full inclusion in the life of the church.
I first woke up to sexism as a new and young(ish) member of the board of Episcopal Church Women at a provincial ECW conference, I heard firsthand of the discrimination experienced by a woman attending an Episcopal seminary and a woman executive at the National Council of Churches. That was in the late 1960s, and it led to years of effort -- writing resolutions for women’s ordination, designing political-action plans, attending the 1974 ordinations in Philadelphia, urging women to stand for election.
We’ve come a long way. Today in the Anglican Communion there are 17 female bishops – 13 of them in the United States, three in Canada and one in New Zealand. Of the 38 provinces in the Anglican Communion, an additional 11 have accepted women as bishops in principle and one other is debating it. Also, of the 38 provinces, a total of 27 have said yes to women as priests and 30 have accepted women as deacons. Just as in the United States, this does not mean every diocese in each province.
Throughout those early years, identifying lay and ordained women for diocesan and national office was critical; it remains so today. The 2006 General Convention followed the lead of the Anglican Consultative Council in calling for all decision-making bodies to move toward an equal number of women and men as members. We came close to accomplishing that last June when 43.3 percent of the members of the House of Deputies were women. Hundreds of diocesan and national commissions have yet to show such equality.
The year 2006 brought women into significant roles: Bonnie Anderson elected president of the House of Deputies and Katharine Jefferts Schori chosen as presiding bishop. I join with Barbara Harris and many others who were heard to say, “We never thought we’d see this in our lifetime!”
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