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Women's Ordination continues to spread within the Anglican Communion

Women's Ordination continues to spread within the Anglican Communion
From Florence Li Tim-Oi to Maria Grace Tazu Sasamori

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
April 28, 2022

The Anglican Communion in Japan (Nippon Sei Ko Kai) consecrated its first woman bishop over the weekend. Maria Grace Tazu Sasamori was made the Bishop of Hokkaido on Saturday (April 23) in a ceremony held at the Christ Church Cathedral in Sapporo. The event was presided over by Archbishop Luke Kenichi Muto, the primate of the Japanese Anglican Church.


Historically, the first woman to be ordained an Anglican priest was supposedly done out of wartime necessity to meet the sacramental needs of Anglicans in occupied Hong Kong following the Japanese invasion of China.

Florence Li Tim-Oi, a deaconess since 1941, was ordained priest on January 25, 1944, by Church of England Bishop Ronald Hall (VII Victoria in Hong Kong) in Shaoqing, China. This was to respond to the growing spiritual crisis among Anglicans in China, including Hong Kong, that was caused by the Japanese invasion and occupation.

Early in the war, the CofE missionary bishop gave the deaconess "permission" to celebrate the Eucharist without priestly ordination, considering the extenuating circumstances brought about by World War II which isolated Anglicans and prevented them from receiving Holy Communion.

"I have given her (Florence Li Tim-Oi) permission to celebrate the Lord's Supper. If I could reach her physically, I should ordain her priest rather than give her permission," Bishop Hall explained to the Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple. "I'm not an advocate for the ordination of women. I am, however, determined that no prejudices should prevent the congregations committed to my care having the sacraments of the Church."

"God had brought me through many dangers to this place (the church in Shaoqing) it strengthened my belief that it was His will that I become a priest," Florence Li said of her priestly ordination. "Here was I, a simple girl wishing to devote my life to his service. The wider issues of the ordination of women were far from my mind as I entered the little church."

The Archbishop of Canterbury wasn't so sure about the unorthodox ordination. He apparently "confided to others his conflicting views but he felt compelled to take a public stand against it."

Following the war, Florence Li relinquished her faculties as a priest, but would not renounce her priesthood.

From 1944 to 1971, Florence Li Tim-Oi was the only woman priest in all of Anglicanism. However, that all changed in 1971 when Bishop Gilbert Baker (II Hong Kong and Macao) ordained two women as priests -- Jane Hwang and Joyce Bennett -- with the approval of the Anglican Consultative Council. At that time Florence Li's unorthodox priesthood was also regularized and recognized as valid, giving her permanent priestly status.

It was during the very first meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Limuru, Kenya, the gathering passed Resolution 28 focusing on the pressing question of authorizing women's ordination throughout the Anglican Communion.

"Many of the Churches of the Anglican Communion regard the question of ordination of women to the priesthood as an urgent matter," the Resolution prefaces. 'We therefore call on all Churches of the Anglican Communion to give their consideration to this
subject and to express their views in time for consideration by the Anglican Consultative Council in 1973."

That first Consultative Council was made up of a bishop, a priest, a layman and a non-participating woman observer from each Anglican province.

The Council also specifically tackled a request by Southeast Asia Province to ordain priestesses.

It was not until 1998 that Hong Kong (Sheng Kung Hui) became the 38th stand-alone Anglican province.

"In reply to the request of the Council of the Church of Southeast Asia, this Council advises the Bishop of Hong Kong (Gilbert Baker) acting with the approval of his Synod, and any other bishop of the Anglican Communion acting with the approval of his Province, that, if he decides to ordain women to the priesthood, his action will be acceptable to this Council," the Resolution states. "And that this Council will use its good offices to encourage all Provinces of the Anglican Communion to continue in communion with these dioceses."

The Resolution squeaked by with a vote of
24 to 22, opening the floodgates to women priests, eventually bishopettes, and even female primates in the Anglican Communion.

On the strength of ACC Resolution 28, Hong Kong Bishop Baker ordained two women to the Sacred Order of the Priesthood on Nov. 28,1971.

However, before the 1973 Anglican Consultative Council was to meet in Dublin, Ireland, the various provincial metropolitans and primates were to consult with other denominational leaders in their areas on the matter of the ordination of women within their own particular religious tradition and to report to the General Secretary of the Anglican Communion about their findings.


By 1971, only three mainline denominations -- the Presbyterians, the Lutherans, and the Methodists -- had actively ordained female deaconesses, preachers and pastors:
(1812) Society of Primitive Methodists;
(1853) Wesleyan Methodist Church;
(1863) Methodist Protestant Church;
(1889) Cumberland Presbyterian Church;
(1911) Free Methodist Church;
(1948) the Church of Denmark;
(1951) the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession;
(1956) Presbyterian Church USA -- PCUSA;
(1956) Methodist Church in America;
(1960) Church of Sweden;
(1961) Church of Norway;
(1965) Presbyterian Church in the U.S. -- PCUS;
(1967) Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church;
(1967) Bible Methodist Church;
(1968) United Methodist Church;
(1967) Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church;
(1969) Methodist Church in Australia;
(1970) Lutheran Church of America.

Other pre1971 non-mainline denominations ordaining or accepting women as preachers, teachers, circuit riders or clergy include:
(1656) The Quakers;
(1758) Moravian Church;
(1815) Free Will Baptist;
(1819) African Methodist Episcopal Church;
(1854) Congregational Church;
(1863) Universalist Church;
(1865) The Salvation Army;
(1882) National Baptist Convention USA;
(1889) United Brethren Church;
(1908) Church of the Nazarene;
(1918) Pillar of Fire Church;
(1924) Mount Sinai Holy Church of America;
(1927) Assemblies of God;
(1927) Congregational Church in Australia;
(1929) Old Catholic Mariavite Church in Poland;
(1935) Catholic Mariavite Church;
(1936) United Church of Canada;
(1941) Jehovah's Witnesses;
(1958) Church of the Brethren; and
(1961) Progressive National Baptist Convention.

Also, during the pre-1971 era the Protestant Episcopal Church created the Order of Deaconess to "minister to the sick, the afflicted and the poor" but excluded them from performing priestly liturgical acts, in particular celebrating the Service of Holy Communion.

In 1855, deaconesses were first created by an Act of General Convention. Then in 1970, the Deaconess Canon was abolished and deaconesses became full-fledged deacons, opening their way to ordination to the priesthood and eventually, less than 20 years later, to the bishopric

From 1971 forward, women's ordination became a social justice movement. Today, more than half of all American Protestant denominations officially ordain women for church ministry.


Twice, the question of ordaining women to the Episcopal priesthood came up in the General Convention. First in 1970, in Houston, Texas, then again in 1973 in Louisville, Kentucky. Both times the proposal was shot down by Convention, even though the Woman's Triennial meeting was solidly behind the initiative and urged General Convention to pass it.

In 1970, the resolution which would "affirm that women are eligible to seek and accept ordering to the diaconate and the priesthood and to be ordained and consecrated to the episcopate" passed in the lay order but failed in the clerical order so another resolution was offered seeking that The Episcopal Church bring the women's ordination question "to the widest Anglican and ecumenical discussion and debate during the next triennium, including the Anglican Consultative Council."

In addition, it was suggested that The Episcopal Church also consult with the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox over women's ordination. But this resolution also failed, and the question of women's ordination was dead until General Convention met again in 1973 to take up the question for a second time.

Three years later, when Convention moved to Louisville, Kentucky the question of women's ordination was again on the docket.

"Though the majority of deputies voted for ordination, the high number of divided diocesan votes meant that neither order managed the 57 votes required to pass the amendment, and once again the ordination of women was postponed," the House of Deputies historical record reflects.

Again, the proposal to sound out the wider Anglican Communion about the woman's ordination issue was scotched but the suggestion to feel out other denominations was carried. However, General Convention's formal approval for the ordination of Episcopal women into the priesthood would have to wait for another time. The 1976 General Convention was scheduled to take place in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


On a summer day in 1974, the Philadelphia Eleven and three retired bishops -- Daniel Corrigan (Colorado-suffragan), Robert DeWitt (XII Pennsylvania), and Edward R. Welles (IV West Missouri) -- defied conventional wisdom to wait for The Episcopal Church's legislative process to work in their favor.

The three bishops ordained the 11 women as irregular priests in The Episcopal Church. The event took place at the George W. South Memorial Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania breaking the creaky dam which was holding back women's ordination.

An emergency meeting of the House of Bishops was called to deal with the unexpected ordinations. The HoB ultimately determined that the ordinations were "irregular" rather than "invalid", meaning that "protocol" was violated but there were no "theological grounds" for declaring the ordinations null and void.

The House of Bishops then urged its membership not to ordain more women to the priesthood "unless and until such activities have been approved by the General Convention."

That plea fell on deaf ears. A little over one year later, in September 1975, the Washington Four made news when they were ordained priests by retired Bishop George Barrett (IV Rochester), thus giving the Episcopal Church 15 irregular women priests even before the 1976 General Convention could revisit the question.

Presiding Bishop John Allin was not happy. He spoke out against Washington Four ordinations, declaring that Bishop Barrett had "defied canon law."

A year after the Washington Four were ordained, General Convention met in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Convention had a crisis on its hands: there were 15 irregularly ordained female priests, and something had to be done to fIx the problem.

First, the House of Bishops voted 95 to 61 to "change or eliminate ambiguous places in canon law that seemed to prevent the ordination of women to the priesthood, and to clarify matters by creating a canon to affirm the ordination of women as priests and bishops."

But General Convention is a dual house legislative body, so the House of Deputies also had to tackle the problem. When it was over and done, the House of Deputies affirmed the Bishops' action to make women's ordination a permanent part of The Episcopal Church. The clerical order voted 60 in favor, 39 opposed, with 15 delegations divided, while the laity voted 64 in favor, 36 opposed, with 13 delegations divided.

After the third try in General Convention, women's ordination to the priesthood and episcopacy was approved, taking effect on January 1, 1977. The 15 irregularly ordained women priests were regularized, and the floodgates were fully opened. The trickle would become a flood.

The first canonically ordained female priest was Jacqueline Means on January 1, 1977, at All Saints Episcopal Church in Indianapolis by Bishop Donald Davis (VI Erie). Bishop John Craine (VIII Indianapolis), a supporter of women's ordination, was supposed to do the honors but unexpectedly fell ill and was hospitalized.

Since that first canonical ordination of a woman to the Episcopal priesthood in 1977 until 2020, when COVID struck, 37% of the Episcopal priesthood was feminine.

While in England, the first female priests were ordained in 1994. Twenty years later (2014), a total of 32% of the priests in the Church of England were women.


1944: Florence Li Tim-Oi ordained first Anglican woman priest (Hong Kong);
1971: Two women priests ordained (Hong Kong);
1974: The Philadelphia Eleven (The Episcopal Church);
1975: The Washington Four (The Episcopal Church);
1976: Six women priests ordained (Canada);
1977: First woman canonically ordained priest (The Episcopal Church);
1977: First US Episcopal nun ordained woman priest (The Order St. Helena);
1977: Five women priests ordained (New Zealand);
1983: First woman priest ordained (Kenya);
1983: Three women priests ordained (Uganda);
1984: First woman priest ordained (Northern India);
1985: First woman priest ordained (Brazil);
1987: Three women priests ordained (Cuba);
1990: First woman priest ordained (Ireland);
1992: Ninety women priests ordained (Australia);
1992: Three women priests ordained (Province of Southern Africa);
1994: Thirty-two women priests ordained (Church of England);
1994: First Church of England nun ordained woman priest (Community of the Exodus People);
1994: First woman priest ordained (Scotland);
1996: Two women priests ordained (Province of the West Indies);
1996: First woman priest ordained in Rome at St. Paul's-within-the-Walls (The Episcopal Church in Europe);
1997: First woman priest ordained (Wales);
1997: First woman priest ordained (The Philippines);
1998: First woman priest ordained (Japan);
2000: First women priests ordained (Sudan & South Sudan);
2004: First woman priest ordained (Tanzania);
2005: First woman priest ordained (Bolivia);
2006: First woman priest ordained (Province of the Indian Ocean);
2006: First woman priest ordained (Ceylon);
2007: First woman priest ordained (Mexico);
2009: ACNA created with ordained women priests (Anglican Church of North America);
2010: First woman priest ordained (Bermuda);
2010: First woman priest ordained in final remaining Episcopal diocese committed not to ordain women (TEC Diocese of Quincy);
2011: First woman priest ordained (Jerusalem & the Middle East);
2012: First woman priest ordained (Nicaragua);
2012: First woman priest ordained (Venezuela);
2013: First woman priest ordained (South India);
2015: Three women priests ordained (Province of South America);
2015: Three women priests ordained (Uruguay);
2020: Three women priests ordained (Mozambique).
2020: First woman priest ordained (Ghana);
Date unknown: First woman priest ordained (The Congo);
Date unknown: First woman priest ordained (Rwanda);
Date Unknown: First woman priest ordained (Korea);
Date Unknown: First woman priest ordained (the Falkland Islands);
Date Unknown: First woman priest ordained (Portugal);
Date Unknown: First woman priest ordained (Spain);
Date Unknown: First woman priest ordained (Bangladesh); and
Date Unknown: First woman priest ordained (Burundi).


On February 11, 1989, Barbara Harris (Massachusetts-suffragan) became the first female bishop in the Anglican Communion.

Since that time there have been 45 other women elected as female Episcopal bishops; thirty-one were elected as the bishops ordinary of the diocese, the remaining 14 were elected as bishops suffragan. One of their number, Katherine Jefferts Schori (IX Nevada) broke the stained-glass ceiling to become the first female primate in the Anglican Communion. Due to health issues, the current Bishop-elect of Chicago has yet to be consecrated.

Also: In 2018, Griselda Delgado del Carpio (VIII Cuba) joined the Episcopal House of Bishops when the Extra-provincial Diocese of Cuba rejoined The Episcopal Church to become an Episcopal foreign diocese.


1989: Barbara Harris, Suffragan of Massachusetts (The Episcopal Church);
1989: Penny Jamison, Bishop of Dunedin (Anglican Church in New Zealand);
1993: Victoria Matthews, Suffragan of Toronto (Anglican Church of Canada);
2007: Nerva Aguilera, Suffragan of Cuba (Extra-provincial Diocese of Cuba);
2008: Kay Goldsworth, Assistant of Perth (Anglican Church in Australia);
2012: Ellinah Wamukoya, Bishop of Swaziland (Anglican Church in the Province of Southern Africa);
2013: Pat Storey, Bishop of Meath & Kildare (Church of Ireland);
2013: Pushpa Lilith, Bishop of Nandyal (Church of South India);
2013: Anne Dyer, Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney (Scottish Episcopal Church);
2015: Libby Lane, Bishop of Stockport (Church of England);
2016: Joanna Penberthy, Bishop of St. David's (Church in Wales);
2016: Elizabeth Ngor, Suffragan of Rumbek (Episcopal Church of South Sudan/GAFCON);
2018: Marinez Bassotto, Bishop of the Amazon (Episcopal Church in Brazil);
2021: Emily Onyango, Suffragan of Bondo (Anglican Church of Kenya/GAFCON); and
2022: Maria Grace Tazu Sasamori, Bishop of Hokkaido (Anglican Church in Japan).

WORLDWIDE: 117 Anglican female bishops
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH: 46 Women bishops;
CHURCH OF ENGLAND: 28 Women bishops;
CANADA: 13 Women bishops;
AUSTRALIA: 11 Women bishops;
NEW ZEALAND: 4 Women bishops;
WALES: 4 Women bishops;
SOUTHERN AFRICA: 2 Women bishops;
KENYA (GAFCON): 2 Women bishops;
BRAZIL: 1 Woman bishop;
CUBA: 1 Woman bishop;
IRELAND: 1 Woman bishop;
SCOTLAND: 1 Woman bishop;
SOUTH INDIA: 1 Woman bishop;
SOUTH SUDAN (GAFCON): 1 Woman bishop;
JAPAN: 1 Woman bishop.

Two women bishops have broken the stained-glass ceiling and become the primate for their individual Provinces including: Katherine Jefferts Schori, The Episcopal Church (2006-2015); and Linda Nicholls, Anglican Church of Canada, (2019--present).

There are also three sitting female Anglican archbishops: Kay Goldsworthy (Archbishop of Perth, Australia since 2017);
Melissa Skelton (Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of British Columbia and Yukon, Canada since 2018); and
Anne Germond (Diocese of Algoma, Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario, Canada 2018--present).


There are still Anglican four provinces -- Melanesia, Pompeii New Guinea, Southeast Asia, and Central Africa -- which do not allow any ordination of women be it deacon, priest or bishop. Two other conservative provinces, Nigeria and Pakistan (which do ordain women) will not allow the ordination of women priests nor bishops but have female deacons. Also, the Province of Myanmar agrees to women's ordination in theory, but not in practice.

Some Anglican jurisdictions have female deacons and priests but find having a woman bishop is a step too far. These jurisdictions include Burundi, Hong Kong, the Indian Ocean, Jerusalem & the Middle East (Alexandria), the Congo, Korea, Rwanda, South America, West Africa, the West Indies, and the Anglican Church in North America.

Other provinces have canons in place for women bishops, but it hasn't been done yet. These provinces include Bangladesh, Central America, North India, the Philippines, the Sudan, and Tanzania.

Uganda (GAFCON) has announced it is ready to consider consecrating a female bishop since the canons are in place to allow it to happen.

"The time is ripe, these females have served well everywhere, they have been deployed," Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba Mugalu said on Easter. "Personally, I am impressed by them. They can certainly make good bishops if it's the will of God."

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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