Archive for the ‘Ordination of Women’ Tag

Feast of John Hines (July 19)   1 comment

Above:  The Flag of The Episcopal Church

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor



Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and Witness for Civil Rights


Justice is the corporate face of love.

John Hines, 1981


John Elbridge Hines will probably receive his pledge on The Episcopal Church’s calendar eventually.  The appendix to A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016) lists him as one of those

people worthy of commemoration who do not qualify under the “reasonable passage of time” guideline.

–Page A3

That makes sense as a denominational policy.  Nevertheless, more than a reasonable amount of time has passed for inclusion on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.

John Elbridge Hines was a prophet, in the highest sense of that word.  He, born in Seneca, South Carolina, on October 10, 1910, graduated from The University of the South then from Virginia Theological Seminary.  Our saint, ordained during the Great Depression, served in the Diocese of Missouri for a few years, during which he imbibed deeply of Social Christianity.  He also married Helen Orwig (1910-1996).  The couple had five children.  As the Rector of St. Paul’s Church, Augusta, Georgia, from 1937 to 1941, Hines was an outspoken critic of racial segregation.  Our saint’s final parish (from 1941 to 1945) was Christ Church, Houston, Texas.

Hines was a bishop most of his life.  From 1945 to 1955 he was the Bishop Coadjutor of Texas; then he was the Bishop of Texas for another nine years.  In Texas Hines helped to found the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the West, in Austin, in 1953.  He also integrated schools.  Then, in 1965, at the age of 54 years, Hines became the Presiding Bishop of the denomination.

Change was in the air, and much of that change was morally correct yet no less jarring and offensive to many.  Civil rights for African Americans were difficult for many white Americans to accept, for racism ran deeply.  Likewise, feminism was challenging patriarchy, which also ran deeply.  The Episcopal Church, long known as “the Republican Party at prayer,” was engaging the winds of change.  Many of the leaders were liberal–pro-civil rights, pro-equal rights for women.  Elements of the church resisted these changes, however.  Hines, with his social conscience fully engaged with regard to race, gender, and economics, had to contend with much strong opposition within The Episcopal Church.  He built on the legacies of his two immediate predecessors–Henry Knox Sherrill (1947-1958) and Arthur Carl Lichtenberger (1958-1964).

Much of what was revolutionary in 1965-1974 became mainstream subsequently.  The new Presiding Bishop marched at Selma, Alabama, in 1965; that was a controversial decision.  In 1971 Hines led a campaign to divest from South Africa, a proposition that aroused much opposition in much of U.S. Right Wing as late as the early 1990s.  In the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan, who told Archbishop Desmond Tutu that the dark-skinned majority of South Africa would have to wait for their rights, Reagan opposed divestment.  Yet, according to Tutu, divestment was crucial to ending Apartheid.  Hines also favored expanding roles for women in the church–including as lectors, as delegates to the General Convention, and as deacons, priests, and bishops.  He retired in 1974, just as the dispute over the ordination of women as priests became more of an issue.  Also, there were no female bishops in The Episcopal Church or the wider Anglican Communion until 1989.  for a few years after that the election and consecration of a female bishop was a major story in the ecclesiastical press.  As of 2018, however, it has become routine.  Hines also presided over the early stages of liturgical revision, early steps toward The Book of Common Prayer (1979), a volume objectionable to many conservatives at the time, as now.  Some of them found all or much of this change so offensive that they committed schism from The Episcopal Church.  Then many of them committed schism from each other, hence the confusing organizational mess that is Continuing Anglicanism in the United States.  Many of the allegedly theologically pure were apparently purer than others of their number.  Donatism ran amok and became cannibalistic.  (I, an ecclesiastical geek, have a long attention span and a tendency to pay attention to minor details, but even I find divisions in Continuing Anglicanism confusing.  Most of the divisions are over minor theological points, actually.  Collegiality, one of the great traditions of Anglicanism, is in short supply.)

Hines, invoking hindsight, was honest about the lofty goals and mixed legacy of the General Convention Special Program (GCSP), created in 1967.  The GCSP awarded grants, with the purpose of fostering racial justice, economic justice, and self-determination.  One of the conditions for a grant was not to advocate for violence.  The initial lack (in 1967-1970) of veto power by the local bishop was an especially controversial point.  In 1970 the establishment of that veto power, with a mechanism for overriding it, meant that no grants led to embarrassing headlines, as during the first three years of the program.  The GCSP, cut back in 1973, did not survive the 1970s.  After 1973, however, funding for work among Hispanics and Native Americans increased.  Nevertheless, the damage from 1967-1970 was done.  Many people had left The Episcopal Church in protest, and many parishes and some dioceses had, for a few years, withheld funding from the national church.

Hines, who understood that the institutional quest for justice was important than complacent, oblivious tranquility and internal reconciliation, retired three years early, in 1974.  He and Helen moved to North Carolina before relocating to Texas in 1993.  She, aged 85 years, died on May 17, 1996.  Our saint, aged 86 years, died in Austin on July 19, 1997.

The legacy of John Elbridge Hines should remind us of the moral necessity of applying Christian principles to pressing social issues, of creating justice, and of recognizing our individual, collective, and institutional complicity in injustice.  His legacy should also remind us that strong opposition to confronting injustice exists even within the church, and that doing the right thing will often come at a high cost.  We must still do the right thing, though.  The legacy of Bishop Hines should teach us these lessons.  Whether it does is up to us.









Almighty God, we praise you for your servant John Elbridge Hines,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60


Feast of Lydia Emilie Gruchy (April 9)   Leave a comment

Above:  Lydia Emilie Gruchy and the Ministers who Ordained Her, 1936

Image in the Public Domain



First Female Minister in the United Church of Canada

In 1936 Lydia Emilie Gruchy became the first woman ordained as a minister in the United Church of Canada.

Gruchy’s journey toward that recognized vocation started at Asnieres, France, where she debuted on September 5, 1894.  Our saint was the eighth of ten children.  Gruchy lost her mother to death when she was eight years old.  From then until 1913 our saint moved from one side of the Atlantic Ocean to the other in the company of various members of her immediate family.  She and two brothers (Arthur and Victor) were in Saskatchewan together before she and her sisters attended a boarding school in Seaford, England, starting in 1905.  Our saint took a business course in London and worked as a civil servant for a year before she and sisters Florence, Hilda, and Elsie moved to Saskatchewan in 1913.  There Gruchy completed high school, worked as a housekeeper for a year, and trained to become a teacher.  From 1915 to 1923 she taught recent immigrants in one-room schools.  Along the way Gruchy earned her B.A. degree (University of Saskatchewan, 1920), received the Governor-General’s Gold Medal for academic excellence and leadership (1920), and studied theology at Presbyterian College (later St. Andrew’s College), Saskatoon (1920-1923).

Meanwhile, World War I affected Gruchy.  Brothers Arthur and Bert died in the war.  Another brother, Stanley, suffered injuries.

Our saint perceived a vocation to become an ordained minister.  In 1923 she applied to become a Presbyterian minister; the synod turned her down.  For more than a decade Gruchy worked as a lay missionary.  From 1923 to 1927 she served as a missionary to the Doukhobors at Veregin, Saskatchewan.  Meanwhile, in 1926, the Kamsack Presbytery and the Saskatchewan Conference of the new United Church of Canda (created via a merger the previous year) petitioned the denomination to ordain her.  The question of ordaining women was a matter of official study from 1927 to 1931, however.  As the United Church studied Grouchy worked as a lay missionary in Wakaw, Saskatchewan.  Our saint took a sabbatical to Long Beach, California, in 1931-1932; she visited relatives there.  Then she served as a lay missionary to Kelvington, Saskatchewan, from 1932 to 1936.

The United Church of Canada was finally ready to ordain women in 1936.  So, on November 4, 1936, at St. Andrew’s United Church, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Grouchy became a reverend.  At first she assisted the senior minister at St. Andrew’s Church, Moose Jaw (1936-1938).  From 1938 to 1943 she was the secretary for the Committee on the Deaconess Order and Women Workers, Toronto.  Then our saint served as pastor at Simpson (1948-1952), Cupar (1952-1957), and Neville-Vanguard (1957-1962), all in Saskatchewan.  She also received her Doctor of Divinity degree from St. Andrew’s College, Saskatoon, in 1953.

Gruchy retired in 1962.  She and a sister relocated to White Rock, British Columbia, where our saint died, aged 97 years, on April 9, 1992.

Pioneers such as Lydia Emilie Gruchy have enriched the life of the institutional church and paved the way for other women to pursue their vocations from God.








Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Lydia Emilie Gruchy,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60


Feast of the Pioneering Female Episcopal Priests, 1974 and 1975 (July 28)   6 comments

Above:  The Eight Surviving Members of the Philadelphia Eleven


In 1974 and 1975 fifteen women shattered the stained-glass ceiling and forced a morally correct change in the ordination policies of The Episcopal Church.


Within the past three years I heard the following anecdote:  Someone asked a young Roman Catholic female how many sacraments there are.  She answered,

That depends on whether you are a boy or a girl.

I am glad to report that Episcopalians have equal access to all seven sacraments without regard to their XX or XY chromosomes.

Prior to 1970 women could not serve as delegates to the General Convention of The Episcopal Church.  That year the denomination redefined Deaconesses as ordained members of the Sacred Order of Deacons.  Three years later the General Convention almost opened the priesthood and the episcopate to women, except for a parliamentary procedure.

On July 29, 1974, at the Church of the Advocate, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, three bishops conducted eleven “irregular” ordinations.  These were “irregular” because the ordinands were women (all deacons, by the way) who lacked the recommendations of their bishops and diocesan standing committees for ordination.  These eleven women became the first female Episcopal Priests, the “Philadelphia Eleven.”

The three bishops were Daniel Corrigan (retired from the Diocese of Colorado), Robert L. DeWitt (resigned from the Diocese of Pennsylvania), and Edward R. Welles II (retired from the Diocese of West Missouri).  These men, who had devoted many years of their careers to social justice, considered the ordination of women consistent with this inclination.  Welles, for example, had supported the ordination of women since at least 1928.  A fourth bishop, Jose Antonio Ramos, diocesan of Costa Rica, was present and supportive, yet did not ordain anyone.

The Philadelphia Eleven were:

  1. Merrill Bittner
  2. Alison Cheek
  3. Alla Bozarth-Campbell
  4. Emily C. Hewitt
  5. Carter Heyward
  6. Suzanne R. Hiatt (died in 2002)
  7. Marie Moorefield (Fleischner from 1980)
  8. Jeannette Piccard (died in 1981)
  9. Betty Bone Schiess
  10. Katrina Welles Swanson (died in 2006)
  11. Nancy Hatch Witting

Laywoman Barbara Clementine Harris (later the first female bishop, in 1989) participated in the service.  And Professor Charles V. Willie of Harvard University, delivering the sermon, likened that day’s events to African Americans refusing to sit at the back of the bus anymore.   (It was an accurate analogy.)

Prior to the service Presiding Bishop John Maury Allin, who opposed the ordination of women, asked the 79-year-old Jeannette Piccard, a widow and former aviatrix, not to go through with the rite.  Speaking as perhaps only a grandmother could, she replied,

Sonny, I’m old enough to have changed your nappies.

Two weeks after the Philadelphia service, at an emergency meeting at O’Hare International Airport, the House of Bishops (by a vote of 129 to 9, with 8 abstentions) declared these ordinations invalid.

Two priests, Peter Beebe (of the Diocese of Ohio) and William Wendt (of the Diocese of Washington) permitted some of the Philadelphia Eleven to function as priests in their parishes.  For this these men faced disciplinary actions in their dioceses.

Then, on September 7, 1975, at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C. (William Wendt’s parish), George W. Barrett,, retired Bishop of Rochester, ordained the Washington Four.  They were:

  1. Alison Palmer
  2. Eleanor “Lee” McGee
  3. Elizabeth “Betty” Rosenberg (Powell)
  4. Diane Tickell

Presiding Bishop John Maury Allin, who opposed the ordination of women, asked that bishops involved in “irregular” ordinations face no church judicial consequences.  So the House of Bishops censured these men and “decried” Bishop Barrett’s actions.

The 1976 General Convention approved the ordination of women as priests and bishops.  The following year, the Church accepted the fifteen “irregularly” ordained female priests.

In 1977 many church conservatives, opposing various Episcopal reforms, including the draft proposed 1976 Prayer Book (better known afterward as the 1979 Book of Common Prayer) and the ordination of women, gathered at St. Louis.  Out of this congress came the Anglican Church of North America (distinct from the newer Anglican Church in North America).  The 1978 ACNA broke up over the next few years, with the Province of Christ the King going its way in 1978, the Diocese of the Southeast departing in 1979, the United Episcopal Church of North America leaving in 1980, and the Diocese of the Southwest breaking away in 1982. The remnant calls itself the Anglican Catholic Church.

(Note: The best book on the subject of breakaway Episcopalians is Divided We Stand: A History of the Continuing Anglican Movement, by Douglas Bess, a priest of one of those communions.  The Tractarian Press of Riverside, California, publishes this volume.  My critique is this:

  1. Bess has done extensive research.
  2. An index would be nice.
  3. A list of abbreviations would help, too.
  4. An excellent proofreader would be a good idea.
  5. His writing is clear.

And what happened to the fifteen pioneering female priests?

  1. Most of them served in parishes and/or as chaplains.
  2. Carter Heyward and Suzanne R. Hiatt began teaching at Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1975.  Heyward retired in 2006.  Hiatt retired in 1998 and died in 2002.  In 2004 EDS made the first appointment to the Suzanne R. Hiatt Professorship in Feminist Pastoral Theology and Church History.
  3. Emily C. Hewitt, Assistant Professor of Religion and Education at Andover Newton Theological School, Newton Centre, Massachusetts, graduated with honors from Harvard Law School in 1978.  From 1978 to 1993 she practiced law at the Hill and Barlow firm, Boston.  Then she became General Counsel to the U.S. General Services Administration, leaving that post in 1998 to become a judge of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.  In 2009 she became Chief Judge of that court.
  4. Eleanor McGee retired as Professor of Pastoral Counseling at Yale Divinity School in 2006.
  5. As a girl Katrina Welles knew she had a vocation to the priesthood.  Decades later, at Philadelphia, in 1974, her father was one of the bishops ordaining the first female priests.  By then she was Katrina Welles Swanson, wife of Father George Swanson, an Episcopal priest.  As a priest Katrina insisted that her parishioners call her by her first name.  The Apostles did not have fancy titles, she said, so why should she?  She died in 2006, survived by her husband, children, and brother.

Today women do not sit at the back of the proverbial church bus.  We (as a body) should never have made them sit back there.

The ordination of women has always been a given in my mind.  Growing up as a United Methodist “PK” in the South Georgia Annual Conference, I encountered female clergy and thought nothing of it.  The fact that people debate the issue strikes me as being ridiculous.

Yet I recall an example from 1989.   My father had received an appointment to another two churches, the Alapaha and Glory congregations in Berrien County.  His successor at the Berlin-Wesley Chapel Charge in Colquitt County was to be a woman.  Most opposition to her came from frustrated housewives, not men.  Luanne became a beloved pastor of those two churches.


Lord Jesus Christ, in whom there in no longer male or female,

Jew or Gentile, slave or free person:

We thank you for the pioneering female Episcopal priests of 1974 and 1975.

May their examples of faithfulness and their overcoming of difficulties encourage all

who encounter discrimination and open the eyes of all who

perpetuate or support discrimination in your Church.

In the name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Galatians 3:19-29

Psalm 84

Matthew 27:55-61, 28:1-10


MARCH 4, 2010 



Modified on July 28, 2017 Common Era



In 2015 the General Convention of The Episcopal Church approved a revised calendar of saints, published the following year as A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations.

In that volume one finds a new commemoration germane to this post.  That feast is for the “First Ordination of Women to the Priesthood in The Episcopal Church, 1974,” set at July 29.  The Rite II collect for the occasion follows:

O God, you poured your Spirit from on high to bless and summon these women,

who heard the strength of your call:  Equip, guide, and inspire us with

wisdom, boldness, and faith to trust you in all circumstances,

hear you preach new life to your Church, and stretch out our hands to serve you,

as you created us and redeemed us in the name of Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, everlasting.  Amen.


July 28, 2017