Celebrations mark 25 years of women's ordination to the priesthood

First published 12th March 2019

Events are taking place to mark a quarter of a century of womens ordination to the priesthood in the Church of England.

The first group of women were ordained priests on Saturday 12 March 1994, in Bristol Cathedral.

The Cathedral hosted a celebratory Eucharist on Sunday (17 March), at which the Bishop of Bristol, Rt Revd Vivienne Faull, preached.

Bishop Viv said: The celebration of the ordination of women as priests in Bristol Cathedral, when Bristol led the nation, reminds us of Bristols pioneering, of those who were pioneers, and of the work which remains to be done to enable the full participation of women of every background in the life of the church and our communities.

It was at Bristol Cathedral on 12 March 1994 that the then-Bishop of Bristol, Barry Rogerson, ordained 32 women to the priesthood, who become the first in the Church of England.

Commenting on the anniversary, Bishop Barry said: Over the last 25 years I have observed and received the ministry of women in parishes, but also in chaplaincies; hospitals and hospices, schools, universities and prisons and know what an innovative and positive contribution women have made to the priesthood.

Perhaps today we might give a thought for all those women worldwide whose vocations to the priesthood have still been neither recognised nor tested.

There are 75 women ordained to the priesthood who are currently serving across the Diocese of Bristol.

Revd Trudie Wigley is Priest-in-Charge at Dorcan Church, Swindon. She said: I am deeply grateful to those women who have graciously paved the way for me to fulfil God's calling in my life as a priest.

The path has not been easy, yet we have come a long way with the number of female clergy at a record high, making up a third of active clergy in the Church of England, and the majority of those starting training.

Kat Campion-Spall is Associate Vicar at St Mary Redcliffe Church, Bristol. She said: This 25th anniversary is really worth celebrating, but is also a reminder of how long it can take for things to change.

The tenacity and faithfulness of that first cohort of women ordained priest in 1994, many of whom had been waiting years to be allowed by the church to do the ministry God has called them to, will be a joy and a privilege to celebrate.

This year also marks 50 years since women were first licensed as Lay Readers, and five years since legislation was passed to enable women to be appointed bishops.

Key Stats

  • There are 5,950 women in ordained ministry in the Church of England. (2017)
  • 30% of clergy are women. (2017)
  • 319 women began training for ordination in 2018, a 38% increase over two years.
  • 54% of those starting training for ordination are women. (2018)
  • Nearly a quarter of clergy in senior posts (bishops, deans and archdeacons) in 2017 were women, which is almost double what it was five years previously.
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