Rector’s Magazine Letter
The timing of the ordination service in Bristol Cathedral, and the spelling of her surname, mean that Andrea Berners-Wilson is generally reckoned to be the first woman to have been ordained priest in the Church of England on 12 March 1994. Last month the Archbishop of Canterbury preached at a Eucharist in St Paul’s Cathedral to celebrate twenty years of the ministry of women priests in the Church of England. During the sermon he remarked that, ‘(a) good church is forged through its transformation into the likeness of Christ. It is one step of that journey that we mark today in celebrating 20 years of the ordination of women to the priesthood.’
The decision of General Synod in 1992 to pass legislation allowing the ordination of women as priests was an authentically theological response to the understanding, first articulated by theologians in the fourth century, that Jesus became a human being in order to redeem the whole of humanity. It follows that women and men equally are, in the words of the Archbishop, ‘the material through which God’s divinity is revealed’. The faithful witness of women priests allows us to rejoice in being members of a church whose ordained ministers reflect the whole humanity of Jesus Christ, though that joy and the full potential of that witness are still diminished by the lack of women in episcopal ministry.
Canon Wendy Wilby, Precentor of Bristol Cathedral from 2007 – 2013, was among the women ordained priest in 1994 (in her case in Ripon Cathedral). I am delighted that Wendy has accepted my invitation to preside at the Sung Eucharist at Bolton Priory on Sunday 03 August, an occasion on which the fullness of the priestly ministry of the Church of England will be given visible expression.
With my very best wishes to you all,