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Episcopal Church ordains its first female clergy – July 29, 1974

Philadelphia Eleven
Theologian Carter Heyward, one of the "Philadelphia Eleven," a group of 11 who were the first women to be ordained as priests in The Episcopal Church in 1974, being interviewed in 2020. |

This week marks the anniversary of when three bishops of The Episcopal Church ordained 11 women to become priests, which violated the official rules of the denomination at the time.

The controversial service was held at the Church of the Advocate in North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with the women having previously been ordained as deacons.

“The three‐hour service was interrupted before the ordination ritual by priests challenging its validity,” reported Eleanor Blau for the New York Times at the time.

“About five priests proceeded to the chancel and read statements accusing the participants of breaking their vows to uphold church laws and going against God's will.”

Two years later, at the 1976 Episcopal Church General Convention, the mainline Protestant denomination voted to approve the ordination of women as priests and bishops.   

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