This week in Christian history: Geneva burns heretic, first Presbyterian woman ordained

Presbyterian Church ordains first female pastor – Oct. 24, 1956

Margaret Towner
Margaret E. Towner, the first woman ordained in the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, as seen in 1956 prior to the service of ordination. |

This week marks the anniversary of when the Northern Presbyterian Church, also known as the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, ordained its first female pastor.

Margaret Towner was ordained at The First Presbyterian Church Syracuse in New York, being assigned to the pastoral staff of the First Presbyterian Church of Allentown, Pennsylvania.

“After Towner’s ordination, she was never asked to conduct services or preach or serve communion at First Presbyterian Church of Allentown; she was delegated to the position of director of Christian education,” noted The Presbyterian Outlook in a 2019 piece.

“She did, however, fill the pulpit as a guest preacher at other churches in Lehigh Presbytery during her tenure at Allentown. Later, she served other churches as an assistant or associate pastor, although she says that some congregants wouldn’t show up when they knew she was scheduled to preach.”

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