HISTORICAL PROFILE – WOMEN IN ORDAINED MINISTRY
- In 1968, the Lambeth Conference – a consultative body of Bishops meeting in England – passed a resolution recommending that member churches in the worldwide Anglican Communion actively consider admitting women into Holy Orders.
- The active involvement of women in the ministry of the Anglican Church in Jamaica dates back to 1890 with the establishment of the Order of Deaconesses which operated several schools and the Deaconess Nursing Home, now known as the Nuttall Memorial Hospital. Of the eight Dioceses of the Church in the Province of the West Indies (CPWI), Jamaica was the only one to have an Order of Deaconesses.
- In 1978, the Diocese of Jamaica gave its approval in a resolution at the annual Synod of the Church and gave effect to this with the passing of a new Canon.
- On February 6, 1994, the first three women were admitted to the Order of Deacons – an area of ministry in the Diocese of Jamaica & The Cayman Islands which, prior to that time, was reserved for men.
- The Ordinands – Sybil May Morris, Patricia Leontine Johnson and Judith Amelia Daniel – were previously members of the Order of Deaconesses. Rev. Morris served at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Molynes Road; Rev. Johnson was assigned to the Church of the Good Shepherd, Constant Spring; and Rev. Daniel served at St. Michael & All Angels Church, Victoria Avenue.
- In his Sermon at the February 1994 Service, the Bishop of Jamaica, The Rt. Rev. Neville deSouza, pointed to the ages-old division and perennial struggle between man and woman which has frustrated the quest for equality. He went back to the Creation Story and noted that neither man nor woman, by themselves, mirror the image of God, because when God created in his image and in his likeness, he created the male and the female; they together represent the image of God, he said. “The one without the other spells danger for our future,” Bishop deSouza said. The Bishop asserted that men and women in ordained ministry would complement and complete God’s provision for ministry. He stated that God was calling the Church to a “new and adventurous inter-personal ministry.”
- On July 24, 1994, another historic step was taken when, for the first time, men and women were ordained together. Audrey Veronica Bailey and Vivette Angela Jennings were made Deacons along with Leroy Antonio Johnson. Michael Brown was ordained priest at that same service.
- In November 1995, 17 years after the Synod in Jamaica passed its resolution, the 32nd Synod of the Church in the Province of the West Indies at a meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad, announced that it had “faithfully enacted the measure to make possible the ordination of women to the priesthood in the several Dioceses.” A communique issued by the CPWI said: “We acknowledge with gratitude the significant role that women have played in nurturing and sustaining the Anglican Communion in the Province of the West Indies. We recognize the need for further strengthening in this regard.”
- In April 1996 at its 126th Synod, the Diocese of Jamaica approved an amendment to the requisite Canon relating to the Ordination of Women to bring the Canons of the Church in Jamaica in harmony with those of the Province.
- On December 22, 1996, Deacons Sybil May Morris, Patricia Leontine Johnson, Judith Amelia Daniel and Vivette Angella Jennings were ordained as priests. At that Service, Cynthia McMillan was ordained a Deacon. She served as Provincial Trainer for the Mothers’ Union.
- The Rev. Judith Daniel created history again in 2001 when she was appointed a Canon of the Cathedral of St. Jago de la Vega, Spanish Town. She is the first female to achieve this rank in the Province.
- There are now more than 40 women in the Supplementary and full-time Ministry in the Diocese of Jamaica and The Cayman Islands. Over the years, four of the women ordained have died and four now serve abroad.
- Speaking on February 6, 2014 at the Service marking the start of the 20th Anniversary of the Ordination of Women to Holy Orders in the Diocese of Jamaica and The Cayman Islands, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Howard Gregory, Bishop of Jamaica and The Cayman Islands, said the inclusion of women as priests has “allowed men and women to bring their complimentary gifts and sense of call to enrich the life of the Church.” Bishop Gregory also preached at the Ordination of the first women as priests in the Diocese in December 1996.
- The ordination of women to the priesthood was a controversial issue in the Anglican Communion and it met with significant resistance. Supporting the decision in the face of the opposition, the Archbishop of Canterbury (Carey) spoke in 1994 of the diverse gifts women would bring to the priestly ministry. The controversy continues; and it was only in July 2014 that the Church of England voted in favour of the ordination of women as Bishops.
- The first ordination of a woman priest in Britain was on March 12, 1994. That same year, 39 year-old Rev. Victoria Matthews was elected as Suffragan Bishop in the Diocese of Toronto. She was ordained in 1980.
- Barbados led the Church in the Province of the West Indies on May 31, 1996 when it ordained the first woman priest.