Episcopal House of Deputies Approves Ordination of Women as Priests & Bishops

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The Episcopal Church formally approves of the ordination of women as priests and bishops. This change was approved 95-61 yesterday by the House of Bishops, but today's vote of yes the by House of Deputies was required for the change to actually occur.

After four hours of heated debate, the clergy of 60 dioceses and laity of 64 dioceses voted yes while the clergy of 38 dioceses and the laity of 37 dioceses voted no. Voting is done as units in a diocese, and in all cases the delegates had to be unanimous to vote "yes" — a divided delegation is counted as a "no."

The role of women in the Episcopal Church has been developing for some time. Back in 1946 two women sat in as observers at that year's general convention, but they weren't allowed to vote. In 1970 women were finally allowed to vote in conventions and they could become deacons, the lowest level of "Holy Orders."

In 1974, eleven female deacons were ordained as priests — but without the approval of their bishops. Another three were ordained under similar circumstances in 1975. These unauthorized ordinations have been very divisive within the Episcopal Church — even those who generally approve of the idea of female priests are uncomfortable with people taking matters into their own hands.

These women say that they do not intend to see reordination under the newly changed rules because that would imply that their original ordinations were somehow invalid.

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