Ordination Service for Four Women Deacons Held

Diocesan Press Service. September 11, 1975 [75309]

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Bishop George W. Barrett, 67, resigned Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, officiated here on September 7 at an ordination service for four women deacons in defiance of directives from the Bishop of Washington and centuries of tradition.

The controversial and disputed rite was held at the Church of St. Stephen and the Incarnation with a congregation of about 1,200, including 50 priests, in attendance.

The women deacons were the Rev. Lee McGee, the Rev. Alison Palmer, the Rev. Betty Rosenberg, all of Washington, D.C., and the Rev. Diane Tickell of Anchorage, Alaska.

A week before the service the Rev. Phyllis A. Edwards, Evanston, Ill., "decided that it would be undesirable to proceed" with her own ordination "at this time," according to an announcement by her bishop, James W. Montgomery of Chicago. She had announced on August 25 her intention to participate with the other four women.

The service was conducted despite the fact that Bishop William F. Creighton of Washington had announced that Bishop Barrett did not have his permission to conduct ordinations in the diocese.

During the service, a protest was registered by the Rev. James Wattley, representing the Coalition of Apostolic Ministry, who said that "the canons and the laws of due process were ignored," and that "many do not believe the conceit of the age should override the order of the Church." To Bishop Barrett and the four women he said, "We appeal to your Christian love, do not so aggravate the Church. "

Bishop Barrett replied that he and the women "do not take the order of the Church lightly, but there are times when overriding considerations should supplant the canons and rules."

The four women join eleven other women whose ordination service July 29, 1974, in Philadelphia has been disputed.

After the service on September 7, the Rt. Rev. John M. Allin, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, said that Bishop Barrett's "wilful decision " to proceed with the ordinations without Bishop Creighton's permission defied the canon law, the requests of the Bishop of Washington, and "the rights of the entire membership of the Episcopal Church."

He said that such "distressing and divisive acts may be beyond prevention amid this age of confusion and turmoil. The tragedy," he continued, "is that so much done in good conscience for the sake of renewal can so frequently prevent that needed renewal."

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