First Woman Regularly Ordained to Episcopal Priesthood

Episcopal News Service. January 6, 1977 [77002]

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The Rev. Jacqueline Means became the first woman to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church under a new canon which was narrowly approved by the General Convention last September in Minneapolis.

Mrs. Means was ordained on January 1 by Bishop Donald J. Davis of Erie in All Saints Episcopal Church in Indianapolis, substituting at the last minute for Bishop John P. Craine who was hospitalized.

In 1974 and 1975, 15 women deacons were irregularly ordained Episcopal priests but their orders were not recognized by any ecclesiastical authorities. According to the action of the Convention, those women may be enrolled in the priesthood by their bishops in completion or conditional ordination services in their dioceses without being reordained.

While the overflow congregation at All Saints was overwhelmingly supportive of Mrs. Means and the principle of women's ordination, the Rev. Robert A. Strippy of Evansville, Ind., on behalf of the American Church Union, read a statement in which he said, "We condemn this proceeding as opposed to the mind of the church and the will of God." He described the ordination of Mrs. Means as "an act of heresy." Another man, identified as Daniel Sprecher of Fort Thomas, Ky., also read a short statement of protest.

Bishop Davis responded to the protests by saying he "was grieved by the separation between us" and resumed the service, "having found no impediment or crime" in the candidate. About a dozen persons walked out of the service with the protesters.

Mrs. Means, who is a nurse, a prison chaplain and assistant at All Saints, was joined in the procession by her husband, Delton, a truck driver, their three sons and daughter and two daughters-in-law.

On the day following her ordination, the new priest celebrated the Eucharist at All Saints before a congregation of 75. The Rev. John H. Eastwood, Jr., rector of the church, said that some members of the congregation had stayed away to protest Mrs. Means' officiating.

Mrs. Means said, "We're now in some conflict. I was prepared for the mind trip, but you're never prepared for your feelings, and it bothers me that the church is in discord right now."

Plans have been announced for the ordination of more than 40 women to the priesthood in dioceses throughout the Episcopal Church during the month of January, with others to follow in succeeding months.

[thumbnail: The Rev. Jacqueline Means...]