From the Worldwide Faith News archives

40th Anniversary of Ordination of Women Celebrated

Date 04 May 1996 16:06:02


96161   40th Anniversary of Ordination of Women Celebrated 
                          by Alexa Smith 
ATLANTA--In the midst of a weekend of worship and workshops, the 40-year 
anniversary of the ordination of women in the Presbyterian Church was 
celebrated by just over 100 clergywomen at the triennial conference of the 
National Association of Presbyterian Clergywomen (NAPC). 
     The conference was marked by a service reaffirming the Presbyterian 
ordination vows, which were read by the Rev. Margaret Towner, the first 
woman ordained in the former United Presbyterian Church in 1956 by the 
Presbytery of Cayuga-Syracuse. 
     At the conclusion of the vows, Towner prayed: "Bless these sisters, my 
daughters in ministry.  ... Peace and blessing be on you all." 
     The Rev. Diane Tennis of Atlanta called NAPC to a ministry of 
subversion, rooting herself in Psalm 137, the complaints of the people of 
Israel living in exile in Babylon, still singing songs, telling stories, 
writing poetry. 
     "Hymns of praise come hard in a strange land.  And I believe we share 
a similar problem with these people -- how to be ourselves in alien space," 
she told NAPC, stressing that the Jews subverted the dominant culture by 
ignoring its authority -- and kept on singing poetic ballads to God, full 
of lament and complaint. 
     "The essential subversion," Tennis said, "was: Though they were in 
captivity, they were not captured." 
     Tennis told the clergywomen to "turn the world upside down," just as 
Mary sang about in the Gospel According to Matthew: to recognize the 
hurting underclass in our midst, to abolish ecclesiastical workaholism that 
destroys families and homes, and to repoliticize religion so that 
exorbitant corporate profits may be shared with the poor, so that the need 
for charity is abolished. 
     And in a dramatic presentation  written by the Rev.  Bettie Durrah of 
Atlanta, at the conference's banquet, clergywomen readers called on "all 
our sisters in the faith" to keep coming. 
     "Keep coming as you serve as role models for women for whom ordination 
is now possible in the Presbyterian Church in Korea.  Keep coming as you 
imagine and reimagine God's will for everyone. Keep coming as you give hope 
to the women in the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian.  Keep coming as 
you open the blinders for the Presbyterians in Guatemala.  Keep coming as 
you affirm your brothers and sisters in seminaries. ... Keep coming.  Keep 
sharing.  Keep preaching.  Keep weaving stories.  Keep sharing the good 
news.  Keep being the good news. Keep breaking the barriers.  Keep on being 
who you are." 
     Remembering how the gathered women came to this celebration, the 
presentation lifted out the names of Towner, the late Rachel Henderlite, 
first clergywomen ordained in the former Presbyterian Church in the United 
States (1964); Katie Geneva Cannon, first African-American clergywoman 
(1974); Blanqui Ontario-Rivera, first Hispanic-American clergywoman (1975); 
Elizabeth Kwon, first Asian-American clergywoman whose ordination was 
received by the denomination (1979), though she was ordained in 1944 by the 
Uniting Church of Christ in Japan; and Holly Haile-Davis, first Native 
American clergywoman (1986)." 
     Participating in the presentation were the Rev. Ann Clay Adams of 
Atlanta; Durrah; the Rev.  Jamie Kenyon of Nunda, N.Y., and Towner. 

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
  E-mail   Web page: 


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