Archbishop Justin hosts garden party to celebrate 25 years of women’s ordination to the priesthood


The Archbishop of Canterbury hosted a garden party at Lambeth Palace today to celebrate 25 years of women ministering as priests in the Church of England.

Garden party for women priests at Lambeth Palace

The garden party, the first of two planned this summer, was attended by ordained women from across the country, many of whom were among the first cohort to be priested in 1994.

The event follows a service at Lambeth Palace in March marking 25 years since the first group of 80 women were ordained at Bristol Cathedral on 12th March 1994.

Garden party for women priests at Lambeth Palace

Speaking at the event today, Archbishop Justin said: “Congratulations on a quarter of a century – what an amazing thing. It is so wonderful to see so many women who have been ordained to the priesthood during the last 25 years.”

The Archbishop spoke about the “huge progress that has been made over the last two and half decades.

“This year at Canterbury more than half those ordained as deacons and priests were women,” he said. “In the last five years, well over half of those ordained to the episcopate have been women since that became possible in 2014. In fact, the day after tomorrow I will consecrate four women in one service at St Paul’s Cathedral, so that is quite a historic moment.”

Garden party for women priests at Lambeth Palace

But he added that it is “easy on an occasion like to this to heave a sigh of relief, pop the laurel leaves on our heads and say we’ve done it all. And you know as well as I do – and I genuinely do – that we have not.”

There is much more to be done to increase the numbers of black and minority ethnic clergy, and clergy with visible and invisible disabilities, he said. 

"I don’t want clergy who will “fit in”. I want clergy who change the world, because it needs changing," he said. "We need to be a church that heals and transforms. We can only do that as we learn to be healed and transformed – and you are the spearhead and the front-line of that."

Garden party for women priests at Lambeth Palace

He added: "And that’s why I’m so grateful that you’ve made the long journeys in many cases, from very early this morning, in order to be here. You are profoundly welcome, but let us be clear that this is a beginning. We’ve got a very long way to go to be a church which does not look at people and say, “They don’t quite fit in.”

Garden party for women priests at Lambeth Palace
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