Women as priests

An astute e-mailer – two, actually – responded to my last letter asking about women in the Episcopal Church of Sudan. On the assumption that more than one person is interested in this question, I’m posting the answer here.

There is one female student (out of ~48) at Bishop Gwynne College. Not great odds, admittedly. She is already a priest and about to graduate. She’s also an older woman and all her children are grown.

She trained as a nurse and a midwife and during the war she lived and worked in Uganda. But her church “chose” – I must confess I don’t really understand what that means – her to be a priest and she was among the first women ordained to the priesthood in 2004. (The decision to ordain women was made several years earlier but the exigencies of the war made it such that the ordinations were put off for several years.) She has served as a priest and has all the rights and privileges thereof. At the service I attended on Sunday, there was a female priest on the altar.

I asked the student why there weren’t more female students at Bishop Gwynne and she had several reasons. For the younger ones, she said, they want to know who will take care of their children while they are at school. (Many – I’d say a sizable majority – of the male students are married with children at home, whom they do not see for the year while they are here.)

Furthermore, many of the female priests in ECS don’t have the educational qualifications to be admitted. They just haven’t finished secondary school.

Finally, many dioceses just don’t have the means to support students at Bishop Gwynne. This affects male and female students but likely compounds the effects of the first two reasons.

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