'A moment in history': 20 years of women priests

Published 12 March 2014

(PA)
Woman priest Angela Berners-Wilson breaks the bread during the service at St Pauls Church, Clifton, Bristol.

The Reverend Prebendary Angela Berners-Wilson has been giving her thoughts on what it was like to be one of the first female priests in the Church of England 20 years ago today.

Berners-Wilson was one of 32 women ordained at the same time during a service at Bristol Cathedral on 12 March 1994.

In a Church of England podcast she said it was a "privilege" to be among the first women priests and that she is sure that after another long wait of two decades, there will soon be women bishops.

"It was an amazing occasion and we were very much aware that this was a moment in history," she says.

She recalls that the vast majority of people had been "absolutely thrilled" by the arrival of women priests and that even though some were wary when she took on a new role as priest, they came round to it with time.

"By the time I'd been there a decent length of time and hopefully done a good job, they were all very happy to accept me and appreciated my ministry," she said.

That has been the general trend right across the Church over the last 20 years, she believes.

"It has been a process of gradual acceptance on the most part. We are making our way in many different areas of the Church.

"There are many women deans and lots of women archdeacons, there are women in cathedral posts.

"A lot of large congregations and large benefices are run by women so the longer it goes on the more accepted that we are."

She is optimistic that after a very long period of negotiation, the Church of England is finally on the cusp of allowing women to the episcopate.

"The signs are that [legislation] will get through when it comes back to Synod," she says.

"It was a massive disappointment in 2012 when that vote failed but a lot of change has happened since then. I think the signs are that this time it will get through."

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