Betty Bone Schiess, one of the first female priests of the Episcopal Church, has died

The Revd Betty Bone Schiess, one of the first women to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church, and a member of the Women’s Hall of Fame, died on Friday in Syracuse, NY. Schiess was 94.

From her obituary:

Back in Syracuse, they attended St. Albans Episcopal Church, down the road from their home. In the 1960s, Betty and Bill became active in the civil rights movement and participated in demonstrations and marches locally, and in the South. Betty marched in the Selma to Montgomery protest in 1965. Betty was one of the founding members of the Syracuse chapter of NOW (the National Organization for Women). Betty and Bill moved to Grace Church during this period where they were welcomed with open arms. She attended Colgate-Rochester Divinity School and earned a Master’s of Divinity degree in 1972.

In 1974, the Episcopal Church still denied women the right to be ordained to the priesthood. Betty joined ten other aspiring women (later known as the Philadelphia Eleven) to participate in a joyous (if deemed “irregular” by the church patriarchy) ordination ceremony on a hot July day in Philadelphia. When her Bishop continued to block her ability to serve as a rightful priest, she initiated a civil suit against the church. It was soon after that, women were officially granted the same rights as male priests. These acts of moral courage helped to reform the Church and continue to inspire women and men.

Betty was chaplain at Syracuse University (1976-78) and Cornell University (1978-79) as well as rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Mexico, New York (1984-89). She was past president of the International Association of Women Ministers, and she proudly served on Governor Mario Cuomo’s Task Force on Bio-ethics. Betty was inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame in 1994 for “Her efforts to have made it possible for girls and women to succeed in all levels of the Church.”

Read more about her life, achievements, and family here.

Featured image: Philadelphia Eleven

Past Posts