“Canterbury Cathedral, the seat of the Church of England, installed its first female archdeacon in its 1,400-year history yesterday,” reports Agence France-Presse.
Before a congregation of 500, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams led the service of installation for the Venerable Sheila Watson, 53, the first woman to join Archbishop Williams’ senior staff.
The former archdeacon of Buckingham in the Diocese of Oxford, who succeeds the retired Patrick Evans, can now enthrone new diocesan bishops in 27 of England’s 43 dioceses under Archbishop Williams’ guidance.
The move comes as the Church of England, also known as the Anglican Church, takes the first steps toward the creation of female bishops. The Church of England ordained its first female priests in 1994.
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In The Episcopal Church women’s ordination to the priesthood and consecration as bishops was approved by General Convention in 1976. Barbara Harris became a bishop in 1989. Female clergy are now over 30 percent of all clergy although in some dioceses the percentage is small or zero.