Women Deacons

In 1969 General Synod, acting on Resolution 32 (“The Ministry – The Diaconate”[1]) from the 1968 Lambeth Conference, passed two resolutions on women and the diaconate. The first of these stated:

“That in regard to women presently ordained as deaconesses in the Anglican Church of Canada, the Primate be asked to initiate any steps which may be necessary to ensure that those who are so ordered may belong to the diaconate”.

At the November 1969 House of Bishops meeting a resolution was passed which stated:

“That this House considers that the action of the 1969 General Synod has established for the Anglican Church of Canada the fact that duly ordained deaconesses are to be regarded as being members of the diaconate of the Church and that the Bishops be asked to establish this in the life of the Church, requiring of the candidates the same qualifications and commitments as are required of men being so ordained.”

These two resolutions in 1969 constitute the Canadian Anglican authority for the recognition/ordination of woman deacons.

The first woman intentionally ordained as a deacon was the Rev. Mary Mills who was ordained a deacon on 22 December 1969 in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, Ont., by the Rt. Rev. George N. Luxton. Ms. Mills was later one of the first six women ordained to the priesthood in the Anglican Church of Canada.

Women Priests

The key legislation re the ordination of women to the priesthood was enacted by the General Synods of 1973 (Act 31) and 1975 (Act 64). The legislation was passed at two General Synods in accordance with the request/opinion of the December 1974 the House of Bishops that “the approval in principle could well be a matter of Faith and Order of the Church and should be ratified by a second vote at General Synod under Section 11, paragraph 2 of Declaration of Principles and that this opinion be directed to the Organization Committee”.

After the enabling legislation was passed by General Synod for the second time in June 1975, the first ordinations of six women as priests, took place on the same day, 30 November 1976, in four dioceses across Canada.

  • Diocese of Cariboo – St. Michael and All Angels, Prince George, B.C.
    The Rev. Patricia Reed
  • Diocese of Huron – St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, Ont.
    The Rev. Mary Mills
  • Diocese of New Westminster – Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver, B.C.
    The Rev. Elspeth Alley (died 9 September 2000)
    The Rev. Virginia Briant
  • Diocese of Niagara – Grace Church, St. Catharines, Ont.
    The Rev. Mary Lucas
    The Rev. Beverley Shanley

Women Bishops

The June 1986 meeting of the House of Bishops, immediately prior to General Synod, passed a resolution affirming “its recognition that there is no theological or canonical impediment to the consecration of women as Bishops within our Church, but counsels our Church to move with special sensitivity in this matter especially until Lambeth 1988.”

General Synod, later in June 1986, passed Act 65 entitled “Ordination of Women to the Episcopate” which:

“•- receives with gratitude the memorial from the House of Bishops about our positive experience in Canada with women in priesthood;

•- urges our Bishops to carry to the Lambeth Conference our conviction that the priesthood of women has indeed been blessed and has enriched our common life; and

•- asks the Lambeth Conference to search for a way of upholding the unity of the Church while allowing Provinces to move, as appropriate for them, to the election and ordination of women to the episcopate in response to the call of God and the Church.

The first woman bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada was the Rt. Rev. Victoria Matthews. Bishop Matthews was elected Suffragan Bishop in the Diocese of Toronto on 19 November 1993. She was consecrated 12 February 1994.

Bishop Matthews was later elected Diocesan Bishop of Edmonton (the first woman diocesan bishop in Canada) on 8 March 1997 and installed in Edmonton on 30 May 1997.

Women Primates

The first woman Primate in the Anglican Church of Canada is the Most Rev. Linda Nicholls. Archbishop Nicholls was elected Primate on July 13, 2019. She was installed on July 15, 2019.

[1] 1968 Lambeth Conference Resolution 32 “The Ministry – The Diaconate”: “The Conference recommends: (a) That the diaconate, combining service of others with liturgical functions, be open to: (a) men and women in secular occupations …. (c) That those made deaconesses by laying-on of hands with appropriate prayers be declared to be within the diaconate. (d) That appropriate canonical legislation be enacted by provinces and regional Churches to provide for those already ordained deaconesses.”

Page updated June 22, 2022