Alice Medcof was pioneer for women in the church

Medcof, says the diocese of Toronto’s Bishop Riscylla Shaw, “was a tireless advocate for equality.” Photo: General Synod Archives
Published August 8, 2023

Canon Alice Medcof, an Anglican priest who helped found the International Anglican Women’s Network (IAWN)—an Anglican Communion group with a mandate to report to the Anglican Consultative Council on the work of women and challenges women face—and who served two terms as its chair, died July 13 after a short illness. She was 88.

Part of the first wave of female priests in the Anglican Church of Canada, which began ordaining women in 1976, Medcof championed the role of women within the Anglican Communion. She also brought the voices of Anglican women into secular spheres, accompanying Canadian groups to New York each year to participate in meetings of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

Bishop Riscylla Shaw, of the diocese of Toronto, has been a member of the IAWN since her ordination in 2001. In an interview with the Journal she called Medcof, a longtime Toronto resident, the network’s “instrumental leader” in the diocese, describing the late priest as “kind, engaged, energetic and deeply faithful.”

Medcof “was a tireless advocate for equality” and “courageous, wise and humble in her accomplishments,” Shaw said.

“She was a faithful priest who helped pave the way through the early days of women in this role in Canada—she persevered …. [and] steadfastly, resiliently followed her call to serve God’s people in church leadership,” the bishop added. “She recognized our gifts and affirmed for us that we had a place in the patriarchal hierarchy of the Anglican church.”

The Rev. Margaret Rodrigues (they/them), lead for transgender ministry in the diocese of Toronto, served with Medcof on the executive of the IAWN Canadian section and called her colleague “a real pioneer.”

“Promoting the role of women in the church has never been a very easy thing to do,” Rodrigues said, adding that Medcof “made sure that the role of women … was increasingly recognized as important in the decision-making of the Anglican Communion and was the core of the whole thing.

“That was hugely important … and making sure that women from right across the Anglican Communion, not just women from Canada or the U.S. or the U.K. … [were] heard and recognized.”

Before entering the priesthood, Medcof had earned a degree in mathematics and worked in computer science. A career shift came when she began taking part-time divinity courses at the University of Toronto’s Trinity College, eventually obtaining a degree in theology. In 1979 Medcof was ordained deacon and in 1980 priest in the diocese of Toronto.

In 1996, Medcof was among a group of women from 14 of the Anglican Communion’s 32 provinces who helped found the IAWN. Medcof took over as chair in 2003.

“Many women across the Anglican Communion know of Alice Medcof because of her consistent work at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women,” Mandy Marshall, the Anglican Communion’s director for gender justice, wrote in an online tribute. “Alice was a regular participant ensuring women’s rights, championing the Christian faith and working to ensure gender-based violence was on the agenda of everyone along with human trafficking.”

Medcof is survived by her husband Jamie, daughter Cathie, son Bill and three grandchildren. A memorial service was held July 21 at the Church of the Transfiguration in Toronto.


  • Matthew Puddister

    Matthew Puddister is a staff writer for the Anglican Journal. Most recently, Puddister worked as corporate communicator for the Anglican Church of Canada, a position he held since Dec. 1, 2014. He previously served as a city reporter for the Prince Albert Daily Herald. A former resident of Kingston, Ont., Puddister has a degree in English literature from Queen’s University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario. He also supports General Synod's corporate communications.

    [email protected]

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