Anglicans mark 70 years since ordination of first woman priest

The Rev. Dr. Li Tim-Oi, with former Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie. File photo: Diocese of Indianpolis
The Rev. Dr. Li Tim-Oi, with former Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie. File photo: Diocese of Indianpolis
Published January 8, 2014

A service marking 70 years since the ordination of the Anglican Communion’s first woman priest will be held in London, England. The event – at St Martin in the Fields Church, Trafalgar Square, on Saturday, Jan. 25 – has been organized by members of a foundation set up to honour Reverend Dr Florence Li Tim-Oi’s legacy.

There will also be a service celebrating Li Tim-Oi’s legacy and the ordination of women at the Cathedral Church of St. James in Toronto, on Jan. 25, at 3 p.m. Representatives of the dioceses of Toronto, Huron and Niagara have been invited to participate in the event, organized in co-operation with clergy and staff at Renison University College, the Anglican College at the University of Waterloo.

Rension University College holds the archives of Li Tim-Oi and has a memorial reading room named in her honour; it also maintains a scholarship in her name.

Already appointed as a deacon to serve in the colony of Macau at the Macau Protestant Chapel, Dr Li Tim-Oi was ordained a priest on Jan. 25, 1944 by Bishop of Victoria Ronald Hall. His decision to do so came in response to a crisis among Anglican Christians in China caused by the Japanese invasion.

Since it was to be thirty years before any Anglican church regularized the ordination of women, her ordination was controversial and she resigned her licence (though not her priestly orders) after the end of the war. Dr Li Tim-Oi was put in charge of a parish near the Vietnamese border, where she started a maternity home to ensure that baby girls were not smothered at birth.For 30 years in Maoist China, Li Tim-Oi was unable to exercise her priesthood openly, or even express her Christian faith.

Later, however, she was able to resume her ministry.She eventually moved to Toronto to join family members, where she lived until her death in 1992.Two years later, the Li-Tim-Oi Foundation was set up to enable women in the two-thirds world to be trained for Christian work in their own countries. Since then the Foundation has given more than £750,000 in grants to over 350 women in countries including Brazil, Fiji, Kenya, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.One of the first alumnae of the Foundation, the Revd Canon Dr Edidah-Mary Mujinya, now President of Mothers’ Union in Uganda, will preach at the service and the Revd Frances Shoesmith, a granddaughter of Bishop Hall, will preside.

For more information about the Li Tim-Oi Foundation click here.

Editor’s Note: New information about a similar event in Toronto has been added to this article.


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