Women’s ordination pioneer honoured

The Rev. Canon Dr. Lettie James Photo: Emily Ding
The Rev. Canon Dr. Lettie James Photo: Emily Ding
Published September 1, 2011

One of the pioneers of women’s ordination in the Anglican Church of Canada was thrice-honoured on June 11 with a eucharist, a panel discussion and the establishment of an eponymous theology prize.

Despite competition from the 2011 Grand Prix, 175 people gathered in Montreal’s Christ Church Cathedral to salute the Rev. Canon Dr. Lettie James’s more than three decades as an Anglican priest. “The eucharist was outstanding. The liturgy was so sensitive and yet so joyful. And the music was wonderful,” says Canon James, who is now in her 8os.

Canon James began professional life as a clinical psychologist, which may have stood her in good stead in the grudging early days when she was the first woman in her diocese to be ordained. That was in October 1978, more than two years after she became a deacon in June 1976.

At the time of her ordination, she was mother to two teenagers and found the Christmas and Easter holidays especially difficult. “One Christmas I had two points in my parish and I did 17 services between Wednesday and Monday. And I still had to find time to cook the holiday meals,” she recalls.

The Rev. Canon Dr. Lettie James Prize in Pastoral and/or Feminist Theology will be awarded annually to a student at Diocesan Theological College, Montreal’s Anglican seminary. This November, the Anglican Church of Canada will celebrate 35 years of the ordination of women to the priesthood.


  • Diana Swift

    Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.

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