Wednesday, July 22, 2009

First ordained female deacon Phyllis Edwards dies at 92

From Episcopal Life Online-

The Rev. Phyllis Edwards, the first woman ordained a deacon in the Episcopal Church, died July 7 in Forks, Washington. She was 92.

Edwards was a civil rights activist who marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and fought for the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church. She was ordained to the diaconate in 1965 by California Bishop James Pike. (General Convention didn't officially recognize women deacons until 1970.)

"That was the day when there were deacons and deaconesses, it was not like actor and actress," said the Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton, president of the Episcopal Women's Caucus and rector of the Episcopal Church of St. Paul in Chatham, New Jersey. "She became a full and equal partner in the ministry of Jesus and opened the door for other women to become full and equal partners."

"She told me one time that she wanted to be a priest since the time she was 13," said Dawn Edwards-Tibbett, Edwards's daughter, in a telephone interview, adding that Newark Bishop John S. Spong ordained Edwards to the priesthood on June 29, 1980.

A native of Chicago, Edwards earned bachelor's and master's degrees in education from Black Hills Teachers College in Spearfish, South Dakota, while teaching elementary school and raising four children. In 1962 she enrolled in Seabury-Western Seminary to become a deaconess. In 1964, after graduation, she was sent to work in the Mission District in San Francisco.

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