Tuesday, November 10, 2009

First Pakistani woman priest ordained

From Episcopal Life Online-

The Rev. Dr. Khushnud Mussarat Azariah shattered another barrier on Nov. 8 when, by way of the Diocese of Los Angeles, she became the first Pakistani woman ordained to the priesthood.
Azariah hoped her "miraculous" day sent a powerful message to women back home.

"Ever since I was a young child, I have felt God had a special calling for me but I was told there was no place for me in the church," said Azariah, 60. "This day is a miracle. I never knew this day would ever come. I always prayed to God that one day the Church of Pakistan would ordain women," she added tearfully.

The great-granddaughter and granddaughter of ministers, her father was a priest and a bishop, and Azariah was also the first Pakistani woman ever to attend seminary, though she could not do so in Pakistan. She also is married to Presiding Bishop Samuel Robert Azariah of the Church of Pakistan.

"This is an historic day for our family, a day of rejoicing and thanksgiving," said Samuel Robert Azariah, who is also Bishop of Raiwind and served as a presenter during the ordination at St. James Episcopal Church in South Pasadena, California, in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

"As the Church of Pakistan, this is one step forward in our further understanding of the Body of Christ as one family," he said Sunday. "Khushnud's ordination to the priesthood, which would not have been possible in Pakistan at the moment, affirms the significance of 'where I am weak, you can be my strength' … and how the Body of Christ can support one another in their strengths and weaknesses."

He also asked for prayers for his country and the church. "Pakistan as a nation is at a crossroads and the challenge of the church becomes heavier as to what it means to share the grace of Jesus Christ. And please pray for the Church of Pakistan, because it faces difficulties of persecution," he said.

The United Church of Pakistan was formed in 1970 by uniting the Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and other Protestant groups in Pakistan. Christians number about 2 percent of Pakistan's 140 million people; 97 percent are Muslim.

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