Religious History in San Joaquin Valley

June 27, 2009 6:41:21 PM PDT
History was made Saturday in the Central Valley when the Episcopal Church ordained its first female priest.Action News reporter John-Thomas Kobos shows us what this ordination means for the future of the church here in the Valley.

The role of women in the Episcopal Church has been limited under previous, more conservative leadership. Saturday, the Episcopal Church showed just how progressive and vital a role woman are.

Surrounded by leaders of the Episcopal church of the San Joaquin and family, Deacon Suzanne Ward was ordained Reverend.

"This is one of those blessing when God calls that person out to take on a role in ministry and we celebrate that," said Ward.

There are four other female priests in the Valley but Saturday's ceremony is a first.

"So this is the first time this Episcopal diocese has ordained a woman to the priest hood," said newly elected Bishop Jerry Lamb.

Lamb said Ward's new position is vital to advancing the churches role in the community. Under previous leadership the Diocese of the San Joaquin, through Bishop John-David Schofield, did not permit women to become priests.

In December 2007 a vote was held to break off ties with the U.S. Episcopal church over this difference and the roles of homosexuals.

The Reverend Bavi "Nedi" Rivera, a provisional bishop in Easter Oregon said: Even though this is her ordination this is not about Suzy. This is about the church.

Congregants said Saturday was a victory for the church.

Margaret Foley of Visalia said, "We're open to everyone. Making the church all inclusive."

R.B. Jeffrey of Visalia added: The most important thing is the congregation support people like Suzy who have worked so hard.

After several ceremonial prayers and hymns this Deacon became the Revered Suzanne Ward.

Bishop Jerry Lamb said his goal is to find a way to engage all segments of the population, race and sexual orientation, into the church.

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