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AEH spotlights forgotten Deaconesses, trailblazing Black women priests, and Tudor Dynasty confusion

1 Mar 2023 2:39 PM | HSEC Director of Operations (Administrator)

Anglican and Episcopal History CoverAnglican and Episcopal History (AEH) considers the ministry of two deaconesses, the first five Black women ordained as Episcopal priests, and Tudor Dynasty confusion in the March 2023 issue. Readers also enjoy two church reviews and 22 book reviews.

Two studies call attention to largely overlooked and poorly documented ministries of deaconesses.

In the first, Joan R. Gundersen examines the life’s work of Deaconess Ruth Byllesby (1865-1959) whose ministry included the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Georgia, Michigan, Wyoming, and Vermont.

Gundersen, former archivist in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, notes “the training deaconesses received made them pioneers in the field of social work.” Her essay is titled “In Plain Sight, and Yet Visible: The Ministry of Deaconess Ruth Byllesby”

Readers then learn about the 37-year ministry of Deaconess Emma Britt Drant (d. 1932) in the dioceses of Southern Ohio, Hawaii, and California. Drant’s ministry included the Chinese diaspora in both Hawaii and California as well as work among victims of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire.

Retired priest John Rawlinson describes Drant as typical in being impoverished but “unique in pursuing most of her ministries without being closely supervised by a male priest.” His essay is titled “‘I… have $100 for my burial’: Deaconess Emma Britt Drant”

Qiana M. Johnson then examines the unique gifts and experiences of the first five Black women ordained as priests in the Episcopal Church—Pauli Murray, Mary Adebonojo, Barbara C. Harris, Sandye Wilson, and Gayle Harris—describing “a common thread in the lives of these women was work around civil rights and social justice.”

Deacon Johnson, assoc. dean of libraries at Dartmouth College, calls for further research regarding power with consideration for “what happens when authority is invested in people society has long held as being unworthy of authority, especially Black women.” Johnson’s essay is titled “Being First Two Times Over: The First Five Black Women Episcopal Priests”

John L. Kater takes readers to England during the Tudor Dynasty. He contends far-reaching Tudor Dynasty changes in the Church of England were not a “revolution” akin to reformed churches on the European continent. Kater points to the continuation of episcopacy; little structural change to organization of parishes, dioceses, and provinces; and basic rhythm of church life as remaining intact as examples. However, he notes “the theological understanding of many of the church’s services changed”

Kater is professor emeritus at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific and assoc. professor at Ming Hua Theological College in Hong Kong, China. His essay is “Ministry and the Tudors: Change, Confusion, and Continuity.”

AEH also features two church reviews providing glimpses of Easter services at St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in Bolinas, part of the Episcopal Diocese of California, and at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel at the University of Chicago.

The March issue also includes 22 book reviews related to church history and Anglican scholarship. Among them:

  • Walking Together: Global Anglican Perspectives on Reconciliation edited by Muthuraj Swamy and Stephen Specer | Reviewed by Carla E. Roland Guzmán of General Theological Seminary
  • Royalist, Religion, and Revolution: Wales 1640-1688 by Sarah Ward Clavier | Reviewed by William Gibson of Oxford Brookes University
  • A Century of Praise: The Monastic Chapel of Saint Augustine edited by Josép Martinez-Cubero et al. | Reviewed by Matthew F. Reese of the Johns Hopkins University
  • “For the Good of Their Souls”: Performing Christianity in Eighteenth-Century Mohawk Country by William B. Hart | Reviewed by Harvey Hill of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Agawam, Mass.
  • Christianity in Central Tanzania, A Story of African Encounters and Initiatives in Ugogo and Ukaguru, 1876-1933 by Mwita Akiri | Reviewed by John Rawlinson

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