17 Dec 2014

Meet the women taking up the top religious posts

The first female bishop in the Church of England is Reverend Libby Lane. The prime minister said it was an “important day for equality.” So who are the other female firsts within their religions?

Ms Lane, who was ordained in 1994, will become an assistant, or suffragan bishop, in the diocese of Chester. She will be consecrated in a ceremony at York Minster on 26 January.

She said “On this historic day as the Church of England announces the first woman nominated to be bishop, I am very conscious of all those who have gone before me, women and men, who for decades have looked forward to this moment”.

Sara Hurwitz

Sara Hurwitz, dean of Yeshivat Maharat, was the first Orthodox woman to be ordained in the United States. In 2009, she received smicha from Rabbi Avi Weiss, founder of the Modern Orthodox Yeshivat Chovevei Torah.

Originally, Ms Hurwitz was also ordained with the title maharat, but Mr Weiss changed her title to rabba – a feminization of rabbi – in February 2010.

Amina Wadud

In 2005 professor Amina Wadud (above) led Friday prayers for a congregation in the United States, breaking with Islamic laws, which allows only male imams in mixed-gender congregations.

The gathering was held in the Synod House, owned by the Episcopal Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in Manhattan, after three mosques had refused to host the service.

Khandro Rinpoche

Khandro Rinpoche (above) is a rare example of a female lama in Tibetan Buddhist. Born in Kalimpong, India, she was recognized by Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, 16th Karmapa, at the age of two as the reincarnation of the Khandro Urgyen Tsomo, who was one of the most well-known female masters of her time.

Elizabeth Eaton

In 2013 Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton became the fourth bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American, and the denomination’s first female presiding bishop. Prior to her election, she served as Bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod.

Vashti McKenzie

Vashti Murphy McKenzie (above) is a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. McKenzie is the first female elected as bishop in the denomination’s 200-year history. She was recently invited to preach at the annual White House Easter Prayer Breakfast at the invitation of President Barack Obama.

Heather Morris

In 2013 Rev Heather Morris become the first female to lead one of the four major Christian Methodist churches in Ireland. She was ordained in 1992, following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather who were both Methodist ministers.