Ranchi: For the first time since its inception 128 years ago, the Chhotanagpur diocese of the Church of North India (CNI) has decided to ordain women as priests, breaking the church’s age-old tradition of a men-only clergy.
“Though other dioceses of the CNI Church in the country have long ago anointed women as priests, giving them the right to conduct church services, the Chhotanagpur diocese had so far refrained from following suit. However, we have now decided to break the more-than-century-old tradition and ordain women as priests. The first woman priest is expected be anointed this month,” head of the CNI Chhotanagpur diocese bishop B B Baskey told Times of India.
Bishop Baskey heads 52 parishes of CNI, the dominant Protestant denomination in northern India, spread over Jharkhand and neighbouring Odisha.
The Gossner Evangelical Lutheran (GEL) Church, the first church set up at Chhotanagpur in Ranchi in 1845 by four German missionaries, was also the first in the region to ordain three women as priests in 1995. The Roman Catholic church continues to bar women from priesthood.
“Both men and women are god’s creation. The CNI preaches gender equality. The church treats all men and women as equals. Yet, the Chhotanagpur diocese of the CNI had held back appointment of women as priests for more than a century, for the simple reason that we did not have trained and experienced women who could take on spiritual leadership roles. We intend to fill this void by ordaining a woman as a priest this month with more to follow in the future,” bishop Baskey said.
“With the admission of women on equal terms as men for the posts of priests, we would also evaluate the effect of this extraordinary change in the profile of the church and pave the way for more women being ordained as deacons, priests and later bishops,” he added.