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Death announced of South Africa’s first woman priest

Posted on: November 11, 2015 4:16 PM
The Revd Canon Nancy Charton, South Africa's first woman priest, died this week at the age of 95
Photo Credit: Grahamstown Cathedral

[ACNS] The first woman to be ordained a priest in South Africa has died, it has been announced. The Revd Canon Nancy Charton served at Grahamstown Cathedral as a lay minister and Sunday School teacher before being ordained there first as a deacon and then, in 1992, she was one of three women ordained priest by the late Bishop David Russell.

She died on Wednesday Morning in Graaff Reinet, in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, at the age of 95.

“We give thanks for her long life of devotion to her Lord and his church and people and pray for the family,” a spokesman for the Cathedral said.

“I remember Nancy fondly from when I served in St Mary’s Cathedral, Johannesburg,” the Primate of Southern Africa, the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba, said. “She was a pioneering woman, whose whole life was committed to serving God through his people.

“At the 20th anniversary celebrations of the ordination of women to the Priesthood, Nancy was the preacher. Her sermon outlined the long road she had travelled to fulfil her vocation to the priesthood, and gave thanks to God for the many people who had encouraged and supported her.”

Nancy Charton began her studies at the University of Pretoria in 1939, and became a researcher and lecturer at the then University of Natal in the 1940s. She moved to Grahamstown in 1965, where she spent the rest of her academic life, first as a lecturer and then professor in the department of political studies at Rhodes.

She was named a distinguished fellow of the university and, upon her retirement was ordained a deacon of the church. She was ordained a priest within a few weeks of the church resolving to ordain women in 1992.

“On behalf of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, its bishops, clergy and people, I send our condolences and prayers to [her] family,” Archbishop Makgoba said.