Margaret Towner Ordained in PCUSA
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While other denominations, including Congregationalists, Methodists, Unitarians, and Cumberland Presbyterians, had begun ordaining women during the 19th century, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (PCUSA) remained resistant. However, momentum changed, as women were allowed to be deacons in 1922 and elders in 1930. Although this was progress, female deaconesses and elders were still subordinate to men.

That changed in 1956 with the ordination of Margaret E. Towner, a Christian educator in Tacoma Park, MD. With a graduate certificate at Union Theological Seminary, she possessed the seminary credentials necessary for ministerial ordination. Her home presbytery in Syracuse, NY, encouraged her to pursue ordination. Although her position did not require full ordination, Towner and her allies wanted to challenge the gender barrier. After her 1956 ordination, she continued work in religious education until she was called to serve the First Presbyterian Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1961.

Towner’s ministerial ordination was monumental in that it removed the final official barrier to gender equality among PCUSA clergy. By 2001, women made up nearly half of those holding ordained offices in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A).
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Women and Religion
Presbyterian Religious Events and People in American History
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Women and Religion in American History
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Ordination of Margaret Ellen Towner, 1956- Presbyterian Historical Society, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (Philadelphia, PA)
Book/Journal Source(s)
Krugler, John and David Weinberg-Kinsey, 1990. Equality of Leadership: The Ordinations of Sarah E. Dickson and Margaret E. Towner in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.. American Presbyterians, vol. 68, no. 4.
Web Page Contributor
Paul Matzko
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in History

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