ENGLAND'S WOMEN PRIESTS OBSERVE ANNIVERSARY OF ORDINATION
BRISTOL, ENGLAND — With traditionalists still fuming, the Church of England's pioneering women priests are marking the first anniversary of their ordination quietly.
''Being a priest has been so joyful. It's focused my ministry and boosted the morale of the church,'' says the Rev. Jan Fortune-Wood, who ministers at the parish church of St. Andrew's in Swindon, Bristol Diocese.
Despite a burst of defections by bishops and priests who disagree with the decision to ordain women, church leaders say the first year has been less tumultuous than expected.
''Both views are still in the church, and we have done pretty well in generally keeping them together,'' says Canon Robert Warren, national officer for evangelism.
Mrs. Fortune-Wood was one of 32 British women ordained at Bristol cathedral last March, the first women to break the male-only barrier since King Henry VIII created the Church of England in the 16th century.
A minority within the Church of England remains loudly and defiantly opposed, mostly on grounds that ordaining women is against Scripture.
''We still cannot accept it,'' says the Rev. John Broadhurst of the traditionalist group, Forward in Faith.
The church says three retired bishops and 250 full-time priests have left the Church of England because of the ordination of women. Many have joined the Roman Catholic Church, which does not permit women priests -- and also does not allow married Anglican converts take up parish duties.
Mr. Broadhurst says his group has counted 400 priests and several thousand lay people who have left the Church of England.
Church spokesmen say there are now nearly 1,400 women priests in Britain, about 10 percent of the clergy. Women now lead between 100 and 200 of the country's 16,000 churches. Others are church officials or serve as chaplains in hospitals, prisons, and universities.
The Rev. Ulla Monberg, area director of ordinands in central London, reports ''a good, steady stream'' of women coming forward for ordination from different backgrounds, including secular fields.
The church still bars women from becoming bishops and allows traditionalist parishes to refuse women priests. Financial compensation is offered to clergy who resign rather than accept women priests.