Church of Ireland’s First Female Bishop

Campaigner’s posthumous gift to be given to Ireland’s first woman bishop
Posted on: December 4, 2013 4:11 PM

Bishop Pat Storey is congratulated by Evelyn Sloane (Taney) following her consecration as Bishop of Meath and Kildare in Christ Church Cathedral on Saturday November 30.

Photo Credit: United Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough

By Lynn Glanville, United Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough

A cross which was left as a gift by one of Ireland’s foremost campaigners for the ordination of women will be presented to the Bishop of Meath and Kildare, the Most Revd Pat Storey, in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, next Monday, December 9, at 6.00 pm.

Daphne Wormell left the cross in her will in 2001 with the request that it be presented to the first woman bishop in the Church of Ireland. Bishop Storey will receive the cross on Monday when she will also launch Daphne’s biography With Dignity and Grace by Daphne Wormell and her daughter Julia Turner.

Daphne Wormell first made the case for women priests in 1970 when she wrote that “bishops may yet be bringing their husbands to Lambeth”. In 1996 she was awarded an honorary MA degree by Dublin University for her work in this area and for her contribution to Trinity College Dublin. In November 2000 she and four other women celebrated the 25th anniversary of their commissioning as the first female lay readers in the Church of Ireland. She was also chair of the Women’s Ministry Group.

Daphne Wormell, was born into an Irish family living in Canada. She came to Trinity College Dublin in 1937 where she studied History and Political Science and went on to become a Scholar and Gold Medallist.

She married Donald Wormell, then a Fellow of Trinity College Dublin in 1941 and subsequently they moved to England, where Donald worked on translating secret documents from German at Bletchley Park. Returning to Dublin in 1944 Donald resumed his post at Trinity College. In 1949 the Wormells moved to Sandyford where they were known for their generous hospitality. In the 60s Daphne taught History & Art Appreciation in a number of Dublin schools, including Park House, The High School and Hillcourt School.

Throughout her life spiritual matters were of central importance to her and her interest in the ordination of women increased in the early 1970s when Archbishop Simms asked her to write on the ordination of women as she was familiar with developments in this area in the United States and Canada.

In 1975 she and four other women were invited by Archbishop Buchanan to train as the first female lay readers in the United Dioceses of Dublin & Glendalough. Later she started the Women in Ministry group and was chairperson of the planning group which organised a seminal conference on Women’s Ministry in Trinity College in 1986.

She died in November 2001 and is survived by three sons, Richard, Robin and Stephen and her daughter Julia. Her biography, written partly by herself and partly by her daughter, Julia, was published by Hinds in 2013.

In her will she left a silver cross to be presented to the first woman bishop of the Church of Ireland. Bishop Storey was consecrated Bishop of Meath and Kildare on Saturday November 30.

How salutary, for the First Female Bishop in the British Isles to have been ordained in the Church of Ireland – the homeland of Saint Bride, the woman credited with leadership in the Church in Kildare in the 6th century. While the Church of England is still wondering how it can deal with the prospect of Women Bishops (dissenters being offered equal rights with the overwhelming majority who approve of the measure); the Church in Ireland has grasped the thistle and moved forward in faith to substantive action.

A sign of that faith, that was in the hearts and minds of such as Daphne Wormell, can be recognised in the gift of a silver cross she left in her will to be given to the first woman ordained a bishop in the Church of Ireland. I guess it’s the nearest one could get to a legacy from St.Bridget (Bride) the Irish Woman Saint.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand


About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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