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Diocese's first woman priest

Deacon Soma Bhatkar is all set to break a male bastion and set a benchmark in gender equality.

Sudhir Kumar Mishra   |   Ranchi   |   Published 05.06.18, 12:00 AM

Ranchi: Deacon Soma Bhatkar is all set to break a male bastion and set a benchmark in gender equality.

Currently the secretary of Bible Society of India, Ranchi Auxiliary, Bhatkar will be the first woman priest of Chotanagpur diocese of the Church of North India (CNI), breaking its 128-year-old tradition of an all-male clergy.

Deacon Bhatkar will be ordained a priest very soon, CNI Chotanagpur diocese Bishop B.B. Baskey told The Telegraph on Monday.

He added, "She became deacon in January last year. Though she is now working with the Bible Society, she is our member. Our executive body meeting will be held on June 19 to decide when she will be anointed."

The Church of North India, (CNI) the dominant Anglican denomination in northern India, is a united church established on November 29, 1970. The Chotanagpur Diocese is much older - carved out from the then diocese of Calcutta on the March 23, 1890.

Bishop Baskey, who heads 52 CNI parishes, said many of its dioceses in various parts of the country had women priests, but the Chotanagpur diocese did not have so far.

So, deacon Bhatkar's anointment as priest assumes significance as it would pave way for more women deacons, priests and later bishops in this region.

"The Church of North India preaches gender equality. God has created both men and women as equals," bishop Baskey told this paper.

But, why did the diocese have no woman priest before?

"We had been evading anointing women priests mainly because we were not getting trained and experienced women to perform church services. Admission of women on equal terms with men would go long way in bringing about revolutionary changes in our church services," the bishop said.

However, Ranchi has seen women priests before.

The Gossner Evangelical Lutheran (GEL) Church, set up by four German missionaries in Ranchi in 1845, first ordained three women as priests as far back as in 1995.

The Roman Catholic Church continues to oppose women becoming priests.

In March 2015, the CNI had started its year-long quasquicentennial celebrations.

Anglicanism is often called the "middle way" between Catholicism and Protestantism.

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