[Episcopal News Service] The producers of a documentary on the 11 women who broke down barriers in The Episcopal Church to become its first female priests have released a trailer for the film, as they work to raise the remaining money needed to complete it in time for the 50th anniversary of the church milestone next year.
Hundreds signed up for an online sneak peak of “The Philadelphia Eleven” in June 2022, and the official trailer for the full-length documentary was first revealed March 10 in Jacksonville, Florida, at the annual conference of the Episcopal Parish Network. It now can be viewed on Time Travel Productions’ Vimeo channel and below.
In 1974, no canon specifically forbade women from becoming priests in The Episcopal Church, but diocesan standing committees and bishops to that point had almost uniformly rejected women’s requests for ordination to the priesthood. Only one of the Philadelphia Eleven had received the backing of her standing committee, and their bishops refused to ordain them.
Instead, three retired bishops agreed to ordain the 11 women on July 29, 1974, even though doing so without the approval of diocesan leadership could be seen as violating canonical law and church tradition. Church leaders debated the validity of the women’s ordinations for two years until General Convention approved a new section of the church’s ordination canons in September 1976 saying its provisions “shall be equally applicable to men and women.”
Margo Guernsey is director and producer of the documentary, with co-producer Nikki Bramley. Six of the Philadelphia Eleven are still living, and Guernsey and Bramley interviewed each of those six for the documentary, as well as the Rev. Betty Bone Schiess before she died in 2017, and the Rev. Alison Cheek, who died in 2019.
Guernsey and Bramley launched a new fundraising campaign timed to Women’s History Month. Much of the remaining fundraising is needed to cover the costs of licensing the archival footage that will appear in the final cut of the documentary. Information on donating can be found here.