The Rev. Alison Cheek, the first woman to publicly preside over an Episcopal Church Eucharist in the United States, and the Rev. Carter Heyward, a prolific author on feminist theology and retired professor at Episcopal Divinity School, were part of a symposium earlier this month at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Knoxville, Tennessee, sponsored by East Tennessee Episcopal Church Women.

Cheek and Heyward were two of the Philadelphia 11 who were ordained in Philadelphia by three retired bishops in July 1974 causing uproar in the national church. Although women’s ordination was not specifically prohibited, by practice it had never been allowed. Darlene O’Dell, author of The Story of the Philadelphia Eleven, who also participated in the symposium, said study of the issue had gone on “for over 50 years and promised to go on into oblivion” if action hadn’t been taken.

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