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The Revd Canon Nancy Charton, South Africa’s first female priest, has died

The Revd Canon Nancy Charton, South Africa’s first female priest, has died


The Revd Canon Nancy Charton, the first woman to be ordained to the priesthood in South Africa, has died.

“I remember Nancy fondly from when I served in St Mary’s Cathedral, Johannesburg,” the Primate of Southern Africa, the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba, said. “She was a pioneering woman, whose whole life was committed to serving God through his people.

“At the 20th anniversary celebrations of the ordination of women to the Priesthood, Nancy was the preacher. Her sermon outlined the long road she had travelled to fulfil her vocation to the priesthood, and gave thanks to God for the many people who had encouraged and supported her.”

Nancy Charton began her studies at the University of Pretoria in 1939, and became a researcher and lecturer at the then University of Natal in the 1940s. She moved to Grahamstown in 1965, where she spent the rest of her academic life, first as a lecturer and then professor in the department of political studies at Rhodes.

She was named a distinguished fellow of the university and, upon her retirement was ordained a deacon of the church. She was ordained a priest within a few weeks of the church resolving to ordain women in 1992.

Archbishop Makgoba sent his condolences to her family on behalf of the whole Anglican Church in South Africa. Nancy Charton was 95.

Photo: the Revd Canon Nancy Charton, via ACNS


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Martin Padgett

Nancy was my PhD supervisor in political studies at Rhodes University 40 years ago. She opened my eyes to oppression and encouraged me as I struggled to liberate myself as a gay man. I owe her more than I can say.
Martin G. Padgett
Toronto, Canada

Janet Davies

I remember Nancy with love and thanks for her life. Her example, and her support for her students, and all those in need was steadfast and enduring. May she rest in peace. May her sons, daughter and grandchildren take comfort at this time from the example of her life.
Nancy you were loved.

Kurt Hill

May she rest in peace with the saints in light.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

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