A new corp of Episcopal priests, with equal numbers o f men and women, was ordained in an unusual mass rite at the Washington Cathedral yesterday morning.
Bishop John T. Walker predicted in his sermon that yesterday's action, the first sanctioned ordination of women in the Washington diocese, would "have an impact upon our understanding and practice of the ministry of the church for a thousand years and beyond."
Included among the six ordained by Bishop William F. Creighton yesterday was the Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray, the Episcopal Church's first - as she insists on calling herself - Negro woman priest.
In addition to ordaining six new priests, Bishop Creighton also formally recognized the earlier unsactioned ordinations of two women, the Revs. Lee McGee and Betty Rosenberg.
The Episcopal Church's General Convention last September formally voted to open its traditionally all-male presthood to women. It also authorized the regularizing of the priesthood of 15 women ordained in challenged rites before the Church dropped its bar to women priests.
Ordained yesterday, in addition to the Rev. Dr. Murray were the Revs. Carole Crumley of CHrist Church; Lee Wiesner of the Cathedral staff; Rayford W. Ellis of the Church of the Holy Comforter; Joel A. Gibson, Church of the Ascension in Silver Spring, and John Leslie Rabb of Ascension Church, Gaithersburg.
Yesterday's omnibus service marked the first ordination rule in the Washington Episcopal Diocese in nearly two years. In April, 1975, Bishop Creighton, a champion of women priests, declared a moratorium on all ordinations until qualified women could be ordained along with men.
As the 1,450 well-wihishers gathered at the Cathedral for yesterday morning's services, they were greeted by about 15 peckets passing out leaflets and carrying signs deploring "prestess," a term the church rejects.
The protesters, most of whom were associated with St. Paul's Episcopal Church on K Street, had sought and received permission from the cathedral's Dean Francis B. Sayre to stage their quiet and orderly demonstration.
Inside the cathedral there was little evidence of the church's 10 years of anguish over the women-priest issue which at times threatened to tear the church apart.
Bishop Creighton put behind him the bitter controversy with McGee and Rosenberg, who had defied hm by undergoing their unsanctioned ordination in 1975 and announced to them and the congregation: "I now affirm you as priests in the church of God . . ."
Then the normally reserved bishop, who has been described by associates as "painfully shy," folded each of the women in a warm embrace as the congregation applauded.
The ordination of the six new priests proceeded sedately according to the rite of the new Book of Common Prayer, approced by the church's General Convention last September, through the actual consecration, their vesting as priests and Bishop Creighton's presentation to each of them of a Bible.
Then, as the new priests themselves pronounced the traditional exchange of the "peace of the Lord," the scene before the altar erupted into happy chaos.The nearly 50 priests of the diocese who had joined in the consecration surged foward to embrace the new priests, each other, and members of the congregation who rushed up to join in the joyous occasion.
It was full five minutes before Dean Sayre could restore order and proceed with the communion service concelebrated by the new priests and Bishop Creighton.
In the Episcopal Church, priests are traditionally ordained in their own parish church. Yesterday's ordination of all six candidates together was scheduled at te cathedral as the Washington diocese's celebration of the opening of the priesthood to woman, which became effective Jan. 1.