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The Philadelphia Eleven

The Philadelphia Eleven

The Philadelphia Eleven

Dir. Margo Guernsey
86 min

Screening + Discussion • May 14 at 7:00pm

Post Film Discussion Speakers:
Rev. Leonard Freeman:
Leonard Freeman, a veteran religious journalist, parish priest, and former head of communications for Washington National Cathedral and Trinity Church Wall Street, was the primary national church reporter for the Philadelphia 11 ordinations. He was also part of the national church communications team covering the 1976 General Convention that approved women’s ordination to the priesthood. He and Allison Cheek were classmates at Virginia Seminary.

Rev. Katherine Lewis: Katherine was ordained in 1996 and has served congregations in the Diocese of Southern Ohio and the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. She is currently the rector of St. David's in Minnetonka and is the Regional Dean for the Central and West Twin Cities metro areas. A vivid childhood memory of Katherine's was witnessing the protest of the ordination of a woman priest in her home state of West Virginia.

Rev. Dr. Anne Miner-Pearson: Anne was ordained an Episcopal priest by Bishop Robert Anderson on January 18, 1984, at a time when women were a rarity in Episcopal seminaries. Having served a brief period as interim, Anne was called as rector of St. Anne’s, Sunfish Lake, where she served for ten years. In 1995, she received a D.Min. in Preaching and still continues in that program advising current students. Having retired in 2022 after serving eight congregations, over half as rector, Anne has created a curriculum based on an approach to the gospels. Currently, she co-leads retreats on the Camino de Santiago, Spain.

About the film

In 1974, in an act of civil disobedience, eleven women are ordained as Episcopal priests. They face backlash and harassment as they build a movement that challenges patriarchy within Christendom.

A group of women in the Episcopal Church share their call to become priests. After two legislative votes to make it possible for women to be ordained fail, they organize their own ordination as priests in defiance of church norms. The Church of the Advocate, a Black urban church in North Philadelphia, welcomes them. A huge congregation witnesses the service on July 29, 1974. Changing an institution based on 2,000 years of history is an enormous task. The women priests face threats and harassment. Some lose family and friends, and others are banned from setting foot on church property. Their opponents repeatedly question whether they are "proper matter for ordination." Their ordination becomes not only a personal struggle, but also a very public battle over whether women are qualified to lead. Despite the backlash, they successfully change the church by asserting their leadership and a vision for “a new way” on their own terms. In a women’s rights story most people have never heard, we meet these trailblazers who challenge the very essence of patriarchy within Christendom, and successfully create a blueprint for lasting institutional change.

Film Details

Program: Special Screenings
Release Year: 2023
Runtime: 86 min
Country/Region: USA
Rating: Unrated
Language: English
Tags: Activism, Documentary, Religion, Women Directors, Women's Rights


Director: Margo Guernsey
Executive Producer: M.E., Katie Eccles
Cinematographer: Nikki Bramley
Editor: Rabab Haj Yahya
Composer: Saul Simon Macwilliams