Florence Li Tim-Oi
Florence Li Tim-Oi
|Born||5 May 1907|
|Died||26 February 1992 (aged 84)|
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
|Venerated in||Episcopal Church USA, Anglican Church of Canada|
|Feast||24 January (Episcopal Church USA); 26 February (Anglican Church of Canada)|
Florence Li Tim-Oi (Chinese: 李添嬡 Cantonese Lei Tim'oi, Mandarin Li Tian'ai; 5 May 1907 in Hong Kong – 26 February 1992 in Toronto) was the first woman to be ordained to the priesthood in the Anglican Communion on 25 January 1944.
In 1931, Florence Li was present at the ordination of Deaconess Lucy Vincent at St. John's Cathedral in Hong Kong when the preacher had asked for women to give their lives to work for Christian ministry. Being inspired by this, Li would eventually go to Canton Union Theological College to receive her theological education before returning to Hong Kong in 1938. After working for two years in All Saints Church, in Kowloon, helping refugees in Hong Kong who fled mainland China in the midst of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Li was sent by Bishop Ronald Hall to help with refugees in Macau at the Macau Protestant Chapel. Six months into her new post, she returned to Hong Kong to be ordained as a deaconess on 22 May 1941 by Bishop Hall at St. John's Cathedral, where she received her first call.
The Japanese occupation of Hong Kong and of parts of China had made it impossible for Anglican priests to get to neutral Macau, where there was no resident Anglican priest; Li was authorised by Hall and his assistant to give the sacraments to the Anglicans in these extenuating circumstances. Hall explained to the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, William Temple: "I'm not an advocate for the ordination of women. I am, however, determined that no prejudices should prevent the congregations committed to my care having the sacraments of the Church."
In January 1944, Li travelled through Japanese-occupied territory to the small town of Hsinxing, as yet unoccupied by the Japanese, to meet with Hall; from there they proceeded to Shaoqing where he regularised her administration of the sacraments by ordaining her as a priest on 25 January 1944. William Temple confided to others his conflicting views but he felt compelled to take a public stand against it. It was to be 30 years before any Anglican church regularised the ordination of women; to avoid further controversy she resigned her licence (though not her priest's orders) after the end of the war.
She was appointed an honorary (nonstipendiary) assistant priest in Toronto in 1983, where she spent the remainder of her life.
In 2003, the Episcopal Church fixed 24 January as her feast day in Lesser Feasts and Fasts, based on the eve of the anniversary of her ordination. In 2007, the Anglican Communion celebrated the centennial of her birth. In 2018, she was made a permanent part of the Episcopal Church’s calendar of saints.
She is also memorialized in the calendar of the Anglican Church of Canada with a feast day on February 26.
- Harrison, Ted (1985). Much Beloved Daughter. London: Darton, Longman & Todd, Limited. pp. 16–40. ISBN 978-0-232-51632-6.
- Rose, Mavis (1996). Freedom From Sanctified Sexism – Women Transforming the Church. Queensland, Australia: Allira Publications. pp. 129–149.
- Li, Florence Tim Oi (1996). Raindrops of my Life. Toronto: Anglican Book Centre. pp. 20–21. ISBN 1-55126-128-6.
- "Li Tim-Oi's Story". www.ittakesonewoman.org. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
- Harrison. Much Beloved Daughter. pp. 41–53.
- Wai Ching Angela Wong & Patricia P. K. Chiu (2018). Christian Women in Chinese Society: The Anglican Story. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. p. 139. ISBN 9789888455928.
- Schjonberg, Mary Frances (4 May 2007). "Communion to celebrate first woman priest Li Tim-Oi on anniversary of birth | Episcopal Church". The Episcopal Church. Retrieved 18 August 2016.
- Frances, Mary. "Convention makes Thurgood Marshall, Pauli Murray, Florence Li Tim-Oi permanent saints of the church – Episcopal News Service". Episcopalnewsservice.org. Retrieved 2018-07-28.