Mary Levison

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Reverend Dr
Mary Levison
Born Mary Irene Lusk
(1923-01-08)8 January 1923
Died 12 September 2011(2011-09-12) (aged 88)
Resting place Grange Cemetery
Alma mater University of Oxford
University of Edinburgh
Known for Lobbying for the ordination of women

Rev Dr Mary Irene Levison DD (8 January 1923 – 12 September 2011) was the first person to petition the Church of Scotland for the ordination of women to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament in 1963. This was achieved five years later and Levison became a minister in 1973.


The grave of Mary Levison, Grange Cemetery, Edinburgh

Born Mary Irene Lusk in Oxford on 8 January 1923, she was the fourth child of Reverend David Colville Lusk (1881-1960) and his wife Mary Theodora Colville. Her father was ordained in the United Free Church and at the time of her birth was the Chaplain to the Presbyterian members of the University of Oxford.[1]

She attended the Oxford High School for Girls for her early education. When the family moved from Oxford to Edinburgh she attended St Monica's School. While there she sat the entrance examination for St Leonard's School in St Andrews which she attended from the age of 13.[1]

She returned to her home town of Oxford for university, studying at undergraduate level at Lady Margaret Halll from 1941. Here she gained a first class degree in philosophy, politics and economics.[2]

As part of her training to be a deaconess (licensed to preach) she came back to Edinburgh to attend St Colm's College and studied for the Bachelor of Divinity at New College (the Faculty of Divinity in the University of Edinburgh). She was awarded a Distinction in Systematic Theology and the Aitken Fellowship which enabled her to spend a semester in Heidelberg and a semester in Basel.

Work in the Church of Scotland[edit]

She was appointed as Deaconess in St Michael's Church in Inveresk, Musselburgh near Edinburgh in 1954 where she served for 4 years.[2]

In 1958 she returned to St Colm's College taking up the post of tutor teaching Christian Doctrine, New Testament Studies and the practical training of the deaconess students.[1]

On Saturday 26 May 1963 Mary Lusk stood at the Bar of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to test her call to ministry. The Moderator overseeing the proceedings was the Very Rev James Stuart Stewart. She was given 15 minutes to present her petition to the General Assembly. Her petition was for her Ordination to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament. Her petition was received by the Assembly which instructed the Panel on Doctrine to consider its response and report to the following General Assembly.[2]

This was achieved five years later and Levison became a minister in 1973.[2]

Family and later life[edit]

In 1965 she married Reverend Frederick Levison and they moved to the Scottish Borders. When he retired in 1977 they returned to Edinburgh and she then became involved in pastoral care at St Andrew's and St George's Church, Edinburgh.

She was appointed a Chaplain to Her Majesty in Scotland in 1991,[3] and was the first female minister in this role. In 1993 she stood unsuccessfully as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. She was awarded an honorary doctorate (DD) by the University of Edinburgh in 1994.[4]

She died in Edinburgh on 12 September 2011 and is buried with her parents and other family members in Grange Cemetery. The grave lies on the western wall of the west extension.


  • Wrestling with the Church (1992) autobiography

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Levinson, Mary (1992). Wrestling With The Church. London: Arthur James Limited. ISBN 0-85305-307-3. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Obituary: Rev. Mary Levison, minister of the Church of Scotland". Retrieved 2016-11-02. 
  3. ^ "No. 52532". The London Gazette. 14 May 1991. p. 7437. 
  4. ^ Guardian newspaper (obituary) 15 September 2011