Scotland's national church getting first woman leader

Posted: Friday, October 24, 2003

LONDON (AP) For the first time in its 443-year history, the Church of Scotland is poised to elect a woman as leader.

Later this month, a committee of church officials will choose between two women nominated to become moderator, or leader, of the church's general assembly, officials said last week.

In May, the successful candidate will appear before the general assembly, which is expected to ratify the appointment.

The Church of Scotland is a Presbyterian church and is regarded as Scotland's national church.

The nominees are Alison Elliott, 54, an elder at Greyfriars Tolbooth & Highland Kirk in Edinburgh and director of the Center for Theology and Public Issues at Edinburgh University, and the Rev. Valerie Watson, 54, a minister from the borders area of southern Scotland.

''The moderatorship has been seen as the final breaking of the stained glass ceiling,'' said a former moderator, the Very Rev. Finlay McDonald.

A church report in 2001 found that although the church began ordaining women in 1968, they accounted for only 15 percent of ministers.

One woman was nominated last year but not elected.

The role of moderator dates from the Reformation in the 16th century and stemmed from the church's desire to give ordinary people a voice in running the church.

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