A DEACON in the diocese of Oxford whose priesting was delayed because of her husband’s divorce will be ordained priest this weekend, thanks to the granting of a faculty (News, 2 July 2021).
The Revd Sorrel Shamel-Wood, who serves in the Dorchester Team Ministry and is currently on maternity leave, was ordained deacon in July 2020, a month before she married the Revd Andy Shamel, who is Chaplain of Lincoln College, Oxford. The couple met in 2017 while Ms Shamel-Wood was training for ordination at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, at which point, Mr Shamel had been divorced for a year. But last year, she was not permitted to be ordained priest because they had not been married for three years.
Marriage after divorce is not an insuperable impediment to ordination in the Church of England. Under Canon C4, a diocesan bishop representing the candidate can apply to the archbishop of the Province for a dispensation. Among the factors that bishops are obliged to consider is the stability of the current marriage; applications are not normally considered when the current marriage is less than three years old.
Last year, Ms Shamel-Wood described her exclusion from being priested as “very painful”, particularly because she was not the divorcee. “I feel angry and frustrated at the irony that Andy continues to preside at the altar without any ramifications when it is his divorce that is the barrier to my ordination,” she said at the time. “I have never been married before, but I am the one who is being punished.”
Now, however, she will be ordained priest, owing to the granting of a faculty. “I’m very grateful to the Bishop of Oxford and happy that he pursued this on my behalf,” Ms Shamel-Wood said this week. She also paid tribute to her training incumbent, Canon Sue Booys (now retired), and the diocesan dean of women’s ministry, Canon Felicity Scroggie, both of whom advocated on her behalf.
A spokesman for the Bishop of Oxford said this week: “The Bishop was happy to make the case in this instance for a C4 faculty to be granted. We are delighted that Sorrel is to be ordained priest on Sunday.”
Meanwhile, Canon Mark Bennet, who is the Team Rector of Thatcham, also in Oxford diocese, and a member of General Synod, is attempting to bring a private members’ motion to Synod to remove the divorce impediment to ordination. He said: “Decisions should be made locally and pastorally by those who know the candidates best, with investigations only when necessary. The current procedure is a waste of time and effort and is counterproductive to the nurture of vocations to ordained ministry.”
Ms Shamel-Wood said that she hoped that now an exception had been made in her case, a precedent had been set “so that nobody else has to go through what for some can be a traumatic process”.