Constance Coltman

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Constance Mary Coltman (née Todd; born 1889 and died 1969) was one of the first women ordained to Christian ministry in Britain, when she was ordained by the Congregational Union of England and Wales at the King's Weigh House (Congregational Church), London, on 17 September 1917. Her husband, Claud Coltman, was ordained alongside her, the day before their marriage. (A decade earlier Gertrude von Petzold became minister at Narborough Road Free Christian (Unitarian) church, Leicester, after studying at Manchester College, Oxford. A generation earlier, in 1880, the Glasgow Universalists ordained Caroline Soule.[1])

Constance Todd grew up in a Presbyterian family who attended the Putney Presbyterian Church. After attending Saint Felix School, Southwold as a boarder she went to read history in Somerville College, Oxford.[2]

She became conscious of her call to ministry, but was told that it would be impossible in the Presbyterian Church of England. In 1909, the Congregational Council considered the question of ordaining women, after discussions on the possibility of women deacons and elders occurred in the Presbyterian and Congregational churches. The principal of the (then) Congregational college, Mansfield College, Oxford, W. B. Selbie, was persuaded that her call was genuine and in 1913 she was accepted as a student there, where she obtained her London Bachelor of Divinity degree.

Her candidacy for the Ministry of Word and Sacraments was tested and accepted by the King's Weigh House congregation in Mayfair, in 1917. After her ordination, presided by William E. Orchard (a Presbyterian who later became a Roman Catholic priest) and assisted by Congregationalist ministers, she ministered there jointly with her husband, Claud Coltman.

The two of them ministered in Kilburn 1922-23, Cowley Road, Oxford 1924-32, Wolverton 1932-40, and Haverhill 1940-46, then returning to King's Weigh House where they served until 1949, before retiring to Bexhill-on-Sea where Constance died in 1969.

She was not a campaigner, but supported younger women who felt called to ministry, and helped found the Fellowship of Women Ministers and the Society for the Ministry of Women. She was a friend of the Anglican supporter of women's ordination, Maude Royden, and contributed a chapter to Royden's book The Church and Women (1924). Both Constance and Claud were convinced pacifists throughout their lives.

Notes

  1. The Guardian, Saturday 25 September 2004. Keith Gilley, "The ministry of women"
  2. Binfield, Clyde; Taylor, John (2007). Who They Were in the Reformed Churches of England and Wales 1901-2000. Shaun Tyas. ISBN 978 1900289 825.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Bibliography