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June 06 1989

Marathagavalli David, a 39-year-old housewife, became the first Church of South India (CSI) woman priest in the state of Kerala.

David was ordained May 28 by CSI Bishop J. Jesudason of south Kerala at the Mateer Memorial Church here.

She is the wife of Reverend D. David and mother of two daughters.

"I became a priest not to assert women´s equality with men," said David. "You can´t demand equality of sexes in the priesthood as in other services."

David is the fifth woman priest of the CSI, which has five million members throughout south India and in Jaffna, Sri Lanka.

The decision was welcomed by the Kerala Council of Churches at its triennial assembly in December.

CSI is a united church founded in 1900 linking several Protestant denominations, including the Anglican Church. Bitter debate preceded the CSI synod´s 1977 decision to accept women in the priesthood.

David and her husband, who is the vicar of the CSI church at Attingal, have become the first priestly couple in Kerala, whose population is nearly 30 percent Christian.

Her title was a problem for reporters who interviewed her after ordination.

"Call me Achan (the Mayalam word for Father)," she said. "There is no special word for a woman advocate, judge, minister or doctor. So why can´t we have the same word for male and female priests?"