Christian Howard was the eldest daughter of Gerald Howden of Castle Howard, a Liberal politician and his wife Ethel Christian Methuen. Both her parents died in the 1930s. Christian felt that she never had a proper youth because two of her brothers were killed in WW2. As a very young woman, therefore, she was responsible for looking after Castle Howard while her brother George completed his education. She herself was unable to have a university education and regretted it.
Christian did study theology and spent two years teaching divinity at Chichester High School. She returned to Yorkshire in 1945 to work as a licensed lay worker in the Diocese of York.
Between 1947 and 1979 she was Secretary of the York Diocesan Board of Women’s Work, reformed as the board of Lay Ministry in 1972. She was also made a lay Canon Provincial of York Minster in 1969. She represented the Diocese in the Church Assembly and General Synod. She was also a delegate to the World Council of Churches. In 1979 she was awarded a Lambeth MA.
She played a key role in the Campaign for the Ordination of Women. In 1972 she wrote a report for the General Synod entitled ‘The Ordination of Women to Priesthood’, the first of three she would write on the subject based on her years of scholarship. In 1979 she became a founder member of the Movement for the Ordination of Women, which campaigned nationally for 15 years. This only disbanded in 1994 when the first women priests were ordained in the Church of England.
Christian was created a Dame in 1986 in acknowledgement of her ecumenical work. She was also District Commissioner of the Girl Guides. She practised carpentry and made furniture.
Dame Christian Howard died in York in 1999, aged 82. She lived long enough to see her work fulfilled with the Ordination of Women Priests.