Australia's Anglican church still divided over women's ordination

By David Crampton
Posted Apr 12, 2012

[Ecumenical News International] Australia’s Anglican Church has its third female bishop, Genieve Blackwell, but her March 31 consecration was boycotted by her archbishop, Sydney’s Peter Jensen, a strong opponent of women clergy.

Blackwell, the first Anglican woman bishop in the state of New South Wales, was appointed regional bishop of Wagga Wagga, located between Sydney and Melbourne, by Bishop Stuart Robinson of the Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn. Jensen is archbishop of the region, which also includes Sydney, one of the most conservative dioceses in the Anglican Communion.

Of her new role, Blackwell told ENInews, “It is about promoting Christ’s church in the world, and encouraging parishes in what they are doing now and in the future.” She told the Sydney Morning Herald that she was “a bit nervous but I look on this as meeting a great challenge that faces the rural and regional church … It is a great thing that the gifts of women are being recognized and confirmed as being able to be used in Christ’s service.”

A daughter of a Methodist minister, raised in the Uniting Church, Blackwell joined the Anglican Church while studying at university. She undertook further study at Moore Theological Anglican College from 1989 to 1992 under Jensen, and was ordained as a deacon in Sydney in 1993. (Deacons may not celebrate the Eucharist and have been ordained in Sydney since 1989.)

Jensen, along with all his Sydney bishops, did not attend Blackwell’s ordination service for “reasons of conscience.” Instead, he asked Bishop Brian Farran of Newcastle, New South Wales’ second senior Anglican clergyman, to take his place.

Australia’s second female bishop, Melbourne’s Barbara Darling, was among the 18 bishops who laid hands on Blackwell during the ordination service.

As the Sydney diocese opposes women priests, Blackwell entered the priesthood in 1998 within  Canberra-Goulburn, and headed four parishes, the first woman to do so at each. In her new post, she has authority over 15 parishes.

When Robinson became bishop in 2009, he expressed a desire to see more women appointed to higher clerical office.

“Genieve Blackwell is so capable, I hope I can keep her – she is made for the job,” he told ENInews.  “She’s an extremely gifted and able leader, pastor, teacher and administrator. We are delighted to be a part of history.”

Canberra-Goulburn has been a pioneer in women’s ordination for 20 years despite being sued by the Sydney diocese in an attempt to stop ordination of 11 female priests in 1992.  Sydney eventually had its action thrown out of court and Kay Goldsworthy was ordained as priest, one of the first ten female Anglican priests worldwide. She was Australia’s first woman Anglican bishop in 2008, followed by Darling nine days later.

Goldsworthy’s 20th anniversary in the priesthood was marked in a February service.


Comments (10)

  1. Bruce Bogin says:

    In my opinion anyone who opposes women clergy is nothing but a bigot wrapping himself in Scripture to justify the unjustifiable. Either we are all equal in Christ or we are not. For far too many centuries religion has been nothing more than a thinly disguised program of promoting and preserving male hegemony. It is so in Orthodox Judaism, it is so in the Roman Catholic Church, it is so in the Southern Baptist Church, it is so in the Church of Latter Day Saints, and it is so in Islam. Let it not be so in the Episcopal and Anglican Churches. Let us be about equality and drop this hypocrisy about conscience. Let the Archbishop at least be intellectually honest and admit that at base he is just a bigot hiding behind Scripture.

    1. The Rev. Hanns Engelhardt says:

      I am worlds apart from Archbishop Jensen on more than one point. But I think the words Bruce Bogin uses are totally unacceptable. You cannot call a fellow Christian who maintains a different theological opinion than you ‘a bigot hiding himself in Scripture’. Christians may disagree with regard to important questions but they should always show respect for the dignity of the disagreeing person who is also a human being and a beloved child of God. Likewise, saying that for ‘many centuries religion has been nothing more than a thinly disguised program of promoting and preserving male hegemony’ does gross injustice to those many Christians who sincerely proclaimed the gospel of Christ, fed the hungry, nursed the sick, comforted the sorrowful. I cherish the equality of women and men but there seems to be a little bit more than this in Christian religion. And on the whole I strongly feel that even in serious disagreement Christians should maintain a minimum standard of charitable behaviour.

      1. Bruce Bogin says:

        Bull feathers! If we substitute the word “black”for the word “women”, you would find Archbishop Jensen’s position totally unacceptable. Wrapping bigotry in Scripture does not make it less bigotry. Bigotry is bigotry regardless whether it is based on a person’s theological opinion. Discrimination is discrimination. And yes, Christians have fed the hungry, nursed the sick, etc., all the while their institutions were and to this day still are promoting male hegemony. I see no need to be charitable towards bigots. Bigotry should in all circumstances be unacceptable, especially to Christians.

  2. Kathryn Piccard says:

    The first Anglican women priests worldwide were in the Diocese of Hong Kong, in 1944 and 1971 and following. In 1974 there were 11 in the USA, and 4 more in the USA in 1975. In 1976 there were 6 in the Anglican Church of Canada… In 1977 in the USA the earlier ones were regularized, and 100 or so were regularly ordained…

  3. Peter W Peters says:

    As a fellow graduate from Moore College I give thanks for the gifts for miinistry that the People of God in Wagga Wagga have recognized in Genieve as has always been the Anglican way. May God open the eyes of Peter Jensen to this central part of our tradition.

  4. The Rev. Harriet B. Linville says:

    May the Gospel of the Christ continue to grow with Bp. Genieve Blackwell’s episcopal ministry. Jesus needs all of the faithful, women and men alike. “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

  5. The Rev. Patrick Ward says:

    The men ran away when he was on the cross but the women stood by to witness his pain and glory. Women were the first witnesses to the Resurrection. Amazing that we are still talking about whether women should be ordained–I think that issue was settled about 2,000 years ago.

    1. R.A. GARCIA says:

      Well, and perhaps to your surprise, the biblical facts have remained for more than 2,000 years. Perhaps, thar’s why it is called “the Word of God” …

  6. R.A. GARCIA says:

    BRUCE BOGIN speaks with the spirit and zeal of the revisionist language proper to the new People of God and/or Goddess!: both in content and caustic expressions.

    It is the new Bible, new conduct and, new individualized Episcopal identity. It also stands as the paradigm of all the new schisms throughout the Anglican Communion and the new christian ego-theology centered around “my truth” as the only truth!

    US BIGOTS must remain faithful to the Scriptures and/or Word of God (the Bible), for there is nothing in “the Word” to sustain female priesthood, female bishopress and/or LGBTT ordinations in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church that WE EPISCOPALIANS say are essential to our shared and common Faith.

    Thus, the militancy and adaptative re-interpretations of the holy texts by individuals like “Bruce Bogins et al”. does not allow much space for those irrelevant and fanatical “oldies” who maintain and OLD AND OBSOLETE CHRISTIAN FAITH. Therefore, we must acknowledge that TEC is a fashionista and metrosexual church that must respond to the needs of other people.

    In summary: the so-called Catholic and Pauline traditionalists MUST ABANDON TEC and, start looking for “greener pastures” … PECUSA, now TEC and, soon to be “The Episcopal LGBTT Communion” will not have to bother about us BIGOTS.

    1. Bruce Bogin says:

      Wake up and face the fact that we are living in the 21st century and not in the 1st or 2nd century or even in the 12th or the 16th or the 19th. Hopefully we humans have progressed in our understanding and are not trapped by the thinking of 2000 years ago. Today we recognize that slavery is wrong. We recognize that women are entitled to aspire to any office or position that a man can aspire to. We or at least some of us recognize that having a same sex orientation is not a mental condition nor a birth defect and that homosexual people are entitled to aspire to the same office or position that heterosexual people aspire to. Bigotry is bigotry whether it is inspired by Scripture or otherwise and has no rightful place in our society. We are all equal.

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