Archive for Anglican

The Rev’d Canon Barbara Darling to be Victoria’s first woman bishop

The Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Philip Freier, has announced the appointment of Canon Barbara Darling as an assistant bishop in the Diocese of Melbourne. She is currently the vicar of the parish of St James’, Dandenong.

Canon Darling (60) is only the second woman to be made a bishop in Australia, following the recent appointment of Archdeacon Kay Goldsworthy as an assistant bishop in the Diocese of Perth. Canon Darling will be consecrated as a bishop on 31 May in St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne. 

The members of Archbishop in Council which met last night greeted the nomination of Canon Darling with great warmth and affirmation across the board, many members sharing their experiences of her as a pastor, mentor and colleague. She was described as a steady, wise and deeply caring individual with many gifts to offer as a bishop.

Canon Darling was among the first women in Australia to be ordained priest in 1992 in St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne. She was elected as a canon of St Paul’s Cathedral in 1995, and appointed as an Examining Chaplain in 1998. Before becoming the Vicar of St James’ Dandenong in 2005, she was the Vicar of All Souls’ Sandringham for almost 10 years, from 1995-2005, and before that she was the Minister in Charge and then Vicar of St Paul’s with All Saints, Ascot Vale, from 1989-1995.

She has many years experience as a teacher, including six years at secondary level, and 14 years as a lecturer at Ridley theological College, Melbourne. Her qualifications include an MA from the University of Melbourne, a BA and a Diploma in Education from the University of Sydney, and a Licentiate of Theology with First Class Honours from Ridley College, Melbourne.

In announcing the appointment, Dr Freier said that he believed Canon Darling is a woman of “deep faith, as well as outstanding pastoral, teaching and organisational ability,” and that he was greatly looking forward to working with her as a member of his Episcopal team.

Canon Darling said that she was “delighted, particularly for all women – both clergy and laity. We have been waiting many years for this opportunity, and now, at long last, the day has arrived.”

“I felt called by God to some form of Christian ministry from an early age, and gradually I felt called to ordination, first as a deacon and then as a priest. I am now surprised and somewhat humbled, yet excited, about responding to the call to be a bishop.”

She wants to be a bishop, she said, who “walks alongside people.” “Being aware of people’s concerns, fears and doubts and helping them to grow and develop, and to understand where God is in their lives, is very important to me.”

She is also passionate about sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. “I love teaching and making the Gospel relevant to people’s lives and in the Australia of today.”


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Female bishop sets Church on wider path – Eureka Street

Female bishop sets Church on wider path

The Rev. Canon (sic) Kay Goldsworthy will be consecrated a Bishop in the Church of God on 22 May, in St George’s Anglican Cathedral, Perth. She will be the first woman to become a bishop in an Australian church, although women have been appointed as bishops elsewhere in the Anglican Communion since 1989.

No-one who knows Kay Goldsworthy would question her spiritual, intellectual, pastoral or administrative capacity for episcopal ministry. She was one of the first women ordained deacon in 1986, and one of the first ordained priest, in 1992. She has held school, parish, diocesan and international positions.

The celebration of this day in this year may bring challenges, but it may also be a sign of hope of Christian churches walking down a wider path.

But Bishop Goldsworthy will face significant pressures. Some will arise from the nature of a bishop’s vocation. Others will come from those who cannot accept the legitimacy of a woman as bishop, and from those who have been waiting for this moment for decades.

The Anglican bishops, meeting this week in Newcastle, have worked hard on ways of accommodating opposition, but at local level this is unlikely to be a large issue. Opponents will have little direct contact with the new bishop.

Supporters of the ordination of women, on the other hand, can place unhelpfully high expectations on both the women concerned, and on the church as an institution. As time has passed, these pressures have eased, but may be reignited. Where clergy constitute a mix of women and men it is soon realised that holiness, effectiveness and pastoral sensitivity are not the preserve of either gender.

But deacons and priests function largely in congregations, where they become known personally. That they are male or female is less significant than their ordained identity. A bishop is seen much less regularly at parish level, and a new bishop is something of a curiosity to those who do not know them already. Bishop Goldsworthy may need considerable patience to help some supporters move beyond stereotypes.

And a bishop is a representative person, a personal sign of the wider church to the congregation. Here, many people retain the deeply-held presumption that men can represent both women and men, but women can only represent women. This is unlikely to be an issue in Goldsworthy’s home diocese, where she has undertaken episcopal roles for some time. Yet it may present issues in relating to other parts of the Anglican Church, and ecumenically.

This situation will be eased considerably when another woman is nominated or elected as bishop in the near future — it is not as if Australian women with the capacity to be a bishop are few in number. That would at least dilute the pressures of being the ‘token woman’, especially in bishops’ meetings, where Bishop Goldsworthy would be a lone voice, and with the best of intentions still expected to give ‘the women’s point of view’.

Fortunately, she has the opportunity to experience working in a mixed group of bishops when she participates in the Lambeth Conference in July.

One interesting aspect of this appointment is the date. It is traditional practice for a bishop to be consecrated on a ‘red-letter’ feast day. In 2008, 22 May is the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, ‘Thanksgiving for the Institution of the Holy Communion’ — ‘Corpus Christi’. It is a feast included in the Australian Anglican Calendar only in 1995, a tangible sign of ecumenical progress.

Charles Sherlock is an Anglican theologian, currently Registrar of the Melbourne College of Divinity, and a Canon of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Melbourne.

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Life of gay people in the church

Richard Kirker. Image from

Richard Kirker has, for the last 30 years, been among the leadership of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement in the Church of England. He’s stepping down soon. New Statesman, profiles the Rev. Richard Kirker and provides some insights into his work at the helm of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.

For the first half of that time, he fought a lonely battle to get church leaders to discuss sexuality. Now it’s hard to get them to talk about anything else, but not in the way he had in mind. Homosexuality is at the centre of a global struggle for the soul of the Anglican Communion, and as gay people are accused of bestiality and demonic possession, the Church seems to have become a repository for the homophobia unacceptable in the rest of society.
If Rowan Williams has issued any rebuke, it has been barely audible until recently. Gay-friendly before becoming Archbishop of Canterbury, he now reserves his chief condemnation for the North American Episcopalians who have elected an openly gay bishop. Many of the archbishop’s former close gay friends have been left reeling by what they call his betrayal.
“The situation is appalling. Life for gay priests is immeasurably worse than when I started doing this job, because of the obsessive scrutiny of those who hate us,” says Kirker, a battle-scarred 56-year-old whose shoestring organisation still numbers no more than 2,000 members. “Many people have given up the fight and left the priesthood. Others do not join it because it’s not worth putting themselves through the indignity of interviews that intrude into personal morality in a way that was once never considered desirable or necessary. It is now official policy to ensure that gay people who don’t give a commitment to celibacy are not selected for ordination.”

Read it here. It isn’t just ordination, either. I’m aware of gay people being refused licences to perform non-stipendiary lay ministry in my diocese because of their ‘lifestyle’.

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Archbishop of Canterbury’s Christmas Message to the Anglican Communion


One of the strangest yet most moving expressions in the New Testament is a verse in the Letter to the Hebrews (11.16): God ‘is not ashamed to be called their God’. The writer is talking about the history of God’s people. When they have been faithful to God, faithful in keeping on moving onwards in faith rather than settling down in self-satisfaction, when they are true pilgrims, then God is content to be known as their God. He declares himself to be the God of pilgrims, of people who know that their lives are incomplete and that they are still journeying towards the fullness of God’s promises. Visiting refugee camps in the Middle East, as I did this October, brings home so powerfully what it is to be literally and absolutely homeless, not able to be confident in any resources, inner or outer. People in these terrible circumstances will never be complacent, they will always be looking for a future. They are in the most obvious way those whom God is not ashamed to be with, people whose God he is happy to be. He is at home with the homeless. But it is also an image of God’s relationship with all those who are homeless or wandering in other ways.

What an odd expression, to say that God is not ‘ashamed’! It’s as though we are being reassured that God, in spite of everything, doesn’t mind being seen in our company. Most of us know the experience of being embarrassed by someone we are with – children are embarrassed by parents, parents by children; I have sometimes found myself walking down the road with someone who is talking loudly or behaving oddly, and wishing I weren’t there. But God is not embarrassed by human company when that company is turning away from self-satisfaction and ready to move on. We might think that God would be ‘ashamed’ of human company that was imperfect, confused, even sinful. But God is happy to be the God of confused and sinful people when they recognise their own confusion and face the truth of their need. That’s what the great parables of Jesus in St Luke’s Gospel are so often about, especially the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.

So at Christmas, God shows that he is not ashamed to be with us. He has heard our cries of weakness and self-doubt and unhappy longing, he has seen our wanderings and anxieties, and he is not ashamed to be alongside us in this world, walking with us in our pilgrimage. And because he is content to walk with us, we are challenged about whose company we might be ashamed to share. So easily we decide that we would be ashamed to share the company of the sinful, the doubting or the outcast. But God, it seems, is not ashamed to be seen with such people. If he is ashamed to be called the God of any human group, the text from Hebrews strongly suggests that he is most ‘embarrassed’ by those who think they have arrived at the end of their journey, who think they have already attained perfection (compare St Paul’s angry and scornful words in I Corinthians 4.8 – ‘Already you have become rich!’). And it is clear why God would be ashamed to be the God of such people: they behave and speak as if they didn’t really need God, as if they didn’t really need grace and hope and forgiveness.

God loves the company of those who know their need, and that is why he comes at Christmas to stand with them, to live with them and to die and rise for them. He is the God who blesses the poor – not only those who are materially poor, but those who are without the ‘riches’ of self-satisfaction and complacency, those who know all too well how far they fall short of real and full humanity. And so we are to pass on that blessing to the poor of every sort, those who are without material resources and those who are ‘poor in spirit’ because they know their hunger and need. Let us ask ourselves honestly whose company we are ashamed to be seen in – and then ask where God would be. If he has embraced the failing and fragile world of human beings who know their needs, then we must be there with him.

May God give us every blessing and joy in the Christmas Season.

+Rowan Cantuar

And here is the Archbishop’s Advent letter to the primates of the Anglican Communion, on the current state of the Communion. Expect some words about it when I’ve had a chance to read it a few more times and pray.

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Assistant bishops in the Diocese of Melbourne


The Synod of the Diocese of Melbourne recently passed legislation which allows for the consecration of women as assistant bishops in the Diocese. I dislike the terms ‘women bishops’, ‘women priests’ and ‘women deacons’ because a person is either a bishop or not, a priest or not, or a deacon or not – their gender is immaterial. There isn’t a special group of bishops who are ‘women bishops’, just as the same as there is not a special group of men who are ‘male nurses’. There are women who are bishops, and men who are nurses. Beside point, however.

The reporting from the official diocesan sources (the media office and the Diocesan magazine The Melbourne Anglican) was quite triumphalist. I guess it is somewhat of a victory, and probably a good thing. I support the ordination of women to all levels of ministry. I don’t support riding roughshod over the concerns and objections of our concerned sisters and brothers, and I think the reportage’s tone suggests a real lack of concern for those people.

Here is the very carefully crafted, politically astute, report from The Melbourne Anglican:

Let’s do it! Dr Muriel Porter urged, and Synod did. By passing legislation which Dr Porter described as “the last stage in a process begun in this Synod 30 years ago” the final obstacle to the appointment of women bishops was removed. The Assistant Bishops’ Canon 1966 – which incorporated an obsolete definition of canonical fitness ruling out not only women but those with a deformity! – will no longer operate in the Diocese of Melbourne. New provisions inserted into the Assistant Bishops’ Act 1985 use the definition of canonical fitness given in the Constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia: a person must be baptised, in priests’ orders and at least 30 years old.
Among the women who make up more than a fifth of this Diocese’s ordained clergy there are about 70 who would pass the test for fitness to be a bishop under this definition, Dr Porter said.
Speaking to a motion welcoming the Appellate Tribunal’s recent decision that there is no legal impediment in the way of women bishops, Dr Porter gave thanks for 21 years of ministry by ordained women in the Diocese and looked forward to their Episcopal ministry in the future. She also called on the Council of the Diocese to prepare submissions on protocols for pastoral ministry for those unable to accept women bishops’ ministry.
“We have been, and are, greatly blessed in this Diocese by the ordained ministry of experienced, gifted, wise and godly women,” Dr Porter said. “First and foremost today, we give thanks to God for this rich blessing.
“Now we are ready to move to the next and final stage, the stage that brings back together the three-fold order of ministry that had sadly become severed during the long, conflicted debate of the past few decades. Our Church has always held to the three-fold order, and seen it as a seamless garment. Although every deacon would not become a priest, it always remained a possibility, if not the norm; and every priest was able to answer the call to the episcopate, should it ever come.
“Now, with the welcome opinion of the Appellate Tribunal that women are not barred from the canonical fitness definition, the three strands of ministry can be knit back together again.”
Seconding Dr Porter’s motion, Archdeacon David Powys said that 10, or even five years ago, he would have had difficulty in doing so. His reservations however had not come, as some might believe, from the biblical texts.
“I, with many, concluded that certain of Paul’s instructions applied only to the peculiar time and setting in which he ministered, when some behaviour connoted things which none here would say they connote today,” Dr Powys said. “I found other passages with enduring, though difficult application – these speak of the husband’s leadership in marriage, though not, I believe, of male leadership of the church.
“The latter theme possibly bears only upon a situation where a wife exercises spiritual leadership in relation to her husband – and could be an issue for women vicars or priests-in-charge with husband parishioners, but not really anywhere else – including I suspect women bishops with husbands in their episcopal care. In reality in a loving Christian marriage issues of leadership, let alone headship, rarely if ever are relevant.”
He had been a “slow embracer” because he found some of the past arguments advanced in favour of women bishops “unconvincing and even unhelpful”, Dr Powys said.
“It was sometimes suggested that the move towards the ordination of women as bishops was advancing too slowly. The first women were ordained priest in 1992. I found this argument unconvincing in the late 1990s and not very convincing at the Brisbane General Synod in 2001 – less than nine years after the first ordination. But it is now 15 years. That is well and truly sufficient time.”
He had also worried about the risk of illegality, Dr Powys explained, but such a concern had been removed by the General Synod ruling of September that there was no legal impediment. Finally, there had been “most positive arguments for proceeding becoming evident for all to see:
“We have seen women lead parishes effectively and well for the time that matters – the long term!
“We have seen women exercise diocesan leadership competently and with particular female grace – over the long term!
“We have witnessed the leadership,” the Archdeacon concluded, “which shows that women can and should be bishops amongst us!”

Here is a response from Bishop Michael Hough, of the Diocese of Ballarat, which has a very different take on the matter:

The beginning of the end of a Province?

The Melbourne synod recently met and among its activities was a decision to declare that a provision in the Provincial legislation no longer applied to Melbourne. This was a part of the requirements for canonical fitness for the appointment of assistant bishops. What Melbourne is trying to do is to prepare the way for an appointment, early next year, of a woman into Episcopal ministry.   That woman is, I am sure, already chosen. But that is not the point.

Why the Province is going to struggle to survive is that the Diocese of Melbourne went ahead and unilaterally decided that a piece of provincial legislation no longer applied to them. It was an inconvenience but rather than take it to a Provincial Council and seek a change, they simply declared that they would no longer be bound by it. Not bad that, though I see much the same logic applying to far too many in Melbourne when it comes to the Bible as well.

What Melbourne should have done was consult its Provincial partners. However, that did not suit Melbourne as they are driven by the politics of the day and there are people down there who see the side issues of Church as being far more important than the first level issues – Proclaiming the Gospel.  

That is nothing new. For the last six years (and possibly longer) Melbourne has ignored the rest of the Province – with the exception of some much appreciated drought assistance. All attempts at working together to shape effectively the structures of the Province for mission have been shelved, mocked or ignored.   It is almost impossible to have regular Bishop’s meetings as one or other of the Melbourne regionals are busy, have to leave early and almost inevitably arrive late (and then we have the constant telephone calls dragging people out, helping us to appreciate that city ministry is far more important than rural ministry). 

The notion of a Victorian Province has been a sham for some time. Melbourne’s recent processes just hasten the inevitable and we will have to look for different ways of allying ourselves.

We live in interesting times.

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Homophobia is a sin whose end-time is now


The Reverend Canon Marilyn McCord Adams is Regius Professor of Divinity, Christ Church, Oxford. She recently presented an interesting and challenging paper to the Chicago Consultation.

The Church is a school for Kingdom-heralds. The Church is charged with responsibility for Christian education that grows us up in the knowledge and love of God and sends us out for word-and-deed proclamation of God’s love for a broken and divided world.

The Church is human as well as Divine. At the deepest level, God organizes church and cosmos into Christ’s organic body-politic, whose members are interdependent and united under the direction of Christ their head. The real unity and eventual functional harmony of the Church are not in jeopardy, because they are guaranteed by God. By contrast, visible church institutions–the ways we organize ourselves–are human constructions that have no intrinsic authority. They gain credibility and earn our allegiance only insofar as they prove to be skillful means to Kingdom-ends.

Read the rest here.

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Happenings in the Anglican world


Well, the last week was sort of eventful for the Episcopal Church in the US. One of the constituent dioceses, the Diocese of San Joaquin (in California) voted to disassociate itself from the rest of the Episcopal Church, and join the with Province of the Southern Cone (South America).

The presenting reason for the move is San Joaquin’s criticism of the Episcopal Church’s perceived liberality, particularly in the area of human sexuality.

It should be noted that not all of the Episcopalians in San Joaquin are leaving the national church – some are remaining.

All of this has created much heat in the blogsphere. Not a lot of light, and not much charity. It is pretty unedifying to read most of it (on all sides).

Update (13/12/2007):

Sydney’s Standing Committee has announced its support for the Diocese of San Joaquin as it realigns itself with the Southern Cone.

At its meeting last Monday evening, Sydney Diocesan Standing Committee unanimously passed the resolution of support, which has been sent to the Bishop of San Joaquin, John David Schofield.

Robert Forsyth, Bishop of South Sydney was in the Chair, as Archbishop Peter Jensen is overseas this week.

The resolution read as follows:

“Dear Bishop Schofield

The Standing Committee of the Synod of the Diocese of Sydney sends warm greetings in the fellowship of the Lord Jesus Christ to yourself and the clergy and laity of the Diocese of San Joaquin.

The Standing Committee assures you and the people of San Joaquin diocese of our prayerful support of your historic action in disassociating from The Episcopal Church and becoming part of the Province of the Southern Cone of South America.

We offer our congratulations for your courageous stand for the authority of the Scripture and the faith once delivered to the saints.

Yours sincerely

Diocesan Secretary”

The Diocese voted to transfer to South America’s Southern Cone Province at its 48th annual convention on Saturday, after receiving an invitation to do so from Archbishop Gregory Venables and the bishops of the Province.

“This is the first time in American Anglican history that a diocese has realigned with a like-minded province,” says Bishop Schofield.

“The vote was a resounding affirmation by our clergy and laity to remain within the worldwide Anglican Communion with its heritage and universally accepted teaching based on the word of God.”

Bishop Schofield explains the significance of the decision for Diocese, which contains 47 parish churches.

“For 20 years and more we have watched The Episcopal Church lose its way, straying, at first from Scripture to the point of dismissing the Word of God, in some instances as mere historical documents,” he says.

“In the end, this decision is all about freedom. It is about freedom to remain who we are in Christ. It is freedom to honor the authority of Scripture.”

Update: 15/12/2007: The Archbishop of Canterbury’s letter to Primates on the state of the Anglican Communion.

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