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Kay Goldsworthy becomes world's first female Anglican Archbishop

Former Bishop of Gippsland installed as Archbishop of Perth

PHOTO: Chris Kershaw

By Muriel Porter

February 12 2018 

In 1984, Melbourne Bishop James Grant ordained Kay Goldsworthy a deaconess. It was a time when, despite more than a decade of intense struggle in the Australian Anglican Church for women to be allowed to take Holy Orders, it was by no means certain that that would ever happen. So Kay, who had first felt the call to priestly ordination as a young girl in the parish of Mooroolbark - a vocation encouraged strongly by her vicar, Gerald Beaumont, later a bishop - accepted the only role then available.

She was, as it turned out, one of Melbourne’s last deaconesses. Just a year later the General Synod passed legislation to allow women to become deacons, the first rung on the ‘ladder’ of Holy Orders. The first ordination of women deacons in Australia happened in Melbourne in February the following year, and Goldsworthy was among the women ordained in that historic service.

So it was fitting that both Bishop Grant and Bishop Beaumont were in Perth on Saturday to see Bishop Goldsworthy become the first woman in the Anglican world to become an archbishop. And Melbourne’s Archbishop Philip Freier, as Primate, was there to bless her and, on behalf of the Australian bishops, to recognise her officially as Archbishop of Perth.

A former Archbishop of Perth, Peter Carnley, was also in St George’s Cathedral on Saturday 10 February. It was he who broke the roadblock preventing women becoming priests when he led Perth Diocese to take the decisive step of ordaining Australia’s first women priests in advance of General Synod legislation after years of stalemate. Archbishop Goldsworthy, who had moved to Perth to become a school chaplain in 1988, was among the first women ordained priest in Australia in St George’s Cathedral March 1992. In May 2008, again in St George’s Cathedral, she became Australia’s first woman bishop, and served as an assistant bishop in Perth until becoming Bishop of Gippsland in 2015.

To add to the succession of historic ‘firsts’ on Saturday, Archbishop Goldsworthy was installed by another woman bishop, the diocesan administrator, Kate Wilmot. Yet another woman, Kerry Sanderson, the Governor of Western Australia, welcomed her on behalf of the wider community.

In her sermon, Archbishop Goldsworthy noted, in an oblique reference to the child sexual abuse crisis, that “right now, the church’s trust bank is pretty depleted”. She continued: “The hurt and grief which has been brought to light has wrapped around us, and we find ourselves in totally unchartered territory.” The church, she said, was no longer at the centre of city and community but “on its edges”.

“How we look to the future together as church matters. Both for the close-up of our here and now, and as we faithfully give ourselves to proclaiming day by day, in words and actions, the centre of God’s great purpose of love.” We had to commit to the task “not as an organisation in which we feel labelled as untrustworthy” or as an institution which is “tired and useless”, but as “people of faith, living from the deep spiritual wellspring of that place of homecoming in which each and every community, each and every person knows themselves fully part of the Body of Christ.”