By Stephen Cauchi
18 October 2021
Gender quotas would be a step towards diversity and equality in the Anglican Church, but could risk excluding other voices of diversity, Melbourne synod has heard.
Archbishop in Council will establish a committee to consider the risks and benefits of creating gender quotas for diocesan bodies, committees and offices, after 59 per cent of synod representatives voted in favour of the move.
St Margaret’s Anglican Church Eltham’s, Reverend Keren Terpstra moved the motion, saying it was quite likely gender quotas were the only way to progress towards hearing a balance of male and female voices in some forums.
She warned it would also be a mistake for the Church to introduce gender quotas without considering the broader issue of equality of men and women in leadership.
Ms Terpstra said subcommittees of Archbishop in Council had already introduced quotas.
Quotas were also proposed in several pieces of legislation coming to the 2021 synod and in several more for the 2022 synod, including the Cathedral Act Amendment, the Archbishop Election Act, and the Clergy Legislation Review.
Ms Terpstra said the Church needed to have a conversation about the theological considerations, sociological and anthropological implications of gender quotas. She said that quotas could result in discrimination against those who did not identify legally as male or female.
She said gender quotas also had the potential to exclude other voices of diversity, such as First Nations people, people of colour and ethnic minorities.
Ms Terpstra goal of the Church had to be the broader aim of equality for diverse voices.
“Gender quotas while a step on the way cannot be the end game,” she said.
“Gender quotas are surely place to begin, and not an end destination.”
As moved, synod requested Archbishop in Council to:
“Establish a committee to consider the risks and benefits of creating gender quotas for diocesan bodies, committees and offices, with attention to theological issues, best practice in contemporary governance, and the optimal way of improving gender diversity, to report to the next session of Synod with recommendations.”
Amendments to the bill were rejected.
Dr Leanne Beagley, a member of the standing committee of General Synod, seconded the bill.