2 February 2023

‘Gentler, more inclusive church’: Female priests mark 30 years of ordination

Female clergy gather to mark 30 years of ordination with Archbishop of Melbourne the Most Reverend Dr Philip Freier and Archbishop of Perth the Most Reverend Kay Goldsworthy. Image: Gavin Hansford.

Kirralee Nicolle

14 December 2022

Anglican women have been reminded that they are at the centre of God’s purpose in a service marking 30 years since the first ordinations of women as priests.

Clergy from across the country have joined at St Paul’s Cathedral on 13 December to remember the first three priestly ordination services held for women ordinands at the cathedral in 1992.

The Celebration Eucharist was held at 6pm on 13 December and featured an address by Archbishop of Perth the Most Reverend Kay Goldsworthy AO, who was ordained a priest in Perth in 1992.

Bishop Goldsworthy spoke of the challenges faced by women in the lead-up to the first ordinations and the continued opposition to women’s ordination from those who align with a complementarian belief system.

Read more: Thirty years on, the church is richer for women’s ordination

“Some of the opposition was tough,” she said. “Some was revoltingly personal.

“Are we still as dangerous as people once thought we were?”

But Bishop Goldsworthy also spoke of the joy felt by those who had been working towards the goal of women’s ordination.

“It was a heady time for everyone who had been part of the studying of Scripture, of looking at Scripture in the church’s history through a new hermeneutical lens,” she said.

Bishop Goldsworthy said over 900 women had now been ordained across Australia since 1992.

“This anniversary and the future it ushered in three decades ago has the weight of the years which led up to it and the grace of the years since,” she said.

Bishop Goldsworthy said that all women can experience renewal in the strength of their sense of living out God’s purpose.

Read more: Women must be supported to withstand barriers to God’s call: Leaders

“We are at the centre of God’s purpose, and purposeful,” she said.

Fellow 1992 ordinand the Reverend Clemence Taplin delivered an address at the service from former Archbishop of Melbourne the Right Reverend Keith Rayner, who performed the first Melbourne ordinations of women.

Bishop Rayner’s address spoke of the great suffering experienced by those women who had been unable to take on leadership roles in their churches prior to the first ordinations as deacons in 1986 and later as priests in 1992. It also acknowledged the positive effect the change has had on the wider church in breaking down what he called an “atmosphere of pervasive masculinity”.

“It has led to a gentler, more inclusive church, better attuned to the needs of the age,” he said.

To read all our profiles of women in ordination, see here:

Struggle continues despite 30 year milestone for women’s ordination

How an archbishop’s daughter found her own calling

Nearly a ‘runaway bride’ at her ordination, this is Jill Firth’s story

How Kathryn went from Christmas trips to her grandparent’s church to ordination

The asylum seeker who found God in the darkness

The accountant with a heart for holistic care

The Canon who loves to learn from children

How Heidin found her mission

How an uplifting priesthood began with the simple act of listening

Tanya’s journey from pumping iron to the priesthood

The international student who relied only on God

From Lutheran in Hungary to Anglican in the Mornington Peninsula: The Reverend Andrea Nagy’s journey to ordination

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