16 August 2023
Women priests have been ordained for the first time in the Diocese of the Murray, a diocese historically opposed to women’s ordination.
The diocese consecrated three women and a man to the priesthood in a packed-out service in Mount Barker on Saturday.
It came two months after its synod voted without debate to allow the ordination of women to the priesthood for the first time.
Murray diocese Bishop Keith Dalby said a desire to repair discord and renew mission and ministry was central to the landmark change.
Bishop Dalby said the diocese had long weathered disagreement, and negative views about women’s ordination primarily among clergy were symptomatic of some of those problems.
He said it caused much pain and hurt, and he was hopeful ordaining women priests would quell the dissent, anger and bitterness that had prevailed.
Bishop Dalby believed the diocese’s appetite for change also increased in line with the departure of many of the clergy who would have resisted the ordination of women.
One of the newly ordained priests the Reverend Margo Holt was also the first woman deacon ordained in the Murray diocese six years ago.
Ms Holt said it had always been her conviction that if she was ever able to be a priest, it would be in the diocese because she’d always wanted to serve the church community and wider communities there.
But Ms Holt said she stopped thinking about it over the years, because she never expected it would become possible.
She said previously many of the diocese’s clergy and bishops were staunchly against the ordination of women priests, and she was shocked when the vote passed the synod virtually without opposition.
Ms Holt said that milestone, along with the encouragement she received from Bishop Dalby and others, made her feel priesthood was a calling from God she wanted to honour.
The consecration of women was a new beginning for the diocese and an opportunity for it to rebuild, she said.
But Bishop Dalby said the ordination of women priests was not going to solve all the diocese’s problems.
“When I was in Adelaide and the first women were ordained, we were told it would be the salvation of the church. It hasn’t been the salvation of the church. It’s fantastic that women are co-partners in the gospel, but it’s not going to be the panacea,” he said.
Women remain unable to be ordained as priests in the Dioceses of Sydney, Armidale and North-West Australia.