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First woman diocesan for Australia consecrated

by Muriel Porter, Australia Correspondent

Posted: 07 Mar 2014 @ 12:23

MAVREN-LEE PHOTOGRAPHY

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Credit: MAVREN-LEE PHOTOGRAPHY

THE first woman diocesan and fifth woman bishop in Australia, Dr Sarah Macneil (News, 22 November 2013), was consecrated and installed in the northern New South Wales diocese of Grafton last Saturday.

Dr Macneil, who is 59, becomes the 11th Bishop of Grafton, in the year the diocese celebrates its centenary; before 1914, it was part of the diocese of Grafton & Armidale.

The tenth Bishop, the Rt Revd Keith Slater, resigned in May last year, after an audit revealed that he had not referred some sexual-abuse allegations to the diocese's Professional Standards Director. The allegations, concerning a children's home in Lismore, were investigated in public hearings of the national Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse last November.

Preaching at the consecration, the Bishop of Bunbury, Western Australia, the Rt Revd Allan Ewing, alluded to the difficulties that Grafton had faced. Although there was joy that the first woman diocesan in Australia had been appointed to the see, it was tempered "by knowledge of our weaknesses, and the taskthat lies before...Sarah and the diocese".

The diocese was beginning its second century with "two realities: a new Bishop who is a woman, and the tragedy of an inadequate response to those abused within the Church".

The diocesan crozier had not been laid on the altar [by the former Bishop] in an event of great celebration, but "was laid privately, in shame, conscious of the failures that lay upon the bishop", he said.

Other women bishops in Australia - all regional bishops in their respective dioceses - vested Dr Macneil in her cope and mitre during the service. Last week, the impending retirement of the second Australian woman bishop, the Rt Revd Barbara Darling, a regional bishop in Melbourne diocese, was announced; she will step down early next year.

The chief consecrator was the Bishop of Canberra & Goulburn, the Rt Revd Stuart Robinson, instead of the Metropolitan of NSW, Dr Glenn Davies, the Archbishop of Sydney. Dr Davies had asked Bishop Robinson to take his place because of his diocese's opposition to the ordination of women as priests and bishops. Nevertheless, Dr Davies sent a warm letter of greeting to be read at the service.

Meanwhile, the Sydney lobby group the Anglican Church League has issued a six-page statement noting that, while the appointment of a woman as bishop was of concern, its main concern was her "recent public statements regarding human sexuality and the Atonement" which were "unbecoming a Bishop in the Anglican Communion".

It went on to quote from some of her sermons, and asserted that her views on same-sex relationships and the atonement were not faithful to scripture and Anglican formularies. "The consecration of someone who holds these views is further evidence that parts of the Anglican Church of Australia are departing from the Apostolic faith," it said.

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