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Australia’s first woman bishop to be consecrated in Perth

by Muriel Porter, Australia Correspondent

THE Anglican Church of Australia is to have its first woman bishop. The Ven. Kay Goldsworthy, who is 51, and began her formal ministry as a deaconess in Melbourne in 1984, will be consecrated in St George’s Cathedral, Perth, on 22 May. She will be Assistant Bishop in the diocese of Perth, in the province of Western Australia, and will continue in her current post as Diocesan Administrator and Registrar, to which she was appointed last year.

The Archbishop of Perth, the Most Revd Roger Herft, announcing the appointment last Friday, said that Archdeacon Goldsworthy’s nomination had received the unanimous support of the Perth Diocesan Council. In Australia, assistant bishops are nominated by the diocesan bishop; the nomination requires the concurrence of the diocesan council.

“I am delighted that we in the church of Perth continue our unwavering commitment to Christ’s gospel by recognising women and men as equal partners in the world,” Archbishop Herft said.

Archbishop Herft is a member of the Appellate Tribunal, which last year found that there was no constitutional barrier to the appointment of women bishops in Australia (News, 12 October). The Bishops had earlier agreed to take no action until after their annual meeting, which was held last week in Newcastle, NSW.

The appointment came within a day of the bishops’ meeting, where guidelines were settled for alternative episcopal ministry for those opposed to women bishops. The guidelines “encourage” dioceses that appoint or elect women bishops to “make provision for reasonable and appropriate episcopal ministry” for those opposed.

In a statement, the Bishops said that they had “unanimously agreed to a way forward together on the divisive issue of the introduction of women bishops”. The Primate, Dr Phillip Aspinall, said that the agreement had been reached without dissent.

The appointment of Archdeacon Goldsworthy has been criticised publicly, however, by a diocesan bishop from her province, the Bishop of North-West Australia, the Rt Revd David Mulready. Bishop Mulready told the press: “I think it’s novel; I think it’s provocative; I think it’s divisive — and the Archbishop [Herft] knows all of that.” He said women bishops would be recognised only as deacons in his diocese, which (like four other dioceses) does not permit women priests.

The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, issued a statement saying he was pleased there had been “considerable goodwill” during the formation of the alternative-ministry protocols. “We have endeavoured to find a way forward with courtesy and respect.”

Archdeacon Goldsworthy, the mother of 17-year-old twin sons, has been a school chaplain and parish priest, a Canon of Perth Cathedral, an archdeacon since 1999, a member of the General Synod and its Standing Committee, and Australia’s clergy representative on the Anglican Consultative Council.

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