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Ballarat women priested

13 December 2013


MORE than 40 priests, many of them women, from Victoria and further afield, took part in the ordination of the first women priests in the diocese of Ballarat last Saturday.

The ordination of the Revd Anne McKenna and the Revd Robyn Shackell followed the diocesan synod's landmark decision in October to overturn its long-standing ban on women priests (News, 25 October). For most of the 21 years since women priests were first ordained in other Australian dioceses, Ballarat remained a bastion of traditionalist opposition under the leadership of diocesan bishops opposed to women priests.

The situation changed after the election, two years ago, of the Rt Revd Garry Weatherill as the diocesan. Bishop Weatherill had ordained numerous women priests in his former diocese of Willochra, in South Australia. He instigated a process of consultation in the lead-up to the Ballarat synod vote.

Ms McKenna has been Deacon-in-Charge of the parish of Stawell since 2009; she will continue as Priest-in-Charge. Ms Shackell will continue to assist in the parish of Warrnambool.

The Ballarat decision leaves four Australian dioceses where women are not ordained as priests: Sydney, Armidale, and North-West Australia, which all oppose women priests on the grounds of headship; and the Anglo-Catholic diocese of The Murray, in South Australia.

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