THE rural northern NSW diocese of Grafton has elected the first
woman diocesan bishop in Australia. The Revd Dr Sarah Macneil
(right) will be consecrated in Grafton Cathedral on 1
March. She will be the country's fifth woman bishop; the other four
are assistants in the dioceses of Perth, Melbourne, Canberra &
Goulburn, and Brisbane.
Normally the chief consecrator of a diocesan bishop would be the
Metropolitan of NSW, the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, but
because of Sydney diocese's stance against the ordination of women
as priests and bishops, Dr Davies has asked the Bishop of Canberra
& Goulburn, the Rt Revd Stuart Robinson, to take his place.
Nevertheless, Dr Davies said that he welcomed Dr Macneil as a
bishop in the province of NSW, and said: "Although I am not able to
consecrate her, I wish her well."
In 2008, when she was an archdeacon in Canberra & Goulburn
diocese, Dr Macneil was a candidate in the diocese's episcopal
election at which Bishop Robinson was elected; she was the first
woman candidate in a diocesan election. The next year, she became
Dean of Adelaide, but resigned two years later, saying she could
"no longer work with integrity at diocesan level" (News, 17 June
2011). At the time, her decision was interpreted as meaning that
she could no longer work with the Archbishop of Adelaide, Dr
The former Bishop of Grafton, the Rt Revd Keith Slater, resigned
in May after an audit revealed that he had not referred some
sexual-abuse allegations to the diocese's Professional Standards
Director. Those matters are due to be investigated in public
hearings of the national Royal Commission into Institutional
Responses to Child Sexual Abuse this week.
Dr Macneil told a radio programme that the timing of the
appointment was not designed as a distraction from the inquiry.