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Australia appoints first woman bishop


With the April 11 announcement that the Venerable Kay Goldsworthy has been named assistant bishop for the Anglican Diocese of Perth, the Anglican Church of Australia becomes the fourth province in the Anglican Communion to appoint or elect a woman to serve in the episcopate.

Archbishop of Perth Roger Herft, in announcing the appointment of Australia’s first woman bishop, said the decision came after prayerful deliberation, “obtaining advice from others and with the unanimous endorsement of the Diocesan Council.”

“In making this announcement I am delighted that we in the church of Perth continue our unwavering commitment to Christ’s gospel by recognizing women and men as equal partners in the world,” Herft continued.

Goldsworthy, 51, will be consecrated May 22 at St. George’s Cathedral in Perth.

Goldsworthy, who has served several parishes in the Diocese of Perth and most recently as its archdeacon, is regarded as a pioneer of women’s ordination in Australia. She was one of the first women ordained to the priesthood at St. George’s Cathedral in 1992 by Herft’s predecessor, Archbishop Peter Carnley.

“That momentous occasion will be in everyone’s minds and hearts when Kay is consecrated bishop on May 22 in the same cathedral,” said Herft, who called Goldsworthy an outstanding candidate for the position. “Her previous experience within the diocese, including terms as school chaplain, canon of the Cathedral, parish priest, and archdeacon means she is one of the best qualified priests to take on this role at this stage.”

Herft said the way was cleared for women to serve as bishops in the Anglican Church of Australia in October 2007 with the ruling that such appointments were in accord with the constitution of the Australian Church. This appointment was a logical progression of that decision, he said. “We expect this news will be greeted with joy and excitement among Anglicans and many others in Australia and beyond.”

The National Bishops’ Meeting held in Newcastle this week established protocols in respect of women in the episcopate, and “parishes that cannot in good conscience recognize the ministry of a woman bishop will be offered the services of a male bishop,” according to reports.

Fourteen of the 38 Anglican provinces have approved the ordination of women bishops but 10 have yet to appoint or elect one. Three provinces -- the U.S. Episcopal Church, Anglican Church of Canada and the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia -- currently have women serving as bishops. The Church of England’s General Synod in July 2006 called for the practical and legislative arrangements of admitting women to the episcopate to be explored and the Scottish Episcopal Church voted to accept women bishops when it met in Edinburgh, Scotland, in June 2003.

Bishop Barbara Harris, now retired suffragan of Massachusetts, became the Anglican Communion’s first woman bishop after her election in 1988 and consecration in 1989.

Goldsworthy, who also serves on the Anglican Consultative Council, the Communion’s main policy-making body, said she was both humbled and deeply honored by her appointment. “Since the first consecration of a woman bishop in 1989, women have been serving with distinction alongside men as bishops in many parts of the Anglican Communion -- a development long taken for granted,” she said. "Australia has been a while catching up, but our time has come, and I know that the great majority of Australian Anglicans will warmly welcome this day.

“Indeed, I am conscious of many other Christians, not to mention people of other great religious traditions, who are simply delighted that leadership in the Church can be shared in this way,” she added. “On a more personal note and putting my natural fears and sense of inadequacy to one side, I am trying to trust the Church discerning me as a bishop, and I simply rely on God’s grace as I face the future.”

Goldsworthy was one of the international guests who attended the November 4, 2006 investiture of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman to serve as a primate in the Anglican Communion.

Goldsworthy is married to Ben and they have twin sons.


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