THE Anglican diocese of Canberra Goulburn has distanced itself from the church’s Sydney “head office” by appointing NSW’s first female Bishop.
Archdeacon Genieve Blackwell is one of two new Bishops-designate announced last Sunday by the Bishop of Canberra Goulburn, Stuart Robinson, in a Pastoral Letter posted, as tradition dictates, on the west door of Goulburn’s St Saviour’s Cathedral.
The other is Archdeacon Ian Lambert – but it is Bishop Robinson’s appointment of Archdeacon Blackwell that will cause a stir in some church circles.
The Sydney Archdiocese, led by Archbishop Peter Jensen from St Andrew’s Cathedral, who is also Primate of the NSW Province, is strongly opposed to female priests. Female Bishops are even further “on the outer” with the Sydney hierachy, and similar-minded clerics around the world who support Archbishop Jensen.
Soon after Bishop Robinson was appointed to lead the Canberra Goulburn diocese almost three years ago, he stated that one of his aims would be to encourage the appointment of more women to higher clerical office.
Canberra Goulburn has been a leader in Anglican agitation for more women priests for many years. The first of a growing number of female priests to be ordained in NSW came from this diocese 20 years ago.
It would have been the first such appointment in Australia had the Sydney Arch-diocese not sued Canberra Goulburn to try to stop the historic occasion.
Sydney eventually had its action thrown out of court, but in the meantime a woman had been ordained in WA. She was Kay Goldsworthy, who again made history in 2008, when she was consecrated as Australia’s first female Bishop. (Two more women Bishops have subsequently been appointed in Australia).
Bishops-designate Lambert and Blackwell will be consecrated in St Saviour’s Cathedral on Saturday, March 31, next year.
The ceremony is sure to attract wide media and church attention. Bishop Robinson recognises this in his Pastoral Letter, when he says: “Please do uphold Bishops-designate Genieve and Ian in your prayers.
We anticipate they will be the focus of media attention (for a season), and they will need wisdom, patience and grace as they field a range of enquiries.
“This news is cause for great celebration. Personal notes of affirmation and encouragement to Genieve and Ian are quite in order.”
The chief Consecrator will be Dr Brian Farran, the Bishop of Newcastle, and most senior Bishop in the NSW Province.
“Bishop Brian stands in for the Archbishop when he is unable to be present at certain events,” Bishop Robinson says.
Bishop Robinson says he appointed the two new Bishops following resolutions of the recent Anglican synod in Goulburn, and “with the blessing of Bishop in Council, the Primate, and the Bishops of the Province of NSW.”
The new appointments date from March 31 next year, with Archdeacon Blackwell, currently based in Yass, becoming Assistant Bishop – region of Wagga Wagga, North- West and South-West; and Archdeacon Lambert Assistant Bishop – region of the Coast, Southern Monaro and the Snowy.
Both Episcopal appointments will be parttime, with Genieve Blackwell being appointed rector of Turvey Park and Archdeacon of Wagga Wagga early in the new year, while Ian Lambert will continue as rector of Batemans Bay.
Bishop Robinson said this arrangement would allow the new Bishops to serve within, and be cared for, by local faith communities.
Editorial in Wednesday’s edition of the Goulburn Post