Women Bishops in Australia?
How the Options were Developed

The 1998 General Synod passed the following resolution by an overwhelming majority:
That -

  1. General Synod notes the reports of the Doctrine Commission and the Canon Law Commission concerning the consecration of women to the episcopate.
  2. Further, General Synod notes the undesirability of appointing a woman bishop until at least the next General Synod after 1998.
  3. The Synod, recognising the significance of this issue for the ongoing unity and mission of the Church commends the matter for further discussion with dioceses across Australia, requests the Standing Committee to prepare a draft bill and a discussion paper on the implications of such a proposal, together with practical ways of addressing those implications, including forms of alternative episcopal oversight, for circulation among the dioceses by December 1999.

(Resolution 51/98)

In response, Standing Committee established a working group to prepare materials for the anticipated discussion and discernment process. The working group is chaired by Standing Committee member Dr Muriel Porter (Melbourne) who moved the 1998 General Synod resolution. Deputy chair is Dr Ann Young (Sydney) who offered the alternative viewpoint in the General Synod discussion. Other members are Archbishop Peter Carnley (Perth), the Revd Dr John Davis (Melbourne), the Revd Dr Robert Doyle (Sydney), Bishop Roger Herft, (Newcastle) and Mr Justice Peter Young (Bathurst).

The Working Group recognises that whatever provision is made for alternative episcopal oversight in this country, the consecration of women bishops will not be recognised as valid by all members of the Anglican Church of Australia. It seems inevitable that some members of the House of Bishops will not recognise the validity of the orders of women bishops, and that there will be further impairment of Communion. Conversely, if no action is taken towards the consecration or appointment of women bishops in the Anglican Church of Australia, there is the prospect of further dissension within the church, not to mention hurt felt by senior women clergy. The Working Group is aware that the way forward depends on the continuation of the spirit of reconciliation and respect that led to the passing of Resolution 51/98 with an overwhelming majority.

At its first meeting in June 1998, the Group decided to seek the widest possible consultation to assist in preparing options for the Australian Church to consider. In response to a press release published in most diocesan newspapers, and through letters to interested groups and individuals inviting submissions (a total of 55 letters was sent), the Group received 14 submissions from within Australia and 12 from overseas, including five from women bishops in North America. The responses were diverse and representative. As the work has progressed, members of the Group have also canvassed opinion widely.

Background papers on leadership (the Revd Dr Bruce Kaye and Mr Hugh Mackay) and on the use of the term 'visitor' (Mr Justice Peter Young) have been prepared. Both Archbishop Carnley and Dr Doyle have prepared theological discussion papers on the nature of the Church. Archbishop CarnleyUs paper is the background to Options Two, Three and Four; Dr Doyle's is background to Option One. These two latter papers can be found in the full print version of this report.



Have your say on the options for women bishops in Australia

This page is hosted at St Peter's Eastern Hill by permission of the co-chair of the General Synod Working Group on Women Bishops and the General Synod Office, Sydney

Authorised by the Vicar (vicar@stpeters.org.au)
Maintained by the Editor (editor@stpeters.org.au)
© 1999 General Synod of The Anglican Church of Australia