27.4.09

The ones who spread their wings and fly...


My attention was brought to this article. I have always been interested in the plight (sorry, loaded term) of women in conservative dioceses or parishes. It just can not possibly be that all of the women worshipping do so without some very real inner struggles, and yes, it is all about obedience! Moreover, it is about to whom should they be obedient? Is God's call and their spiritual assurance the same as the requirement for them to read scripture in a particular way? What about when the Head of the diocese teaches an interpretation which women feel is at odds with what they understand God to be saying? Where do they go - well, in this case, it would seem, they go to Melbourne!

Anglican women's leader gives up on Sydney by Kelly Burke Reli. Affairs Writer May 27 2002



A serious blow has been dealt to Sydney's conservative Anglican diocese with the resignation of its most senior woman, Di Nicolios.

After several decades working within the diocese, the high-profile head of women's ministry finished on Friday and will become rector of St John's parish in Diamond Creek, Melbourne.

In doing so, she will attain the one thing Sydney has denied her - ordination to the priesthood.

The defection has surprised the evangelical Sydney Diocese. The archdeacon, 55, has never openly advocated women's ordination, indicating that she preferred to work within Sydney's conservative structure, which views women as heads of the church as theologically intolerable.Her resignation prompted criticism of Sydney's entrenched ban on female priests from the founder of the Movement for the Ordination of Women (MOW), Patricia Brennan.

"Sydney remains in the dark ages - the liberal arm of the church here has been badly suppressed, and the diocese has become intellectually incestuous," she said. "This has nothing to do with the nature of ministry. The issue at stake here is the relationship between men and women, and men being viewed as having a God-given role of authority over women."

Sydney is one of only a handful of Anglican dioceses in the country that ban the ordination of women as priests, following the general synod vote 10 years ago allowing the practice. There are more than 280 women priests in the Australian Anglican Church.

Archdeacon Nicolios has been reluctant to discuss her resignation and denies that her move sends a message of defeat to other female deacons in Sydney.

"I am friends with each of the women deacons in Sydney and have spent the past decade working closely with them," she said. "They know I greatly value the role of deacons in ministry and they have been very positive about my move."

The Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Rev Peter Jensen, referred only to his written statement, which said: "Naturally I am disappointed to see Di leaving Sydney and want to express my gratitude for all she has accomplished."

It is believed that Dr Jensen recently met Sydney's women deacons and MOW representatives, and made it clear that the ban on women priests would stay.

He has argued that women are being encouraged into leadership roles through lay ministry and ordination to the deaconate. Archdeacon Nicolios was his trump card.

But Muriel Porter, the prominent Melbourne Anglican lay woman and religious affairs columnist for The Age, said that of Australia's 170 women deacons, only 32 are in the Sydney diocese.

h/t Peter Carrell

7 comments:

Peter Carrell said...

Sydney has moved on from 2002 in certain ways: it will now have a lot more women deacons (sorry, cannot locate a number for that); and last year it approved deacons presiding at the eucharist. It is also more clearly distinguishing between diaconal ministry (for all men and women accepted for ordination) and presbyteral ministry (exclusively (or almost exclusively?) for those who will be appointed as rectors of parishes). I have not heard of another diocese in the Anglican Communion making this distinction as clearly as Sydney is making it.

The Diocese is also completely affirming of women being educated to the highest level, and there are many women students studying at Moore College.

As a result many parishes have women on their staff team who are theologically educated to an advance level. However, mostly, these women will not teach groups or congregations involving men.

David Ould, if he reads this, may be able to confirm something I have never quite worked out: are there some parishes in Sydney which are comfortable with women (lay or deacon) preaching to a mixed gender congregation?

In other words, Sydney is creatively making room for women in ministry up to, but not beyond the point of 'male headship' of congregations.

It is, as David said on another thread, a surprising place!

Lynne said...

I can answer that question. Individual parishes do their own thing, flying under the radar to a certain extent, but also because legally, it is the rector (or acting rector in a vacant parish) who has complete say-so in who preaches at their services. And I can speak with absolute certainty because I am one of those women-who-preach. I have my degree in theology (but not from Moore -- it's not a comfortable place for an egalitarian woman; also it doesn't allow the part-time option which is so much more realistic for a woman with a family).

To me it is a very painful situation. I don't have the option of moving to another diocese, I'm a married woman whose husband's job is here and not transferable.
I am allowed to preach occasionally at the whim of the rector, and we are about to get a new one, so I have no idea yet whether he will give me much work. I know this is the calling of God in my life ; I struggle in prayer for a way to use my gifts and calling for Him. I believe that God can do the impossible, I have no idea whether He will, or what lies ahead.

Jane said...

Peter does the Sydney diocese allow men to teach and preach to "mixed" groups?
Sometimes these compromises that are celebrated by church hierarchioes as "affirmative" are solutions that refuse to see the pain of denied vocation of Christ's female disciples and followers.

Sometimes the only solution is to shake teh dust off your feet.

Rachel said...

Thank you Lynne for sharing your story. I hope God makes a way for you because as Jane points out there is pain in a vocation denied.

God bless

Peter Carrell said...

Oh, you can be sure that men teach/preach to mixed congregations in Sydney. My working assumption (more or less confirmed by Jane in comment above) is that nearly all preaching in public Anglican church services in Sydney is undertaken by men, under the leadership and oversight of 100% male rectors.

But there will be women-only meetings to which women teach/preach.

But note this: there will be many many Anglican women in Sydney who are quite fine with this situation, who fervently believe in a 'complementarian' approach, and who have absolutely no desire to share Jane's pain!

Peter Carrell said...

Whoops. That should have been 'Lynne' not 'Jane' in my comment above!

David Ould said...

Sorry Rachel, I never got round to answering this.

As already noted, Rectors have freedom in their parishes to decide as they will about who will preach. Some choose to have women, most (by conviction) don't.

It is easy to be divisive over this issue, rather than recognising that people come to these position in good conscience.

Curiously, a neighbouring parish which takes a far more egalitarian position to us is having a "celebration of women's ministry" soon. Sadly, those sorts of events tend to be reactionary and polemical. I know, with some sadness, that we actually have far more "women's ministry" going on in our parish, it just doesn't fit a certain paradigm.

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