Australia

Times have changed, and more women are becoming priests

For hundreds of years, the priesthoods of all Christian denominations were men-only domains, a tradition eventually shattered in the Anglican Church — and 26 years later, its Brisbane diocese is ordaining more women than men.

In the past decade, 43 women have been ordained in the Brisbane diocese, compared with 35 men.

One of the newest entrants to their ranks is the Reverend Rosemary Gardiner, 30, anointed last weekend before a packed congregation in St John's Cathedral in Brisbane.

She exemplifies the changing face of the church.

Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane Phillip Aspinall anoints Reverend Rosemary Gardiner

Reverend Gardiner is mother to two-year-old Edward, and will soon give birth to her second child.

So why would she want to become a priest?

"The simple answer is because God told me to," Reverend Gardiner said.

She had a Christian upbringing and her mother, Gillian Moses, is also a priest and school chaplain.

Reverend Moses said she was proud of her daughter.

"I think I have seen that interest and calling in her longer than she has, but I never wanted to push her in any particular direction, just to support her in whatever she did."

Reverend Gillian Moses (L) and her daughter the Reverend Rosemary Gardiner (R)

Reverend Moses was ordained as a priest 10 years ago and has passionately supported the campaign to allow women priests in the Anglican Church, a fight won by women in 1992 when the Church of England's General Synod passed the measure by a margin of two votes.

"The church as the body of Christ ought to represent the whole body of Christ — that means women as well as men, that means young and old, that means straight and gay and trans, different colours, whatever shape the body of Christ comes in needs to be reflected in its ordained ministry," Reverend Moses said.

"It seems like a no-brainer to me."

Of course, not everyone agrees.

Women still not allowed to become priests in Sydney

The Sydney Anglican diocese still does not permit women to be ordained as priests.

The highest they can aspire to is deacons, who are assistant priests and generally assist during the service and doing pastoral and community work on other days.

They are not allowed to deliver a mass or perform ceremonies like baptisms or weddings solo.

Archbishop of Brisbane Phillip Aspinall said his Sydney colleagues had a more conservative interpretation of the bible.

"They would say they are being obedient to scripture," Archbishop Aspinall said.

"They understand it to be part of what's required of the church that women do not exert teaching authority over men.

"I would argue for a different interpretation of those texts. They are related to a particular time and culture which was very patriarchal."

Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane with newly ordained priests and deacons

Reverend Gardiner has completed a bachelor in theology and was assigned to St Augustine's church in Hamilton, in Brisbane's inner north, to gain practical experience.

In the final week before her ordination, she spent three days in silent retreat in prayer and contemplation.

Her journey to the priesthood took several years, during which time the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse exposed shocking evidence.

But she said the horrific stories that emerged had not shaken her faith.

"I do think about it. I find reassurance from the fact that our Archbishop has been so insistent of going through this process, going through the royal commission, examining ourselves as the church, as in where did we fail, admitting that and how can we do better," she said.

Reverend Gillian Moses baptises her grandson Edward

Reverend Gardiner said there still remained issues on which the Anglican church was "trying to catch up".

"I'm very aware of the maternity leave issues. Are they ideal? I don't know how to compare it to other industries," she said.

"A lot of women struggle with the balance of being working mothers and in the church it's not always business hours either, so it can be difficult to structure a workload that makes room for family."

Archbishop Aspinall said the church had become more accommodating for families.

"If you talk to some of the older clergy and retired ones they will tell stories about how they had to get the bishop's permission to get married or to get engaged," he said.

"The bishop would ordain single men. The theological colleges were all single men and they lived a monastic life. So times have definitely changed."

Original Article