Sydney Movement for the Ordination of Women (Sydney MOW)

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Sydney Movement for the Ordination of Women

The Sydney diocese of the Anglican Church of Australia is one of the few places where women still cannot be ordained as Priests. Where once MOW Australia had active local chapters around Australia, many of those now operate only as informal networks. However in Sydney we remain active and promote the liberation of women by organising public forums and promoting debate of the issue at Sydney Synod.

If you have questions or want to get involved, we would love to talk to you. We welcome courteous and sincere dialogue with those who may disagree with us. If you live in Sydney and join MOWatch, you also become a member of Sydney MOW.

List of Sydney MOW Committee Members:

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A Bulletin for Members and Friends of the Sydney Movement for the Ordination of Women

Vol. 13, No 1, April 2015


"Muriel Porter has done the Church a great service in offering a snapshot of where we stand today and what the horizon looks like. It is a only a short book and there is much that invites further conversation and no doubt argument. This is all to the good for we are in transitional times as a church and society and this demands a fresh dialogue and respectful listening to one another." Bishop Stephen Pickard.

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On 29 August 2015, the Committee for the Sydney Movement for the Ordination of Women (Sydney MOW) held our AGM at St Luke’s Anglican Church in Mosman, NSW.

Rev. Andrew Sempell

Our guest speaker was the Rev. Andrew Sempell, BA, BTh. Dip Min., Rector of St James, King Street.
As rector of one of Sydney’s leading high church parishes since 2010, Andrew has been willing to discuss some of the controversial issues in the Anglican church of our day.
Andrew’s address: “Fathers, Heretics and the Failure of Mission” can be downloaded by clicking on the link: Sempell-MOW-paper_15-08.pdf

Sydney Movement for the Ordination of Women (MOW) AGM, 29 August 2015 – Convenor’s Report by Rev. Lu Piper

Rev. Lu Piper, Convenor of Sydney MOW

MOW-Sydney-Convenors-Report_Rev-Lu-Piper_29 Aug-2015.pdf

PUBLIC LECTURE BY REV. DR KEITH MASCORD: "Breaking the Stained Glass Ceiling: A Risky but Rewarding Renovation!"

On 21st February, 2015 the Rev. Dr Keith Mascord gave very well attended public lecture in support of the Sydney Movement for the Ordination of Women. This was significant because Dr Mascord is a former lecturer from Moore College, the theological training centre for the Anglican Diocese of Sydney which, unlike many other parts of the world wide Anglican Community, has continued to strongly oppose the real equality of women within the church. His conversion has been most encouraging to all those men and women in Australian Anglicanism who believe that women can and should be able to be leaders within the church as both priests and bishops. In his address (download PDF below), titled "Breaking the Stained Glass Ceiling: A Risky but Rewarding Renovation!", the Rev. Dr Keith deals perceptively with the obvious theological and intellectual reasons in favour of women’s ordination and natural emotional reasons that some people find it difficult to change their minds.

Elaine A. Peterson

Sydney Movement for the Ordination of Women.

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2014 AGM – A New Start

The 2014 Annual General Meeting of Sydney MOW elected the following Executive Committee:

        Convenor: Rev. Lu Piper
        Secretary: Carol Russell
        Treasurer: Margaret Lawther
        Committee: Caroline Bowyer, Elaine Lindsay, Angela Peverell, Elaine Peterson.

Sydney MOW is again in the happy position of having a woman, who is a priest of the Anglican Church, to lead our efforts. In Lu, we see the future we have been striving for. We welcome new committee member, Angela Peverell, who is keen to work with national MOWatch, in creating an effective presence in the electronic media.

Our Convenor, Rev. Lu Piper at the AGM with Sandra Goodwin, sister of MOW’s Foundation President, Dr Patricia Brennan.


I offer this report on behalf of the committee in the hope that it reflects our deliberations and aspirations over this past year. I did not expect to find myself Convenor, and I have found it a great challenge to try to understand the workings of the Sydney Diocese. Thank you to the committee members for your forbearance as I have tried to grasp the issues.

The committee is a great group to belong to. We have met quarterly and keep in regular touch via email and phone calls. As well there is communication with the national body, MOWatch, with a meeting at the time of Bishop Sarah’s induction at Grafton. Such meetings and emails enable us to keep abreast of the current status quo of women in the Anglican Church.

Also the May 2014 publication of the St. Mark’s Review “Taking Stock - the Joy and Challenge of Ordained Women in the Anglican Church of Australia” has been a timely resource. This includes a survey undertaken by Heather Thomson, which covers the last twenty years - I think Anne will be referring to this in her address. There is an interesting quote from the late Patricia Brennan, reprinted in an article by Cathy Thomson. Patricia wrote in 1997:- “Some may understand the shame we felt in 1991 when, after fourteen years of humiliating public debate, the national church made a deal over its women. The General Synod said to the Sydney Diocese: Let the rest of us ordain our women in exchange for releasing you to do whatever you like with yours.”

It seems to me that what we are doing now is the mopping up of that situation we were allotted. The ordination of women to the priesthood has not yet occurred in the Sydney Diocese, and three other dioceses also remain to be tackled. What is the mopping up strategy of the committee? Firstly, to carry on the excellent work that has already being undertaken. Secondly, to think through appropriate strategy given that we have had a change of Archbishop. Thirdly to embark on a complete revamp of our communication to members as well as to the Anglican Diocese of Sydney at large.

In carrying on from the foundation of past years, we are endeavouring to keep up-to-date with how people are currently thinking about this issue in the Diocese. To this end we are dialoguing with various voices and trying to understand people’s points of view. I am currently contacting and meeting with women in ministry: deacons both in ministry and retired and lay women who have significant roles. Some of us have met with women connected to the group “Christians for Biblical Equality” (CBE).There is another group, “Christian Women in Leadership” which I hope to contact; and I have spoken already to the clergy of the “Stole” parishes. These conversations at both the individual level and committee level help us to address the reality of the situation we find ourselves in this diocese. For instance, unlike other dioceses, many women in ministry in Sydney have no aspiration to be ordained to the Diaconate, let alone to the Priesthood. We need to be aware of the impact of the Equip Conferences under Matthias Media, which influence thousands of women in this diocese with the ideas of submission under the name Complementarianism. Hence our request that Anne speaks, within her address, to the issue of women against women in leadership today.

The Committee felt that it was important to meet with Archbishop Glenn early on in his episcopate, and three members of the committee did so on the 14th April. The May edition of the MOW Report included Elaine’s reflection on that interview. Rosemary has also communicated directly and personally with him. We believe we have a workable relationship with the Archbishop, and we need to keep it that way as he leads the Diocese over these next few years. We want to hold our ground and see where we can steer the cause towards Sydney being in line with the majority of Dioceses of the national church. We are endeavouring to keep abreast of his thinking regarding his vision for the Diocese.

Regarding communication, our thanks must also go to Rosemary and her grandson Mitchell, who have opened our eyes and encouraged us to think beyond the postage stamp to social media. We now look forward to a vastly improved communications system being developed under the management of Angela Peverell. Angela will work with Kathy Toal and others tomorrow, so that we will be aligned properly with the new MOWatch web-site, and then a section for MOW Sydney will be included.

The committee needs to hear and respond to the voice of our members. Beyond our members, we need to contact women and men who are sitting in Anglican pews but are not sitting comfortably with the Sydney line on women. We need to be able to contact women and men who publicly will not align themselves with us for fear of putting their jobs in jeopardy, but privately would be alongside. We need to make it clear that there is an alternative voice that is both active and persuasive. We need to place out there a very clear theological statement of endorsement for women in leadership in every capacity, including ordination to the three-fold orders.

Our long-term goal will be to address the issue again at the Synod level. We are not there yet. I believe that travelling steadily and surely is a better way than trying an aggressive, short-term approach. We need to be open to hearing what the Spirit says to the church: to us who are both members of the Church of God under the auspices of the Anglican Church of Australia, and members of MOWatch Australia Ltd.

On a more personal level, I want to say that I would have liked to have given more time to the MOW cause this year. This has not been possible due to the fact that, although retired, I have been almost full-time here at St. Luke’s since mid-February. This will shortly change with the induction of our new Rector. On the other hand, it has been helpful to experience being back in ministry in Sydney, and perhaps this situation has given me insights and connections that I would not have otherwise had.

I want to encourage all here today to continue on heartily with the mopping up exercise. The task is not yet won, it is not yet over, there is more to do. Thank you to everyone for your encouragement and support. Thank you especially to the committee, the esteemed ones, for your wisdom, your tenacity and consistent hard work even though all of you are very busy women in other capacities. Rosemary, as you retire today, we want to thank you especially, but know that you will continue to be the inspiration that you are. We look forward hopefully to new members, men and women, coming on to the committee today. And above all, we pray that the Holy Spirit will direct us in all our deliberations as we endeavour to bring the Church to wholeness for the glory of God.

Lu Piper

"GATEKEEPERS, BULLIES AND NICE GIRLS" Assoc. Prof. Anne O'Brien's AGM Address:

This year's distinguished guest speaker comes from the UNSW School of Humanities and Languages. She is also the author of Chapter 2 of "Preachers, Prophets & Heretics – Anglican Women's Ministry", where her topic is Women in the Churches before 1992.

Prof. Anne O’Brien with Rev. Sue Emeleus at the AGM

Anne's talk responded to our request for an examination of the reasons why some women oppose the leadership of other women. She approached this theme with an examination of the public texts of the Complementarian viewpoint, as evidenced in the appropriate websites, such as Sydney Anglican Media, Moore College and Equal but Different.

She noted an emphasis on the “sacrificial leadership” of men matched to the “willing submission” by women. There appears to be a sense of moral superiority by women who see themselves as not “selfish” but “cooperative”. The “turmoil” over the issue of women’s ordination is seen as evidence that the egalitarians are wrong. The “Equal but Different” site claims that it is a “courageous organisation” because “it declares what our world doesn’t want to hear.”

The Moore College website clearly implies that study there will provide an opportunity to find a suitable marriage partner, though this should not be the “only reason” for coming to study there. College Principal, Mark Thompson calls for ”a celebration of difference” because “we are convinced that God made us to delight in each other.” Egalitarians are assumed to be incapable of “delighting in one another” rather than simply rejecting a unitary and prescriptive gender relations model.

The 2010 Katoomba Convention had the theme, “Dressed for Power – Women and God in a Power Hungry World”. The Journal of Equal but Different in reporting on this event printed two disturbing articles. In one a young mother admitted that she felt intimidated by professional women until a speaker pointed out that female submission requires, “great strength and inner power.” It is woman’s responsibility to develop this inner strength.

Marital happiness is a test of faith. In another article, Helen Jensen’s analysis of Genesis 3:16 supports the ancient view that childbirth pain is God’s judgement on women. She writes that “the judgement on the woman in the Garden of in Genesis 3:16 and on all womankind since, is to do with her womanliness.... Being a woman on earth and under the judgement of God is a fearsome thing.”

Anne said that in trying to explain why women may be against other women in leadership, it was important to take age and the life cycle into account. It is hard for any woman trapped in an unhappy marriage, so in this context, theologies that see strength in submission are very comforting. “There’s been a lot of research done on lateral violence... between members of groups oppressed on both racial and gender grounds and it may be applicable if we are trying to understand the resistance among women to women’s leadership”.

Anne pointed out that a literal approach to the biblical text discourages critical thinking.” The metaphorical possibilities of the Gospels are extinguished.” She believes that ancient fears about women’s sexuality - found in other world religions as well – the blood taboo – still exists for people with an undeveloped world view.

Anne noted that “The attempts to suppress and marginalise women’s ministry have taken different forms since the first Jesus movement, but the most recent ones started in the mid 19th century and lasted till the 1960’s.” In the 1940’s, Anglican Deaconesses formed an Australian Fellowship and Archbishop Mowll prohibited Sydney deaconesses from joining for 7 years until a constitutional amendment stated that they wouldn’t make any decisions without his permission.

She concluded: “Complementarianism is...a distortion of Christianity. As Lu said in her email to me it doesn’t fit with today’s world. Those who hold to it are a minority in our society, a minority in the church and their message won’t last.”

Elaine Peterson

Article by Julia Baird marking 20 years of women priests in the Australian Anglican church (2012)

Julia Baird argues in the Sydney Morning Herald today that "two thousand years ago, the Christian church was radical in a culture of patriarchy. Now, in Sydney, it is a reactionary in a culture of equality." Her piece documents a recent motion at Sydney Synod by Professor Bernard Stewart and Reverend Philip Bradford to note the 20th anniversary of women's ordination to the priesthood - a motion that was amended by Synod to erase any mention of ordination and simply give thanks for women's ministry.

Media Release: 20th Anniversary of Women Priests in the Anglican Church of Australia

As the Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney begins its Annual Meeting where it will discuss such topics as whether women should promise to submit to their husbands the rest of the Anglican Church of Australia continues to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the ordination of the first women priests in Australia - the 92 in 92.

There are now 3 female Bishops, 462 female Priests and 178 female Deacons in the Anglican Church of Australia and the Church is celebrating the wonderful gifts and ministries of these women. Sydney MOW rejoices in this anniversary year but we also mourn the fact that we are still not able to experience the full and equal ministry of women and men in the Sydney Diocese.

Sydney is one of only 4 Australian Dioceses which still do not ordain women as priests. As a result, Sydney Diocese has lost a wealth of talent over the past 20 years as women have left Sydney to be ordained elsewhere. Sydney MOW has identified at least 25 gifted women who are now serving in other Dioceses in Australia, including 2 of the 3 female Bishops. These women have brought diverse perspectives and great gifts to their ministries and the Church is richer for them.

Other faithful and committed lay women and men have quietly left the church or moved to other Dioceses because of the intransigence of the Sydney opposition to the full and equal ministry of women.

At least two women priests who were ordained elsewhere reside in Sydney and are unable to function as priests and exercise their full ministry in this diocese.

As we rejoice in the 20th Anniversary of Women Priests in Australia, we remember and honour all those who have left Sydney to pursue their vocation; those who have left the church and those who are unable to exercise their full ministry in Sydney.

Updated 16 November 2012

Last updated by webmaitresse 1 December 2012
Copyright (c) 2012