First Anglican female priest 'overdue'

A LONG-TIME south-west leader in the Anglican Church has praised the ordination of female priests as an important step forward. 

Warrnambool’s Anglicare secretary and former parish warden Vern Robson welcomed the city’s first female priest, Robyn Shackell, who delivered two eucharist services yesterday. 

“It’s really tremendous news. It’s been fairly contentious for the last 12 years,” Mr Robson said. 

“Most Anglican dioceses have had female priests for years but the Ballarat diocese has been out of step with others.” 

Mr Robson said the private sector had made efforts towards gender equality which should be mirrored in the church.

He said the Anglican Church, like others, was also struggling to attract new and younger priests to parishes around the country. 

The Anglican Synod of Ballarat approved the ordination of women to the priesthood in October. However, the vote was not unanimous. Mr Robson said the issue gained traction after the appointment of Bishop Garry Weatherill to Ballarat two years ago. 

“He did consult widely in the diocese. He consulted not just with the lay people but also with the clergy.” 

While celebrating the landmark occasion, Bishop Weatherill played down the likelihood of wholesale change to the priesthood. 

“There will probably not be a great change. We are not expecting a tidal wave of women priests,” he said on Saturday following the ordination of Ms Shackell and Anne McKenna of Ararat in Ballarat’s Anglican Cathedral. 

“These are two women who have been well known to us for a long time, who have been actively involved with the church for many years and have a calling to ministry.”

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