Church of England approves historic plan for women to become bishops

One of Australia’s first female bishops has welcomed a historic move by the Church of England to allow women to become bishops.


Bishop Barbara Darling was the second woman priest to be consecrated in Australia after the Anglican Church of Australia began ordaining women as bishops in 2008.

The Assistant Bishop in the Eastern Region of the Melbourne said it had taken the Church of England a long time to sign legislation allowing women to be ordained as bishops, and said she was excited to see who would fill nine vacant positions.

“There are some women leaders in England who are very senior members of the diocese already,” she said. “And I think many of them would make excellent leaders.

“I am looking forward to seeing who the first bishops who are women will be.”

The Church of England’s first female bishop was expected to take her seat next year.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and Archbishop of York, Doctor John Sentamu, then signed the change into legislation.

“Today we can begin to embrace a new way of being the church and moving forward together,” the Archbishop of Canterbury said.

“We will also continue to seek the flourishing of the church of those who disagree.”

As the “mother” church of Anglican churches around the world it set a symbolic precedent, which those churches may choose to follow.

The Anglican Church of Australia began ordaining women as bishops six years ago.

It has one female bishop of a diocese and four female assistant bishops, ranging across Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Wagga Wagga and Grafton in New South Wales.

Sydney has no female priests or bishops. But it does have a number of female deacons.

The Bishop of South Sydney, Rob Forsyth, said the diocese like the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox church was not convinced women were suited to the roles of priest and bishop.

“The trouble is that there is a deep conscientious difference about the appropriateness of woman as priests or bishops within our church. And that deep conscientious difference is not going to go away in my life time,” he said.

“Therefore the task for the Anglican Church here in Australia, as with the Church of England, is to find ways to work on the main game – which is serving and proclaiming Christ – with these differences properly handled amongst us.”

Bishop Forsyth said the ordination of female bishops in Australia had gone “fairly well” despite conflicting beliefs because dioceses are free to have different rules.

Six years on from her ordination, Bishop Barbara Darling said she continued to experience pockets of resistance.

“I have been each year to the combined bishops meeting. That’s about 35 bishops from across Australia. And some of those are people who do not agree with women being bishops. But most of them are still very courteous to us and accepting,” she said.