Kara Hartley is the Archdeacon for Women’s Ministry in Sydney. She trained in media before studying at Sydney Missionary and Bible College and Moore College. For 12 years she served in local church ministry, and she has been Archdeacon for the past eight years. Kara is married to Brett (a headmaster) and between them they juggle two busy and very effective roles. She talks to SIMON MANCHESTER.
Kara, you have the job of being Archdeacon for Women in the Sydney Diocese – can you tell us the best things about the position?
The best thing is the privilege of teaching and encouraging women from the Bible. This happens as I meet with women who are serving in the local church or our organisations like schools and Anglicare, as well as speaking at local church conferences. It’s a great joy to see and hear how the ministry of the gospel is being lived out in every area of our Diocese. I also love being involved with women in post-college training.
Are you mostly involved with women in paid positions, or do you get around to meet women in many churches as well?
My role has a particular emphasis on training, recruiting and supporting women in paid ministry – ordained, lay, full time and part time. Yet I’m deeply interested in how God is using the women of our churches to proclaim Christ. It’s wonderful to meet women who are loving and serving Jesus all over the Diocese. God really is using the many, many women in our churches in wonderful, creative and strategic ways.
Do you feel your work and study background have prepared you well for your current responsibilities or is this new work something quite different?
Yes, my Bible college training equipped me thoroughly for serving women when I was in the local church (any failures I made weren’t the fault of my training!). Having the Bible as the foundation for ministry doesn’t change moving from the local church into this role. There are different challenges and responsibilities because of the broader nature of the role, but essentially my prayer is that the gospel will continue to shape me and all I seek to do.
Recently you have taken a helpful stand against (what seems to be) a cheap media shot at the Sydney Anglican Church. Can you summarise what you thought needed to be said?
There’s some discussion in the media that women might suffer domestic violence in Sydney Anglican churches because of so-called “patriarchal” teaching on men and women. Among other things I simply wanted to affirm that the biblical teaching on husbands and wives is God’s good word to us and our responsibility is to teach clearly and unambiguously in a way that doesn’t allow for misunderstanding.
Also, when perpetrators use the Bible to justify their abuse they are doing so in a way that God does not endorse, nor does his word allow. I acknowledge that, tragically, some use the Bible to justify their wicked behaviour, but it doesn’t necessarily (and can I say usually) flow that violence is the outcome of teaching male leadership in marriage. I’m not convinced changing our teaching will solve the problem, which ultimately is a sin and heart problem.
Going back to your early days, how did the gospel come to you and what convinced you to trust and follow Jesus?
By God’s grace a neighbour invited me to youth group when I was in late high school. Arriving at that youth group I encountered people I already had connections with from primary school. That kept me there. Over the course of two years, I think God slowly warmed my heart to the gospel.
I discovered that, even though I’d been to Sunday School and an Anglican school, and even though I was a “nice” girl who didn’t have a problem with the existence of God and Jesus, God didn’t regard those things as worthwhile credentials for a relationship with him. In fact, he regarded me as his enemy. This was shocking news for me! I don’t have a day or time. but I know I grew in thankfulness for Jesus’ death and resurrection and put my trust in him for the forgiveness for my sins.
Have you felt frustrated in your work that certain roles and privileges have been kept from you? And what have you most loved doing since you began?
I’ve never been frustrated because there’s so much work to do! I’ve always been encouraged to serve, and I’ve tried to get on and do that as faithfully and wisely as possible. There’s nothing more wonderful than explaining the gospel to someone and them putting their trust in Jesus. There’s nothing more wonderful than seeing someone young and fragile in their faith grow and strengthen as you meet and read the Bible together. I’ve loved these things, and love encouraging young women to serve and use their gifts for God.
Your husband Brett is a headmaster which means that you both have huge areas of life to cover. How do you make time for “work-free” conversation and breaks together?
In a household without children it’s easier to find moments of simple and interruption-free conversation each day. We can read the Bible and pray together at dinner easily. We don’t plan for them, but we do find opportunities to have a coffee or go for a walk on the weekend where we “catch up”. We seek to go away every year for our anniversary. Also, we try and spend time with friends and family so life isn’t “all about us”.
Do you think that the Sydney Anglicans who hold a complementarian position are quite alone in this position and are hindering the national and global church or helping it?
No, Sydney isn’t alone and, in fact, I think this teaching is one that enriches our church, not hinders it. Complementarianism values the distinctions between men and women, in both the home and church, while continuing to affirm our equality. Many churches around Australia and the world hold to the same view. So, with that in mind, as men and women we get on and contend side by side for the gospel, as is the model in the New Testament.
What would you say are the important issues for Christian women today that keep cropping up in your discussions and travels?
There are lots of ethical issues facing us and we need to ensure it’s the Bible informing us – on sexuality, thinking about gender identity and euthanasia for example. For women, personal issues of identity in Christ, finding hope and confidence in him, is something I’m often speaking about. There are so many voices, demands and challenges to that identity. Courage is also another issue (not just for women) – how to keep being courageous for Christ as the world grows more hostile. Mental health, juggling responsibilities, raising kids, healthy marriages, loneliness – these are all issues that seem to weigh heavily on many.
Which women have been helpful to you in their example, mentoring, writing or speaking?
I’m nervous about naming names in case I leave someone out! By God’s grace I have had several older women minister to me, shape, correct and teach me over the past 20+ years, and some amazing friends who likewise model faithful and godly living.
Some writers: Kathleen Nielson, Claire Smith, Jen Wilkin. Susannah Spurgeon is someone I’ve recently come to appreciate deeply.
The team of bishops that you work with seem to be a terrific and very gifted bunch. Are your meetings marked by joy and thanksgiving or is it all putting out fires and battling away?
Our meetings are a highlight in my week. I am so thankful for my brothers – they are a terrific bunch. We do talk about some hard things going on, but we spend an hour in the Bible at the start of our meetings, which is a real joy. We have fun together and also rejoice deeply in what God is going across our city through his people.
What keeps you going in these hard days (is there a verse or promise you treasure) and what sort of invitation would draw you away to another part of Christ’s service?
The verse I have carried with me from my early years as a Christian is 2 Corinthians 5:14-15:
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
So, I have tried to “live for Christ”, though at times (many times) haven’t done this as well or wholeheartedly as I’d hoped. Still, by God’s grace, each day I have a go and trust that God will turn my efforts into something that might bring him glory.