Sisters see opportunities beyond ordination

Renewed calls for the Diocese to ordain female priests limit opportunities for Christian women, say Sydney women training for full-time ministry. spoke to a number of female students at Moore Theological College who say Sydney Synod should reject legislation that seeks to ordain women to the priesthood.

They say the argument for women's ordination is invalid when seen against the vibrant ministry opportunities available to women in Sydney Diocese.

"There's a huge range of opportunities for women in ministry in Sydney," says second-year student and diocesan candidate Dani Treweek, who plans to become a high school chaplain when she completes her studies.

Ms Treweek says while ordination "is something a lot of women struggle with' many women don’t view the path to ordination as their only option if they want to enter full-time ministry.

She says there are more opportunities to work in team environments as women's and children's workers than ever before.

"When we're talking about ordination to the priesthood, it's actually quite a narrow form of ministry," Ms Treweek says.

"Opportunities for women are much broader than that."

Ms Treweek says her main objection to female priests is not that ‘women aren’t capable’.

“The main issue is God’s word - it’s a matter of theology, not practical expediency,” she says.

“We can get caught up in the gender debate and miss the importance of the authority of scripture in the life of the Christian.”

Increase in women entering ministry

Women entering theological study in Sydney have increased under the 10-year Diocesan Mission, which began in 2002.

The current first-year student body at Moore College is the largest ever, with the college also receiving its largest intake of women in 2006.

Over 80 women out of a total of 314 students are currently studying full-time at the college. There are 48 women in first year " an increase of 50 per cent on the previous year.

The Australian Church Record says the Diocese has more women doing ministry in an official capacity than anywhere else in Australia.

Fourth-year student Mandy Curley, who has a position as a women's worker at The Bible Talks at St Andrew's Cathedral next year, says advocating for women's ordination "undermines the ministry that's already going on' in Sydney.

"Ministry has broadened. There have been many more people in [training so] you don't have to be rector of a parish," Ms Curley says.

"The more opportunities there are, the less it becomes an issue."

Kara Gilbert, formerly a women's worker at St Thomas', North Sydney and now in her third year at Moore College, says the increase in university ministries over the past 20 years has been a factor in providing more opportunities for women.

"I don't want to be locked into being a rector," says Ms Gilbert, who is also a diocesan candidate and plans to be involved in women's work after college.

She says a number of rectors are employing women's workers before taking on a male assistant minister.

"It's not just the standard "big churches' that are looking for women to come into their teams," says Ms Gilbert.

"They value the women in a team and the contribution they can bring."

The Synod has twice rejected a motion for women priests, once in 1992 and again in 1996.

Female deacons want to be priests, says ordination advocate

Mover of the motion, the Rev Chris Albany of St Mark's, South Hurstville, says he does not deny that there are "obviously many talented women exercising ministry' in Sydney.

Mr Albany says as a long-standing member of the Movement for the Ordination of Women (MOW) he is concerned for women who want to be ordained to the priesthood in Sydney but are denied.

"I'm aware of some women who have been ordained as deacons who would quite happily be ordained as priests," he says.

"You have the gifts and ministry of talented people like that who are being lost to the Diocese."

Mr Albany says he is "quietly confident' that there are 25 to 30 parishes who would want a female presbyter.

"There may be a lot more than I'm aware of," he says. "I hope Sydney will accept those parishes who are happy to receive women in leadership."

Sydney Anglican women's ministry group Equal but Different has released a statement saying Mr Albany's motion is a "serious departure from the plain reading of Scripture'.

"God’s good plan for the roles of men and women are the plain teaching of Scripture. We know the Bible is reliable. It is not simply a cultural issue we can set aside," the group says.

The Sydney Synod begins on Monday October 16. will provide daily coverage of proceedings.



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