Trinity College Theological School celebrated the 20th anniversary of the ordination of women to the priesthood with a conference and book launch in September. The crowd included a number of pioneer figures in the ordination debate.
Among them were the Reverend Canon Dr Colleen O’Reilly who in 1975 co-founded Anglican Women Concerned, the first group to lobby for women’s ordination, Dr Muriel Porter OAM an early campaigner for women's ordination and Bishop Barbara Darling who was on the faculty at Ridley Melbourne in the 1970s and set up a group to encourage women studying for ministry. The Dean of the Theological School, the Revd Professor Dorothy Lee, chaired the conference.
Professor Peter Sherlock spoke about Marion Macfarlane, the first deaconess in Australia. Keith Mason QC, reflected on the difficult challenges presented by the church’s constitution and opponents. I analysed the role and legacy of the Movement for the Ordination of Women in the controversy. Professor Stuart Piggin reflected on ‘the terrible conflict’ about women’s ministry as played out in the Diocese of Sydney. Dr Muriel Porter followed with a paper identifying a backlash against women’s ministry. Dr Heather Thomson spoke about theological education – the freedom to challenge and pressures to conform. The conference ended with the Reverend Dr Elizabeth Smith and Ms Fay Magee exploring changes in language and theology and hymnody and song.
The final part of the day saw Bishop Barbara Darling launch Preachers, Prophets & Heretics: Anglican Women’s Ministry; essays published to mark the 20th anniversary of the Anglican Church’s historic decision in 1992 and the ordinations that followed. She reflected:
…It is written so that the new generation can see how far we have come and give thanks for those who went before them… It is also written as a challenge for the way forward as women in ministry.
Dr Janet Scarfe