Australia’s Anglican Church—A House Divided
By Awake! correspondent in Australia
THE debate as to whether women should be ordained as priests in the Anglican Church is hardly new. But the matter has recently become a big issue in Australia.
In January 1992 the bishop of Canberra and Goulburn announced plans to ordain a number of women deacons as priests of the Anglican Church. He would not wait for the next church synod. In fact, the synod had already decided against such ordinations three times.
As it eventually happened, ten women were ordained as Anglican priests early in March in Perth, Australia, despite opposition. Little wonder, then, that much attention was focused on the coming church synod. The July session yielded no final decision, so “an extraordinary session” was set for November 21, 1992.
Just over a week earlier, the General Synod of the Church of England voted in favor of women’s ordination. Many expected this decision to have a persuasive effect in Australia. When the Australian synod met, one newspaper commented: “Debate and argument raged in a sometimes tension-filled day.” Before revealing the result of the ballot, the synod’s president asked that the announcement be met with silence. When it was revealed that the ordination of women had been approved, some in the audience struggled to contain their emotions. Once the news spread outside, cheering arose, and streamers were fired into the air.
Such elation was far from unanimous. The Sydney Morning Herald quoted the archbishop of Sydney as saying: “We will not be able to live happily together . . . There will be two denominations in the same Anglican Church.” Another clergyman went so far as to say that the ordination of women as priests signaled that “the Anglican Church in Australia is beginning to disintegrate.”
The Bible gives ample basis for such concerns. Jesus Christ himself said: “Every kingdom divided against itself goes to ruin; and no town, no household, that is divided against itself can stand.”—Matthew 12:25, The New English Bible.
This brings up a question that seems to have got lost in all the church bickering, What does the Bible say about the role of women in the congregation? While it does establish that Jehovah God values dedicated men and women equally, it nonetheless assigns men and women different roles in the congregation. (Galatians 3:28) It is put this way by 1 Corinthians 11:3: “While every man has Christ for his Head, woman’s head is man, as Christ’s Head is God.” (NEB) Thus, concerning formal instruction before the congregation, Paul was divinely inspired to write: “A woman must be a learner, listening quietly and with due submission. I do not permit a woman to be a teacher, nor must woman domineer over man.”—1 Timothy 2:11, 12, NEB.
This should be no cause for frustration to Christian women, however, for they are free to teach in the public ministry as did such women as Lois, Eunice, Euodia, and Syntyche in early Christian times.—Philippians 4:2, 3; 2 Timothy 1:5.