ROBYN Shackell's long wait to become a priest could soon be over if a crucial vote passes this weekend.
Ballarat’s Anglican synod will meet today and tomorrow to decide whether to allow women to be ordained as priests.
Currently, of the 23 dioceses of the Anglican Church of Australia, the diocese of Ballarat is one of only five which do not allow the ordination of women.
In 2008, the diocese took the first step by allowing women to be ordained as deacons.
Reverend Shackell, one of two female deacons in the Ballarat diocese, said she hoped the vote succeeded at the synod this weekend.
“I hope the legislation will pass, but I hope it passes in a way that is positive for everyone,” Reverend Shackell said.
“If it passes, I know there are some people who will not be very happy and that makes me sad.”
Reverend Shackell said if allowed, she would love to one day become a priest in Ballarat.
“Yes I would,” she said.
“I’ve been patiently waiting for 25 years.”
Reverend Shackell said it was important for the diocese to come together and support those whose position was not taken by the synod vote.
In 2008, then-bishop Michael Hough said Reverend Shackell and her fellow female deacons were not “mini priests” and played a crucial role in the diocese.
"I’ve always been in favour of the ordination of women"
“They are not deacons because we are short of priests,” he said.
“They are deacons because God has called them to be deacons.”
Ballarat Bishop Garry Weatherill told The Courier he ordained many women as priests in his previous post as a bishop in South Australia.
“I’ve always been in favour of the ordination of women,” he said.
“I came to the diocese with that as one of my agenda items... but of course with our Anglican system, what the bishop wants isn’t always what the bishop gets.”
The synod – about 100 people made up of clergy and representatives from each parish – will today begin the process of discussion before a secret ballot tomorrow.
Bishop Weatherill said he believed there was a majority of people in favour of the ordination of women, but conceded there were strong voices on both sides of the discussion.
Ballarat Anglican bishop Garry Weatherill. PICTURE: LACHLAN BENCE
“If there were unassailable theological arguments, there wouldn’t be a discussion,” he said.
“What I do hope is we can avoid poor behaviour, name-calling and slipping into easy prejudice.
“The church ought to be a place where people with different ideas can listen respectfully.”
Bishop Weatherill conceded there was a group of people in Ballarat “very strongly” opposed to the move.
“There’s a deep history with this... this diocese has been particularly strong against the ordination of women for a long time,” he said.
“Those people who are still very committed to not ordaining women feel that is part of the history of this place, so it’s a bigger change for them than what it might be in any other diocese in Australia.”
"I hope we can avoid poor behaviour, name- calling and slipping into easy prejudice"
But, he said no matter the outcome, he would respect the views and ideas of different people within the diocese.
“After all, I’m the bishop for everyone... not just the bishop for people I agree with,” he said.
He said if the synod did pass the vote he would be free to ordain a woman as a priest “fairly quickly”.
“I can’t set a date because I don’t know what the outcome of the synod is going to be,” he said.
“But if the synod was positive, I would hope there would be an ordination before Christmas.”
This week, Anglican Church historian David Wetherell said the proposal was based on poor arguments.
He said the protocol was a vague diplomatic statement that could allow a future bishop to “ride roughshod” over the whole congregation.
“The Ballarat synod sees it as a social justice issue,” he said.
“I think there should be a women’s ministry but not a priesthood.”