BALLARAT is set to have its first female Anglican priest in time for Christmas.
In a historic decision, the Anglican Diocese of Ballarat approved the ordination of women priests in a vote held during its synod on Saturday.
Just over 100 people voted in the synod, with an overwhelming majority of both laypeople and clergy approving the move.
While he believed it was “the right thing to do”, Bishop Garry Weatherill said it was a bittersweet moment for the church.
“Change is always tough. I feel a great weight for the people who are not happy for this to happen,” he said.
Bishop Weatherill will first ascent to the legislation, before signing the required documentation and finding an appropriate time to ordain the next priests.
It is anticipated that women priests will be ordained before the end of the year.
The Reverend Robyn Shackell, a deacon in the Ballarat diocese, said she hoped to be one of Ballarat’s first female priests.
“I’m personally delighted but I’m also mindful of the fact that there other people in diocese that are finding it difficult at the moment,” she said.
“I think the debate was very measured.
“People were very respectful of each other on both sides.”
Bishop Weatherill also praised the conduct of the debate over the ordination of priests, saying he was really proud of the proceedings.
“I’ve been in two dioceses where this has been discussed and it has the potential to bring out the worst in people,” he said.
“I think this was outstanding. It was done with great sensitivity.
“There was no hooting, clapping or cheering.
“We just moved on to the next matter.”
Until now, Ballarat has been one of the five dioceses of the Anglican Church of Australia which do not allow the ordination of women.