Women congregate to celebrate ordination

There are only three female bishops in the Anglican Church of Australia and this week they are in Canberra celebrating what they and other women priests have achieved over the past 20 years.

What they are not celebrating is the scourge of child sexual abuse that many religions and other institutions have been tainted with.

The three pioneering women have welcomed Prime Minister Julia Gillard's launch of a royal commission into child sexual abuse.

''It is fantastic,'' said Kay Goldsworthy, the church's assistant bishop of Perth.

''What we do know is that no institution and no church have got everything right. There's a lot for us all to be learning about how we might walk.

''We can't say to anybody else in other churches that their church should do this or that.


''I guess they have to decide what it is that they might learn from other people.''

Genieve Blackwell, a regional assistant bishop at Wagga Wagga, said she welcomed the royal commission and noted that it would not be solely focused on the Catholic Church.

''We have things to learn as well,'' she said.

Assistant bishop for Melbourne Barbara Darling said the Anglican Church would be co-operating with the royal commission and doing what it could to find a way forward. ''We're open to acknowledging faults from the past,'' she said.

The trio is in town to mark the 20th anniversary of the ordination of women priests in the Anglican Church of Australia.

Sixty-five delegates are attending a three-day conference at University House.

Governor-General Quentin Bryce received the delegates at Government House on Tuesday and met with the three bishops.

''I think there is something about we three,'' Bishop Blackwell said.

''Women have gifts in lots of different places in the church but there's something about women being consecrated as bishops that's very affirming.''

Bishop Goldsworthy agreed. ''The church sees there is no more of what some people used to call the stained-glass ceiling and that actually that everything is possible,'' she said.

''Certainly women ordained as priests have said to me that with women bishops they now feel as though they are completely a part of this church and completely accepted for who they are.

''We've really been symbols of that, I guess.''

But Bishop Darling noted there was still more progress needed.

''We're still assistant bishops. We still don't have women as bishops in charge of a diocese,'' she said.

''I think that's still to come and we hope that will come fairly soon.''