This was a controversial and much debated issue in the Anglican Church during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Women were first ordained as deacons in the Anglican Church of Australia in 1986, and as priests in 1992.
Despite no clear legislation having passed through General Synod, Archbishop Peter Carnley ordained the first Australian women Anglican priests on 7 March 1992 in Perth. Later that year on 21 November 1992, the General Synod passed legislation that opened the way for dioceses who wished to ordain women to be able to do so.
Currently out of the 23 dioceses of the Anglican Church of Australia, only the Dioceses of North West Australia, Sydney and The Murray do not ordain women as priests. The Diocese of Armidale does so but on a limited basis. Wangaratta was the latest to permit women priests with their Synod passing national legislation in 2007. Of those not ordaining women as priests, only The Murray does not ordain women as deacons.
The number of women in orders has grown over the years. According to the 1995 Australian Anglican directory there were 114 women deacons (47%) and 139 priests (4%) out of a total of 3,515 clergy, of whom 770 were retired. By comparison, the 2007 Australian Anglican Directory showed there were 179 women deacons (45%) and 412 priests (12%) out of a total of 3,450 priests.
The path to the ordination of women has involved much dispute and controversy. Appeals were made to the Appellate Tribunal, the New South Wales Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court of Western Australia.
The Anglican Church of Australia debated whether or not to consecrate women as bishops at the 2004 General Synod. It was led by a Working Group that was set up in 1998 and reconvened in 2001. The legislation supporting this change did not achieve the necessary two thirds majority required.
A timeline of the progress for the ordination of women may be downloaded below.
Download Women's Ordination Timeline