This year marks the 40th anniversary of the ordination of woman priests in this province, and in our diocese. At Synod, a motion was carried that celebrated this anniversary, and those that spoke to this motion told stories that ranged from inspiration to a reminder that there is yet more work to do in ensuring that women are equally able to exercise their gifts in ministry.
Archdeacon Julie Rokotakala, who proposed the motion, spoke of the time in her youth when she recognised her call to ministry, but wasn’t sure it could be fulfilled in an ordained capacity because she had no female role models to look to. Eventually, she came to meet many women who had gone before her, and she recognised the sense of ease with which she moved into ordained ministry without having to break through. Having broken through into all-male arenas in other areas of her life, she was well-accustomed to being a pioneer – and was thankful not to have to do it in her priestly vocation as well.
Rev Annette Cater from the Parish of Roseneath spoke of her mother as her role model, though she was not in ordained ministry – Annette’s mother had the specific ministry of sewing clergy shirts for women. “A parade of ordained women came through our household – my mum would sew these shirts that would fit a woman’s figure. There were so many role models that when my calling came, the question of gender never came up.”
Archdeacon Wendy Scott recalled a time when she applied for a role in a parish but they wouldn’t entertain her application “because – guess what? I had breasts.” Though this might seem like an experience from a time gone by, Rev Canon Simon Winn reminded us of the work that is still needed. Despite a near even split between male and female ordinands in recent years, most women go into assistant or non-stipended roles. Of the 14 or 15 bishops we have in our province, we now only have one female bishop, our own Bishop Eleanor. Simon said “after 40 years of women’ ordination [to the priesthood], and 125 years of women’s suffrage, we could do better.”
After many stories and much applause, the motion was carried.