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Vicar's Musings for the Third Sunday in Lent

23 March, 2014

Today, after the 11am Mass, you are warmly invited to the first of our Congregational Meetings to discuss the question of ordained women's ministry at St Peter's Eastern Hill. It is a topic that has not been talked about much in the parish, in a public forum at least, since the Diocese of Melbourne ordained the first women priests in 1992. At last year's Annual General Meeting a motion was passed unanimously, by more than 70 parishioners, that gave a clear mandate to embark on a nine-month "period of formal listening and prayerful, pastoral discernment on the question of the ministry of ordained women at St Peter's."

Since then Vestry has been carefully considering the best way to enact the motion, and decided on a series of nine Congregational Meetings, aimed at fostering respectful discussion and careful listening. Vestry's strong desire is to give room for every parishioner to voice their opinion and concerns, and to give all congregations the opportunity to reflect together on what God's Spirit may be saying to us as a parish at this juncture in our common life. It is important to stress that no decision has yet been made. This is a time to talk and to listen to one another.

There is of course a wide spread of opinion in the parish on the question of ordained women's ministry, especially at the altar, and it is important that we engage in this ongoing dialogue respectfully. Vestry asks that those who wish to speak at the meetings do so in a spirit of Christian love. It is important we acknowledge that people on both sides of the debate have deeply held core beliefs. Some parishioners have spoken already at last year's A.G.M. of how their opinion has changed on this question over time, others have long-held positions either for or against.

Vestry is very aware that this has the potential to be a painful debate for some people, and even divisive for us as a parish community, so pastoral care throughout the process is paramount. If any parishioners have concerns and wish to talk to the clergy, members of the lay pastoral team, the Wardens, or individual Vestry members outside the meetings, please feel free to do so.

Finally, there is the question of those outside the parish who may wish to speak at these meetings. Vestry discussed this question at some length and came to a unanimous conclusion that only parishioners (i.e. those on the parish roll) will have the right to speak at the Congregational Meetings and at the final Parish Meeting in August. This is a parish issue, first and foremost; the wider Diocesan debate was decided more than twenty years ago.

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

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