Women in ministry at St Phil's
There are many questions for people surrounding the role of women in ministry, particularly in the Sydney Anglican Diocese. This page seeks to address some of those questions and provide clarity around what we believe at St Philip’s Eastwood as a Sydney Anglican Church in particular regard to women preaching in our congregations.
Since 1922, the Diocese of Sydney has upheld that women are permitted to teach and preach in congregational settings of men and women.
This has been upheld in Doctrine Commission reports, the most recent of which was produced in 1984.
This report, (“9/84 Ordination of Women to the Priesthood of the Anglican Church”, Anglican Church Diocese of Sydney, 1984), Peter Jensen, Peter O’Brien, David Peterson, Paul Barnett, Harry Goodhew, et al.) stated the following:
“In the Pastoral Epistles, teaching appears to be an authoritative function concerned with the faithful transmission of apostolic doctrine or tradition and committed to men specially chosen (e.g. 2 Timothy 1:13-14; 2:2; 1 Timothy 3:2; 5:17; Titus 1:9). It is within this context that the specific prohibition of 1 Timothy 2:12 must be understood. Women are not to assume the authoritative teaching office that properly belongs to men in the Christian congregation. In our own context this would not appear to exclude absolutely the possibility of women preaching or teaching in church. It nevertheless appears to exclude the possibility of women exercising the role of teaching elder or "priest" as that term is defined by the Anglican Ordinal.”
In the follow-up report of 1987 (also under the direction of Robinson) the commissioners again rejected women's ordination to the priesthood, but observed:
“We believe, however, that a woman may "speak" in church in a number of ways, e.g. to prophesy, exhort or testify. There appears to be no restriction based on sex on the speaking activities in 1 Corinthians 14:26, which refers to hymns, words of instruction, revelation, tongues and interpretation. We take the prohibition in 1 Corinthians 14:34 as referring to the evaluation of prophecy."
"Contemporary preaching is not identical with teaching in the NT. Preaching covers a whole range of activities, including teaching, evangelism, encouragement, exhortation, prophecy and testimony."
"Teaching in the NT refers to the faithful transmission and defence of apostolic doctrine or passing on the fundamental structures of the faith. Admonition, prophecy, exhortation and encouragement are derived from this teaching ministry."
"As is the case with all Christian ministry however (see 2.3, 2.4 above) the privilege of exercising ministry depends on the context. Under certain circumstances, a woman may be involved in any of those preaching activities listed above. She may speak in the contemporary congregation, provided that she does not take the responsibility for the teaching of the faith in the family congregation: the teaching function is not hers for the reasons given in scripture (1 Timothy 2:11-13).”
(“8/87 the Ministry of Women,” Anglican Church Diocese of Sydney, 1984, by Dr D. B. Knox, Dr P. T. O'Brien, Dr P. W. Barnett, Dr P. F. Jensen, The Rev J. G. Mason, The Rev R. Bowles, et al.)
At Eastwood Anglican Church, we uphold the doctrinal position of the Sydney Anglican Church and we encourage women in the ministry of preaching and teaching within these guidelines. More importantly, we believe it to be a position consistent with Scripture and most valuable for the ministry of the church.
The one position that women are not permitted to hold in our Diocesan Parishes is that of the Rector. We also believe this is most importantly in line with the teaching of the Bible. The Rector is the one who takes the responsibility for the teaching of the faith in the family congregation.
As such, all preachers in our congregations come under the headship of the Rector, and it is for this reason that the Rector has oversight of the preachers and the preaching ministry across all of our congregations. The Rector establishes the preaching schedule, and every preacher is licensed by the Archbishop, under the Rector, to exercise their preaching ministry in the various congregations.
We are aware that from around the 1990s, many Sydney Anglican Churches moved away from this doctrinal position of the Sydney Anglican Church. We respect that each Rector may come to a different conclusion about this matter, and may therefore not allow women to preach, or lead services, or even lead prayer in a congregation of men and women in their Parish setting. However, at Eastwood, we continue in good faith and in practice to encourage women in this ministry of the word, in line with the doctrinal position of our Diocese. Most weeks in our congregations, you will see women preaching, leading, praying and exercising all forms of ministry within the congregations. We see this as a valuable part of who we are as a church and a Biblical reflection of the ministry of all believers in the church of God.
Women and men of course exercise ministry in many other forms at St Phil’s. We have a growing women's ministry which holds a women's conference each year, and we have many pastoral teams and activities to care for the women of our Church.
However this page simply seeks to address the issue of women preaching, which has sadly become a stumbling block to many. We encourage Christians to seek clarity first and foremost from the Scriptures, and to respond faithfully, with good conscience, always seeking to more deeply understand God’s Word on these matters, lest they become a means for division in our churches.
If you have any questions about this, please contact the Rector, Bruce Stanley. He would be more than happy to discuss this further with you. [email protected]
Sermon on women preaching:
1 Timothy 2 is a particular passage which is often under scrutiny when it comes to this area of ministry. You can find a sermon by our Rector on this passage here:
Facebook live video: (the sermon begins at 24:00 minutes)