"A few weeks ago in Sydney synod, Professor Bernard Stewart and Reverend Philip Bradford put this simple motion up:
''Synod notes the 20th anniversary of the ordination of women to the priesthood in the Anglican Church of Australia and gives thanks for the ministry of women in all areas of the church's life.''
Incendiary! Dr Claire Smith instantly moved to amend it by deleting all words after ''synod'' and adding ''gives thanks to Almighty God for the ministry of women in the church's life.'' The amendment was upheld, and the synod members were reminded not to mention the horrible idea of women priests again.
This is what passes for debate about women in Sydney today. Archbishop Peter Jensen has achieved a goal he reportedly spoke of privately at the beginning of his tenure: he would stamp out support for women preaching and leading in the diocese. Twenty years ago, not allowing women to preach in front of men was a minority position. Today, it is widespread.
This is documented in a new book out on the Movement for the Ordination of Women (MOW), Preachers, Prophets and Heretics: Anglican Women's Ministry, edited by Elaine Lindsay and Janet Scarfe. In it, Stuart Piggin, director of the Centre for the Study of Christian Thought and Experience at Macquarie University, details a meeting between MOW and Archbishop Jensen on April 10, 2002. One woman pointed out to the archbishop that in the last vote on women priests, clergy solidly opposed it but the laity split down the middle. He answered: ''I agree but I am going to work very hard to change that."
Since then, most ministers in favour of women's ordination have left, been sidelined or given up. The silencing of women in Sydney has been almost complete. Many have walked. The last serious debate in synod was in 1996; there are few left who are able to speak out."
You can only wonder how girls are meant to reconcile the fact that they are taught to speak their minds at school, and to be silent in church.
Two thousand years ago, the Christian church was radical in a culture of patriarchy. Now, in Sydney, it is a reactionary in a culture of equality."