NEWCASTLE Anglicans have made Australian church history by naming a woman bishop in a list of five nominees competing to lead the diocese.
Perth Bishop Kay Goldsworthy was the first bishop, and only the second Anglican woman, to appear on a public nomination list on Monday for a synod election in Australia, after the retirement of former Newcastle Bishop Brian Farran.
It is the first time women and men have been able to appear as nominees in Newcastle after the Anglican church allowed women bishops in 2007.
More than 300 Newcastle Anglicans will elect a new bishop during a synod in April.
Other nominees are Kotara Reverend Fergus King, Canberra Goulburn Assistant Bishop Stephen Pickard, Newcastle Assistant Bishop Peter Stuart and Merewether Reverend Stephen Williams.
Prominent Anglican commentator and women ministry campaigner Muriel Porter said the election of a woman to lead a diocese would be a ‘‘very important step, a very significant step’’ in the church’s history in Australia, after women were allowed to become priests in 1992.
‘‘It’s great to see a woman on a public synod list,’’ Ms Porter said.
‘‘Kay Goldsworthy was in that first group ordained as priests in 1992. She’s been in ministry for a very long time. Had she been a man she would have been nominated 10 years ago.’’
Ms Porter warned that the Newcastle synod election could be a bruising encounter for nominees after several years of turmoil in the diocese. She would not predict the outcome, but noted that Newcastle was a recognised leader in the area of ordaining women.
‘‘I just hope and pray that the process is as kind, decent and respectful as can be,’’ she said.
Prominent Newcastle Anglican and former Cathedral parish warden David Stewart said he was delighted the nominees included ‘‘an exceptional woman’’ such as Bishop Goldsworthy.
‘‘The electors are making what could be an historic choice, which adds an edge to this election,’’ Mr Stewart said.
But many within the diocese were concerned a woman bishop would be ‘‘a step too far’’ after a difficult period, and a male bishop would ‘‘steady the ship’’, he said.
‘‘I just don’t agree with that. If the fact she’s a woman is a reason not to vote for her, I think that’s a pity. What the diocese needs is an exceptional person to lead it.’’