Retiring Newcastle Anglican Bishop Brian Farran believes his successor could create Australian history by being a woman.
Bishop Farran has confirmed his retirement date of December 15 in a letter to all clergy, and said it’s ‘‘quite possible’’ the Newcastle Anglican Synod could elect Australia’s first woman bishop to head a diocese.
The three current Australian female bishops are assistants to male bishops.
Perth’s Bishop Kay Goldsworthy, the first of the three to be consecrated, is included in an early list of possible candidates being discussed by Hunter Anglican church members.
Bishop Goldsworthy is assistant bishop to former Newcastle Bishop Roger Herft, and has been in the Hunter to lead clergy retreats for Newcastle diocese priests.
Bishop Farran said it would be inappropriate to endorse a candidate, and the question of a woman bishop was for others to consider.
‘‘It’s hard to know what Synod would do, but a woman as head of Newcastle diocese is a very open possibility, and certainly the diocese has a tradition of women clergy,’’ Bishop Farran said.
Asked if a woman bishop would be a good thing, he said: ‘‘I think the good thing is when the right person is chosen for the right time.’’
Bishop Farran will retire on his 68th birthday on December 15, with a ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral where he will place the Pastoral Staff on the cathedral’s high altar to end his ministry.
‘‘It will be an interesting birthday, God willing,’’ he wrote to clergy.
Newcastle Anglican Synod of up to 500 parishioners and clergy has three months from that date to elect a new bishop.
Bishop Farran said it had been ‘‘a huge privilege to be the bishop of this diocese, and I really mean that’’.
‘‘There’s a lot of energy in the Hunter, and a great willingness among people of this diocese to really face the hard issues going into the future.’’
The diocese made a ‘‘significant contribution to this community’’ on welfare through organisations like the Samaritans.
He will retire to Morpeth with his wife, to live in a house they are building.
‘‘This will be the first time we’ll be in our own home, because we’ve always lived in church homes,’’ he said.
He hoped to write non-fiction, on theology.
Prominent Anglican and former Newcastle lord mayor John McNaughton said he would be delighted to see a woman elected as bishop.
‘‘This region has a reputation for making history when it comes to being first to have women in prominent positions,’’ he said.
Upper Hunter-born Northern Territory Bishop Greg Thompson and Brisbane Bishop Dr Jonathan Holland, the son of former Newcastle Bishop Alfred Holland, are other names being suggested as candidates.