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11th Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Grafton

Anglican Diocese of Grafton

Media Release

Grafton’s new bishop makes history:

First Australian woman to lead a Diocese

Australian Church history has been made with the election of the Rev Dr Sarah Macneil as the first woman to lead an Anglican Diocese.
Dr Macneil has accepted her appointment as 11th Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Grafton. She will be consecrated and installed early next year.

Other women have been consecrated as assistant bishops within Australian Anglican dioceses and, overseas, women have been made diocesan bishops but this is a national first for Australia.

Dr Macneil is a former Dean of Adelaide and archdeacon in the Diocese of Canberra-Goulburn. She is presently Senior Associate Priest at Holy Covenant in Jamison, ACT.

Dr Macneil was selected from a number of candidates by a Nomination Board appointed by Diocesan Synod.

While details of the appointment process are confidential it is understood Dr Macneil’s selection was unanimous.

Her election comes almost 20 years to the day since the first ordination of a woman in Grafton diocese which embraces the North Coast of NSW, extending from Port Macquarie to the Queensland border.

Her election will cause considerable excitement in church circles, not only among Australian Anglicans but in mainline churches around the world.

It will be interpreted by many as an overt sign of an increasing acceptance of women in leadership roles within the church.

Colleagues describe Dr Macneil as having a servant heart, being prayerful, possessing insight and humour and delighting in diversity within the church.

Asked for her reaction to being the first woman elected as a diocesan bishop Dr Macneil said: “Surprising, overwhelming and humbling.”

“I am surprised and delighted by the invitation to become the 11th Bishop of Grafton.

“I am awed by the confidence placed in me by the appointment board and by their willingness to be trail blazers.

“The Diocesan Appointment Board is keen to have a bishop with a heart for mission in the 21st century, a respect for the diversity of Anglicanism and with administrative experience, all of which are part of my story.

Dr Macneil’s consecration in Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton, early in 2014 is expected to draw a large number of people who have been prominent in the advocacy of women in leadership within the Anglican Church during the last 3o years.

She is a life time Christian in the Anglican tradition and, before ordination, worked in Australia and abroad with the Commonwealth Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade.


To the people of Grafton Diocese

It is with delight and humility, wonder and excitement, that I have accepted the Bishop Appointment Board’s invitation to become your next Bishop. I will come with a loving heart, a listening ear and a deep confidence that God will speak through us all as we faithfully seek to learn the lessons of the past and embrace the future.

I have been asked to share a little of my history with you. A cradle Anglican, I grew up in the Diocese of Tasmania, valuing Anglican diversity, which was expressed in my home parish and my school. This early formation, together with later experiences, has given me a great love and respect for the rich traditions of Anglicanism. While working in the Commonwealth Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade I felt a strong call to ordination. After theological studies at St Mark’s National Theological Centre, I was ordained as a deacon in 1993 and a priest in 1994. I have served in country parishes, city parishes, as a school chaplain, Diocesan Archdeacon in the Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn, and as Dean of St Peter’s Cathedral in Adelaide. I am currently the Senior Associate Priest at Holy Covenant in Jamison, ACT. I am married to the Rev’d Ian Chaplin, mother to Ben and stepmother to Geoff and Emma.

As I have participated in the Grafton discernment process I have come to see and respect the many strengths of the Diocese. In recent times you have faced testing experiences which you have met head on with courage, honesty and a confidence in God’s redemptive action. The openness, collegiality and prayerfulness of the Bishop Appointment Board speak of your faithfulness as disciples of Jesus Christ, as does the work that has been done to encourage mission in the Diocese.

This will be an historic appointment. You will be the first Diocese in Australia to have a Diocesan Bishop who is a woman. I suspect that this may be unexpected and perhaps unwelcome for some of you. It is my hope that, over time, we will nonetheless be able to journey together, cherishing each other’s gifts and commitment to the Gospel.

I will seek to lead you with a servant heart, prayerfulness, honesty, integrity, insight and humour, delighting in the Diocese’s diversity, resilience, godliness and warm-heartedness as we work together to faithfully follow in Christ’s footsteps.

Sarah Macneil