Every July the NSW General Assembly meets and reviews what has been done in the past year and discusses issues that affect our future. This year a lot of those issues affect the engagement of women. The big-ticket item is whether to continue to allow women to be Elders within the NSW Church. This debate has been raging for a few years now and if you want to know a bit of the background to it and the how we got to where we are, then why not listen to the excellent More Than A Cake Stall podcast.
But at the same time the Assembly is grappling with the issue of women elders, we are also debating how to engage both our women and men better in all levels of the courts of the Church. The Women’s Ministry Committee, the Women’s Engagement Working Group and the Elders and Deacons Committee have all put forward motions to be debated this July. They include
- Provide one off funding of up to $23,000 for 2023-2024 through the Assembly Fund to finance the creation and distribution of resources that will grow the depth and breadth of understanding of complementarianism and how it can be applied to the everyday life of the PCNSW.
- Encourage all committees and agencies to review the make-up of their committee or agency in the light of complementarianism and changing skills requirements and consider if there is a need to change the number of ministers/elders/non-elders required, advising the Code Committee of any changes by 31 March 2024;
- Consider a broadening of the participation at Assembly by Assembly granting rights equivalent of an associated member to one female communicant, who is not an elder or a minister from each congregation.
- Encourage sessions to consider inviting appropriately qualified people, women and men, to participate as associate members in some of their meetings, so that the session may benefit from the wisdom and experience of others;
- Encourage ministers and sessions to recognise, develop, and support the gifts and ministries of women in biblically appropriate ways, including leadership, preaching, and teaching ministries, and to consider how the exercise of these ministries might complement the authoritative leadership and teaching ministry of the minister/s and elders;
- Encourage sessions to consider appointing appropriately qualified women to formal roles, whether paid or voluntary, full time or part time, within the ministry of the congregation, under the oversight of the session;
- Encourage presbyteries to proactively recruit appropriately qualified women to serve on presbytery committees
- Encourage GANSW Committees to proactively recruit appropriately qualified women;
- Request the Women’s Engagement Working Group to continue its consideration of how presbyteries and Assembly might invite appropriately qualified people, women and men, to participate as associate members in their meetings, so that the courts of the church may benefit from the wisdom and experience of others;
- Request Ministry and Mission, the PTCC, and the Women’s Ministry Committee to work together to review the role of Deaconess, including the appropriateness of the title, and to bring a proposal to renew and promote the pathway for theologically-trained women to be engaged in formal ministry positions within PCNSW/ACT, including presbytery-commissioned positions;
Please pray for the Assembly as they seek to apply the Scriptures to address the issues of our day and as they seek to make the structures of the Church ready for ministry in the modern context.
Stephen Taylor - Women’s Ministry Committee Convenor