Image: Anglican Church Archbishop Aspinall (left) at the consecration of Queensland’s first, and Australia’s fourth, female Bishop, Alison Taylor (right), last year.
Archbishop Phillip Aspinall gets a little confused at times. This week he gave evidence to the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, in a hearing focused on Allan Kitchingman (see previous posting) and the North Coast Children’s Home (see previous postings) run by the Anglican Church (known elsewhere as the Episcopalian Church or the Church of England).
Aspinall and his church announced last week, on the eve of the present hearings, that he had appointed the first, and only, female bishop, Sarah Macneil, to replace disgraced ex-bishop, Keith Slater. She will be consecrated later in the year as bishop of the Grafton diocese. Coincidentally, this is the very diocese that was being investigated by the Royal Commission.
Also, coincidentally, since the announcement came on the eve of the hearings, it attracted world-wide coverage, and over-shadowed the first day’s hearings, involving damning evidence from victim, “Tommy” Campion (see previous postings).
There was one problem, though – Ms. Macneil was, in act, the fifth female bishop appointed by the Anglican Church in Australia. This would not have attracted quite as much media attention. The first one, Kay Goldsworthy (pictured below) was appointed over five years ago, in Perth. Aspinall would have remembered the event because he accompanied Bishop Goldsworthy to her first official engagement in her new role, at the school where she once served as chaplain, PerthCollege.
In a press release issued by Aspinall in December last year, he stated that “The Anglican Church of Australia on Monday named the first woman bishop in the state of Queensland. Alison Taylor was appointed to lead the Southern Region of the Diocese of Brisbane. She will be consecrated Bishop in St. John’s Cathedral in Brisbane on April 6, 2012. She joins three other female bishops. These are Bishops Barbara Darling from Melbourne, Genieve Blackwell from Wagga Wagga and Kay Goldsworthy from Perth, all of whom exercise greatly valued ministries and are excellent role models.”
Image: Perth Anglican Bishop, Kay Goldsworthy
The second female bishop, Barbara Darling, was consecrated shortly after Bishop Goldsworthy, as a bishop on May 31st.2008 in Melbourne.
Image: Melbourne Bishop Barbara Darling
The third one, Genieve Blackwell, was consecrated in May 2012, as the first woman Anglican bishop in NSW and the third in Australia, as bishop of Wagga Wagga.
Image: Wagga Wagga Bishop Genieve Blackwell
Image: The first three female Anglican bishops get together in Canberra earlier in the year.
In semantics, one makes a distinction between two types of untruth – a lie and a misrepresentation. In Law, one makes a further distinction between a “deliberate” and “inadvertent” untruth. One must assume that the good Mr. Aspinall’s misrepresentation of Sarah Macneil as the first Anglican female bishop falls into the second category.
There is a parallel analogy.
One may say that former Queensland State Premier, Anna Bligh, was the first and only female Premier. This would be strictly correct using Aspinall’s misrepresentation principle. The two female Premiers before her, Carmen Lawrence in Western Australia, and Joan Kirner, in Victoria, were appointed mid-term, by the Labor Party. Similarly, the other two female Premiers, Kristina Keneally in New South Wales, and Lara Giddings in Tasmania, were also appointed by the Labor Party.
Bligh was the first and only female premier elected at an election.
Similarly, the first four Anglican female bishops were “appointed” by the church, while the firth, Sarah Macneil, was the first, and only, one to be “elected” by the church. This is a fine distinction not made clear in either the recent publicity for Macneil, or the earlier publicity for the other four before her. Aspinall and his church, as well as the media, have been at fault in giving an “inadvertent” misrepresentation of the facts.
[Check out these previous headlines, from 2008 to 2012:
- http://citizenj.edgeqld.org.au/bishop-taylor/ (Qld. First female bishop)
- http://www.smh.com.au/national/women-congregate-to-celebrate-ordination-20121120-29ofq.html#ixzz2lrm1RsrK (There are only three female bishops in the Anglican Church of Australia and this week they are in Canberra celebrating what they and other women priests have achieved over the past 20 years.)
- http://www.samesame.com.au/news/local/2481/Anglican-Church-Opening-Doors.htm (Mon 26th May, 2008 refers to Bishop of Perth, Kay Goldsworthy.)
- http://www.melbourne.anglican.com.au/NewsAndViews/TMA/Pages/2012/2012-05/Across-Australia-Bp-Darling-warns-of-resistance-to-women-clergy-001317.aspx (Melbourne’s first woman in the episcopate, Bishop Barbara Darling)
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/right-reverend-genieve-blackwell-50/story-e6frg8h6-1226343342822# (The first female Anglican bishop to be appointed in New South Wales and the ACT has been consecrated)
- http://www.pria.com.au/resources/special-event-observance-2/the-consecration-of-bishop-kay-goldsworthy (The consecration of Australia’s first woman bishop was an event of national and international significance)
- (Australia’s first woman bishop, Kay Goldsworthy, has been consecrated in St George’s Cathedral in Perth. The move has been welcomed by Australia’s sex discrimination commissioner as a turning point for the church and the nation. )
- http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/spiritofthings/bishop-barbara-and-the-anglican-church/3192684 (Darling will return to St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne, to be consecrated as a bishop on May 31, 2008. Earlier this month Australia’s first female bishop, Kay Goldsworthy, was appointed in Perth.)
Despite all of the “first female bishop” articles, Aspinall and his church got away with a new “first female bishop” distracter, on a technicality, which was not pointed out anywhere in the media. The public at large would now think Macneil really was the “first female bishop”. None of the four existing, “appointed”, female bishops made a comment at the time of Macneil’s “election”.
At the time of Macneil’s elevation to being a bishop, she commented that she had “broken through the stained glass ceiling”. Coincidentally, this is also exactly what Bishop Kay Goldsworthy said years earlier on the occasion of her own elevation.
Aspinall has made a few other, convenient, “inadvertent misrepresentations”, in the past. One of note was his claim that he had successfully “counseled and urged” ex-Bishop Keith Slater to resign in May of this year. However, Slater had indicated, in an Anglican publication, as early as February that he intended to formally advise the church of his retirement in May (see previous posting). So, did Slater “retire” or “resign”?
Ah, the power of semantics!
TOMORROW: Aspinall’s final say
That’s all I can say
Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)