Is Gafcon against women’s ordination?

Image: Gafcon's Secretary General Paul Donison (left) farewelled with a Bluey backpack and Akubra by Peter Smith and Jen Hercott.

The question came from the back of the room at last week’s Gafcon Australasia 2024 conference and from a minister from the top of Australia, Cairns, in the Diocese (region) of North Queensland. “The big divisive issue within our diocese is about the role of women in leadership who are the majority of clergy in our diocese and they would see that Gafcon is opposed to them in their roles. … How do we go about correcting [that} perception?” 

Gafcon is the acronym for the Global Anglican Futures Conference, and operates as a missionary movement around the world. In australia it has set uo the Diocese of the Southern Cross for Anglicans leaving progressive dioceses.

Jennifer Hercott, a Priest in the Diocese next door, Central Queensland, and deputy chair of the Gafcon board, was fielding questions from a workshop at the conference with Peter Smith, the Gafcon Chair.

“Look, I might be uniquely qualified to answer that,” Hercott responded. “I get asked this one a lot and I can make light of it.

“I meet people [who] directly stand in front of me and say I don’t believe in women’s ministry or women ministers or women preachers, and I just look at them and say ‘I’m standing right in front of you.’

So perhaps Hercott could visit Cairns.

“Okay, so there are different views on this, and most of them can be argued from the Bible,” Hercott continued. “Women’s ministry is not a first-order gospel imperative. It is a second-order issue. I am the first one to say that I have a different view on women’s ministry than some of my brothers, but that doesn’t stop us from being in fellowship. Is the gospel being preached? Are lives being transformed? That is the gospel imperative.” 

Hercott explained that at the last Global Gafcon meeting in Kigali, there was a paragraph on women’s ministry in the Kigali statement and that she was part of a network of women ministers there who lobbied for it. That paragraph reads, “We will affirm and encourage the vital and diverse ministries, including leadership roles, of Gafcon women in family, church and society, both as individuals and as groups.”

Gafcon provinces vary in whether they ordain women priests/presbyters, as do the dioceses represented in Brisbane. The diocese Gafcon sponsored, the Diocese of the Southern Cross, has a women priest. Two provinces (national churches) in Gafcon, Kenya and South Sudan, have women bishops.

Hercott told the workshop that she was in happy fellowship with her brothers at Gafcon. “What I want you to take away is that Gafcon is about the gospel, and anything that is not a primary issue needs to be set aside so that we can travel together down the road.”

Image: Gafcon’s Secretary General Paul Donison (left) farewelled with a Bluey backpack and Akubra by Peter Smith and Jen Hercott. Image Credit: Trevor Sketcher