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Australian Anglicans elect first female bishop

18 november 2013, 18:01
©Reuters/Toby Melville
©Reuters/Toby Melville
The Anglican Church in Australia has chosen its first female bishop, filling a vacancy created when her predecessor resigned over his management of child abuse allegations, AFP reports.

Sarah Macneil was unanimously elected to become the 11th bishop of Grafton on the New South Wales north coast.

Her appointment follows the resignation in May of Bishop Keith Slater, who apologised for how he managed claims of abuse at the North Coast Children's Home in Lismore, currently the focus of a royal commission into institutional responses to abuse.

"I'm hoping that this won't be a distraction from the royal commission," Macneil told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation of her appointment.

"It's a very important thing in the life of the nation, not just of the Anglican Church or any of the other institutions who will be appearing before the royal commission."

The commission on Monday began hearing harrowing evidence from one survivor of abuse at the home who said he was two when he was placed in the orphanage in 1949 and was physically, psychologically and sexually abused until 1958.

The man, known as CK, said that during his time children were abused by priests in the bell tower of a church, a site "where continual sexual depravity occurred".

"We had no words for it then. Now it would be known as a paedophile ring," he said.

"The priests seemed kind, but I did not know what sex was. The affection they showed was of a sexual nature.

"The ones who suicided are the lucky ones. We are the walking dead who remain."

The hearings, part of a national royal commission into non-government institutions, are expected to investigate how the Grafton diocese handled a claim by dozens of former residents of the home.

The Anglican diocese has said it fully supports the royal commission and has since enacted major and wide-ranging changes.

Other women have been consecrated as assistant bishops in Australian Anglican dioceses before but Macneil's appointment is a national first.

Macneil, who will be consecrated and installed early in 2014, said she would "absolutely" liked to have seen more women in the church before this.

Asked whether it would have been a kinder church as a result, she said: "It may well have been."

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