By Robyn Douglass
Australian Anglicans are mourning not only their head of state, but a woman whose public expression of her faith was an example to the nation.
Queen Elizabeth II visited Australia 16 times in her 70-year reign, and worship at the nearest available cathedral was always a feature of a royal visit. At the very least, it gave Australians another opportunity to see their titular head.
While the queen would never have cast herself as a role model for women in leadership, in the church or beyond it, her example was an encouragement to many. The irony of the queen being head of the Commonwealth while the Australian church wrangled over whether women could be ordained priests was not lost on many.
One who was at the forefront of those debates was Archbishop Kay Goldsworthy of Perth. Goldsworthy was one of the first women in Australia ordained to the diaconate in 1986, and to the priesthood in 1992. She was the first Australian woman consecrated bishop, in 2008. She is also the first woman to serve as archbishop of an Australian province — one that is, geographically, 10 times larger than the entire United Kingdom.
Reflecting on the queen’s death, Archbishop Goldsworthy told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the queen had offered her a model of leadership.
“Seeing women who are strong role models, as I think the queen has been, has been very important for someone like me,” she said. “Watching the pictures of her as a very young woman through the Second World War, taking her place alongside people, is a hugely significant learning.”
Archbishop Goldsworthy was impressed by the queen’s “strong Christian grounding and her faithfulness to her role.”
The Australian church became independent in 1962, and stopped being the “Church of England in Australia” in 1981, but its Morning and Evening Prayer services include intercessions for the queen as the defender of Christian faith.
Bells tolled from churches all over the country at the queen’s death, and special services were planned to coincide with her September 19 funeral, which begins 8 p.m. Australian Eastern Standard Time. There would scarcely have been a parish in the country that did not offer prayers in thanks for the queen’s life, seeking comfort for the royal family and asking God’s blessing on the new king.
Archbishop Philip Freier of Melbourne remembered the queen as “a faithful Christian and leader of the Church of England whose faith gave her the courage, resilience, and her strong ethic of service to others.”
The Perth diocese published prayers in thanks for the queen’s “faith and dedication to duty,” whose “leadership marked by sacrificial service has inspired generations of her people.”