​Bishop Barbara Darling, Melbourne’s first
woman bishop, will retire later this year.

​Melbourne’s first woman bishop, Barbara Darling, is to retire later this year.

Bishop Darling was consecrated in St Paul’s Cathedral on 31 May 2008 – only nine days after the Revd Kay Goldsworthy, formerly of Melbourne, became Australia’s first woman Anglican bishop when consecrated as an Assistant Bishop of Perth.

Bishop Darling has been Bishop of the Eastern Region of the Diocese of Melbourne, which extends from Hawthorn to Healesville and from Kinglake to Rowville, for almost five years. From 2008-09, she was Bishop for Diocesan Ministries.

She formally retires from active ministry in February 2015 but will be laying down her charge from the end of October this year when she takes leave.

Archbishop Philip Freier made the announcement in an Ad Clerum on 28 February, in which he wrote that it was with a sense of sadness “but also with a celebratory sense of Bishop Barbara’s Episcopal role since her historic consecration” that Bishop Darling would be retiring.

“There will more to acknowledge and to say at an appropriate time later in the year,” Dr Freier wrote. “In the meanwhile on your behalf I wish Bishop Barbara much blessing as she enjoys the next eight months in her strategic and pastoral leadership with the Eastern Region and the Diocese as a whole, and in her planning for the next phase of her ministry.”

Bishop Darling, in her Eastern Region Newsletter on the same day, wrote that for much of the time she has been bishop, she has had health issues.

“After discussion with the Archbishop and the other Bishops, I have decided to bring forward my retirement from full time ministry as Bishop of the Eastern Region as from mid-February next year instead of October 2015 as originally planned,” she wrote. “I have indicated this to the Archbishop as he plans for some possible changes in governance and strategic directions in the whole diocese this year… I will be in consultation with the Archbishop about the possibilities of some sort of part-time ministry after a suitable period of leave…

“I will very much miss the partnership with you all, and I am committed to working strongly with you all for the next eight months, health allowing. I am already going to many of your parishes and schools, or seeing many of you as part of Deaneries. There will be various opportunities to continue to work with each other.”

Bishop Darling wrote that her time as Eastern Region bishop had been “a challenging and exciting time of ministry” after succeeding Bishop Stephen Hale in July 2009 upon his appointment as Vicar of St Hilary’s Kew with St Silas’ North Balwyn. She wrote that she had been fully extended with the care of 67 parishes, various Anglican schools, as well as oversight of all Anglican school chaplains and tertiary chaplains in the Diocese.

“We have had over 40 parish vacancies filled in that nearly five-year period, with seven more ongoing now and two more to come later this year. I have enjoyed working with our excellent Archdeacons, Area Deans and the Eastern Regional Council and members of the wider Diocese in seeking to ‘Make the Word of God fully known’.”

Bishop Darling attended the consecration in Grafton on 1 March of the Revd Dr Sarah Macneil, the first woman in Australia to be appointed a Diocesan bishop.

She joined Bishops Goldsworthy (Perth), Genieve Blackwell (Canberra and Goulburn) and another former Melbourne vicar, Alison Taylor (Brisbane) in presenting Bishop Macneil with some of her vestments in the service.

The retiring bishop has been a pioneer of women’s ordained ministry, being among the first women in Australia to be ordained deacons in 1986 and priests in 1992. Bishop Darling was born in Sydney, where she trained as a teacher/librarian, and studied for the ministry at Ridley College, where she later was a lecturer. She served in the parish of Heidelberg before moving to Ascot Vale as minister-in-charge and then vicar (1989-95), and later was vicar of All Souls’ Sandringham (1995-2005) and St James’ Dandenong (2005-08)

She closed her statement in the newsletter with the words of St Paul to the Philippians (Chapter 1, verses 3-6 and 9-11) in “thanking God for you all and for the privilege of being able to share with you in bringing the joy and hope of the Gospel of Christ to others”.

Bishop Darling’s final service as Regional Bishop is due to be held on Sunday 26 October at 3 pm at St Mark’s Camberwell.

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