Canadian woman priest appointed to prestigious Communion position

Published August 14, 2009

Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan

Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan has been appointed director for Unity, Faith and Order for the Anglican Communion.

Ms. Barnett-Cowan is currently director of faith, worship and ministry of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, a post she has held since 1995. She was recently appointed to the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission for Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO).

The post, a new one, follows the election of Canon Gregory Cameron as bishop of St. Asaph in the Church of Wales. Previously, he was director of Ecumenical Affairs and deputy secretary general of the Anglican Communion.

“It’s an extraordinarily important position and a huge honour,” said Ms. Barnett-Cowan in an interview from Christchurch in New Zealand, where she is on sabbatical. “I am very excited that they’ve accepted a woman [who is an] ordained priest from Canada, particularly when the ordination of women is still an open question for discussion within the Communion and with many of our ecumenical partners.

“It means that the Communion is willing to have ordained women in positions of responsibility,” she added. “I feel that I’ve put my head out into the wind and it’s blowing strong there now.”

The appointment was announced by the secretary general Canon Kenneth Kearon. “Alyson brings a profound knowledge and experience of both ecumenical and doctrinal issues to this role,” he said. “I look forward to having her as a colleague.” Ms. Barnett-Cowan will be based at the Communion office in London.

Ms. Barnett-Cowan has extensive experience in the life of the Anglican Communion. In 2003 to 2004, she was a member of the Lambeth Commission on Communion and from 2000 to 2008, she was a member of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations. She was also a member of the Plenary Commission, Faith and Order at the World Council of Churches. Currently, she is a consultant to the Anglican-Lutheran International Commission.

“We in the Anglican Church of Canada are enormously grateful for the outstanding service Alyson has given to our church as director of faith worship and ministry,” commented Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada. “While we shall miss her, we rejoice in her new appointment. I am confident the Communion will be well served through her leadership, one which is marked by integrity, passion and a deep love for the church.”

It is expected that Ms. Barnett-Cowan will take up her post later in the year. “I am going to miss all my colleagues at Church House enormously,” said Ms. Barnett-Cowan. “I told [Bishop] Victoria [Matthews] that I don’t know why I’m giving up what I always thought was the best job in the Anglican Church of Canada.” (Bishop Matthews, the former bishop of the diocese of Edmonton, is now bishop of the diocese of Christchurch, in the Anglican Province of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.)

The Anglican Communion has 77 million members from national Anglican churches in over 160 countries.


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