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Diocese of Antsiranana
(Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean)
Women evangelist-pastors in the diocese
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The first woman deacon of the Province of the Indian Ocean, the Rev Christine Benoit, with Bishop Roger Chung
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Diocesan Synod
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The treasurer reports to Synod.
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Diocese of Antsiranana Accepts Ordination of Women to Priesthood
September 16, 2005

Synod Cuts Through Taboos of Women Limited to House Chores

[Diocese of Antsiranana - Indian Ocean] The Synod of the Diocese of Antsiranana met in the overjoyed Parish of St Michael in Ambilobe on Monday 5th to Tuesday 6th September, 2005. The Synod took place in the newly-extended Church of Santa Mikaely, served by Archdeacon Alphege Rakotovao and Deacon David Hamilton, following the major diocesan event of the ordination of four priests, seven deacons three evangelist-pastors and one deaconess on Sunday 4th Sept 2005.

Among the most important decisions taken at this Diocesan Synod, chaired by the Rt Rev Roger Chung Po Chuen, Bishop of Antsiranana, was the voting on the motion on the ordination of women to the priesthood. The Provincial Synod had already accepted the ordination of women to the diaconate.

The Church of Province of the Indian Ocean has only one woman deacon, in the Diocese of Seychelles. The Reverend Christine Benoit was made deacon after completing her studies in Grahamstown theological college by Bishop French Chang Him a year ago in Seychelles.

The Diocese of Mauritius and the five in Madagascar –Antananarivo, Fianarantsoa, Mahajanga, Toamasina and Antsiranana – were still ruminating on the issue of women’s ordination and nothing special was in sight. Yet God was working softly by the power of the Holy Spirit in Madagascar, the largest island of the Indian Ocean, in the Antakarana-Sakalava-Tsimihety region. Canon Jaomandiny Jean Baptiste, rector of St Paul's Theological College in Ambatoharanana, gave a paper to the Synod on the ordination of women. He challenged the Synod to focus on this Anglican Communion ministerial gender issue.

The discussions on the issue of ordination of women to the priesthood prior to the voting were as heated as they could be. But the decency and respect which permeated the interventions were examples of goodwill, peace and transformation. Three women were among the Synod members, which comprised 46 persons.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3 :28

The casting of votes resulted in a majority for the acceptance of the ordination of women to the priesthood in the Diocese of Antsiranana. This is the first diocese in Madagascar to positively include women in the ministry at the diocesan level. This is a real breakthrough in Malagasy Episcopal Church culture. This paradigm shift in our Malagasy ecclesiology will catapult the Anglican Church in Madagascar, which is committed to mission and evangelism, to new levels of exponential growth.

However, this diocesan decision still has to be ratified by the Provincial Synod, which will be meeting in January 2006. The election of the new Archbishop of the Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean will also take place at that time, as Archbishop Remi Raberinina ends his term of office in 2005.

“May we pray that God will bestow renewed blessings on the Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean as the Third Millenium Goals are being fulfilled, especially in Madagascar with rampant poverty.”