[Ecumenical News International] The Anglican Church in Australia’s first female indigenous archdeacon, Karen Kime, said she sees her role as improving communication with the nation’s aboriginal communities and supporting reconciliation with the church and the wider society.
“All clergy have a responsibility to indigenous people,” Kime said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC). “It’s about teaching our people that there’s a role for them to play in the church … and helping other people to see that.”
Canberra-Goulburn Bishop Stuart Robinson, who conducted Kime’s ordination service on Feb. 25, told the Daily Advertiser that the appointment sends a strong signal that indigenous ministry is now on the church’s agenda, “and therefore we are deploying a highly gifted, skilled and experienced indigenous leader to take carriage of this work.”
As well as performing her new role in Canberra-Goulburn, a diocese in southeastern Australia that has led support for more women priests, Kime is manager of indigenous ministry for Anglicare, the church’s urban mission and community care arm. She seeks to reconcile relationships between the church and Aboriginal Australians.
“For me, this position is all about reconciliation, it’s about social justice because in the past the relationship between the church and Aboriginal people has been pretty poor,” she told the ABC.
Between 1910 and 1970, churches cooperated with the Australian government in the forced removal of up to 100,000 indigenous children, now known as the “stolen generation,” from their parents. The government’s policy aimed to assimilate children, placing many in church-run institutions. After a 1977 government inquiry, most major Christian denominations publicly apologized for roles in these forced removal practices and have taken reconciliatory steps. A government apology followed in 2008.
Tom Calma, co-chair of Reconciliation Australia, a group that promotes reconciliation between aboriginal peoples and other Australians, says Kime’s appointment shows the Anglican Church is committed to building better relationships between the church and Aboriginal Australians.
“Archdeacon Kime is a strong believer in reconciliation between Aboriginal people and other Australians. It’s great to see the Anglican Church embracing its indigenous leaders,” Calma said.
The first Aboriginal woman to be ordained as a priest in New South Wales 12 years ago, Kime says she feel privileged to be part of a supportive diocese. “I think I’m actually where I`m meant to be and I`m equipped to do that. I don’t feel daunted, I actually feel encouraged.”