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The History of the Presbyterian Fellowship

    The Presbyterian Fellowship began in 1989 as an informal support group for women who were either then in the Ministry or were seeking to enter the Ministry of the Presbyterian Church. The church was at the time engaged in an unedifying debate over whether women should be excluded from that office. This culminated in the disappointing decision of the 1991 General Assembly of Australia to allow only men into the ministry. As a consequence, the informality of the Fellowship changed, firstly as it pursued an appeal in the civil courts and, secondly, as it searched for ways to have this decision reversed.

The appeal failed as a result of the unwillingness of the civil courts to involve themselves in church issues. However the Fellowship has campaigned and lobbied in every General Assembly since 1991 to return to women the right to enter the ministry. So far it has been unsuccessful but the policy will continue.

In 1993 a constitution was framed and approved which saw the goals of the group widened and clarified.  As well as the determination to restore to women full access to their rights to exercise leadership within the church, it championed the cause of liberty of opinion, the welfare of the church, the rights belonging to its members, and the primacy of proclaiming the gospel message,

At the same time an incorporated trust was established.

The Peter Cameron Case blew up in that year and this gave an enormous boost to the membership list of the Fellowship as people recognized that it was the only organized group within the church that seemed to be able to expose the spiritual arrogance that was being displayed in the courts of the church and even in local congregations. The journal, The Presbyterian Review, had been published since 1989 and was reaching an increasing number of Presbyterian homes in this state and beyond. A number of well-attended rallies were held in various parts of the state seeking to explain to members, face to face, the foolishness of the church's new directions.

A set of information leaflets was produced over the next two years explaining to members in plain language how our church conducts its affairs, not only aiming to take the mystery out of the process but also to make church members aware of their rights under the Code and the Constitution of the church. These leaflets are still available without charge and may be copied freely.

Much of the activity of the Fellowship since that time has been happening inside the courts of the church. This involved debating the issue of Liberty of Opinion within the church and defending the right of women in NSW to hold the office of elder.

In the 1998/99 period a series of local conferences was conducted aiming at bringing members and supporters together and educating local church people about key church issues.

In recent years, increasing attacks on women elders, taking a variety of forms  including straight-out harassment and denigration, have highlighted the need for an organisation such as the Presbyterian Fellowship as a support group. This has culminated in the attempt by the General Assembly of Australia in 2007 to deny access to the eldership for women. It subsequently failed to achieve its purpose.