Woman the Church’s Buried Talent: The Protest for the Ordination of Women in Adelaide’s Anglican Church: A History Told through the Legacy of Alison Gent ‘Agent of Change’.

Available from the author

Woman the Church’s Buried Talent: The Protest for the Ordination of Women in Adelaide’s Anglican Church: A History Told through the Legacy of Alison Gent ‘Agent of Change’.
Lesley McLean (McLean Adelaide 2018)

Book AUD $25.00 plus Postage and packaging

If you would like to purchase a copy of the book please email Lesley McLean: revlesley@adam.com.au; with your order details – quantity and mailing address and she will respond with delivery and payment details.

The president Lesley McLean is pleased to advise that copies of the publication: Out Of Adelaide, Women Talking Ministry is now available download here
These are the papers presented at the Annual General Meeting of the Movement for the Ordination of Women Australia held at St Saviour’s Anglican Church, 27 October 2018


This is a work both readable and scholarly. Biographically focused, it charts the history of a Christian ecclesiastical movement in our `City of Churches’, from the heady days of protest and hope during the 1960s and 70s through to the dark days of the neo-liberal era, when the challenging of socioeconomic iniquity became taboo and only certain liberalizing cultural reforms were countenanced on the front of environmentalism, gender and sexuality. McLean’s topic is the history of one of these politically bitterly contested but fundamentally licensed progressive movements in a patriarchal institution, the Anglican Church. The book seeks to place the saga of a movement within that communion before the general public. It takes its title from an early movement pamphlet.


The Reverend Dr McLean’s subject is a redoubtable change agent of this movement, who, checked of fulfillment in academia and the Church, dedicated herself to sustaining a determined and ultimately reasonably successful campaign, with others including the author reaping the rewards personally denied her by prejudice and, perhaps, her own acknowledged asperities of character. The book under review revises three chapters from her doctoral thesis No Coward Soul: Alison Gent, Radical Feminist and Activist for the Ordination of Women, available on the internet. A progressive conservative exponent of catholic Anglican tradition, by temperament a stormy petrel, Gent was always something of a voluntary outsider, a feminist in a male dominated church and a Christian in a mainly secular women’s movement. She wore her difference proudly in all contexts. Hers was a life freely lived through conscious choice. Born into comfortable circumstances, educated at establishment private schools and at the university of Adelaide with a government scholarship, she effectively took a vow of poverty and social ministry when she married an Anglican clergyman, to whom she bore five children before he divorced her.sThe theoretical perspective through which this history of struggle is viewed is Wittgenstein’s theory of language games. According to the famous linguistic philosopher, language embodies rhetorical aspects as well as logical properties as speakers seek to frame social outcomes. Throughout this impressive study, McLean documents the liturgical language used to keep women subordinate in the Church and feminist efforts to reform that institutional language to advance their cause.

The book is well indexed and comes with valuable appendices.

David Faber for the Historical Society of South Australia


Well done! I was apprehensive thinking it was to be another narrative history, but I enjoyed your use of Wittgenstein, I had never thought of the history in this way before, and it engaged me. It made it a reflective read, especially on your analysis of patriarchy, and how women’s ordination may have altered the patriarchy, but not the underlying problems. As you ended one chapter, the question of liberation is still pertinent and unanswered.

I only met Alison a few times and never knew her, but your book filled in a lot of gaps for me of the history of Adelaide Diocese.
Thanks for the excellent book.

Fr Scott Moncrieff, Rector, St George’s, Goodwood, SA 


When Anglican women were priested at St Peter’s Cathedral on December the 5th, 1992,  it was the culmination of years of struggle by protest movements in Adelaide such as the Movement for the Ordination of Women (MOW) and Women in Holy Orders ( WHO).

In “Woman, The Church’s Buried Talent” Lesley McLean skilfully portrays the various ideas, influences and personalities that gave rise to and energised the Protest, while the lively description of the debates within the community via both the media and the pulpit reminds those who lived in Adelaide at the time of its often bitter divisiveness.

The progress towards Ordination is depicted through reference to the life and vocation of Alison Gent, the subject of the author’s doctoral thesis “No Coward Soul” which does give rise to a certain amount of academic discussion which may be problematic for the general reader, in particular the section “Language and Grammar”. However, as it is confined to the Introduction it can be read as a separate essay with just the main premise being taken from it, namely that the use of language in worship and by the hierarchy of the Church was critical to the debates surrounding the Protest Movement and it was Alison’s profound understanding and use of language which acted as a lynch-pin in the successful communication of the Movement’s arguments.

A time of great significance in the Anglican Church in Adelaide is played out in the book and with hindsight a confusing contemporary situation has been clarified by Lesley McLean’s comprehensive history.

Jenny Sorell, Adelaide