Thursday, 24 April 2008

Good news about numbers

I've just been doing my sums!

I never thought statistics could be exciting, but here are some good news numbers.

According to the latest C of E statistics (2006), women now make up 25% of the total number of clergy in Church of England. What is perhaps more surprising is that they now make up 22% of stipendiary clergy.

How does that compare to numbers of clergy leading the 540 churches where CPAS is involved in the appointment?

Four years ago, only 38 of those 540 clergy were women. The number now is up to 54 - that's 10%. What is even more encouraging is that in 74 appointments over the last 2 years where CPAS has been involved, 19 of the appointments have been women - that's 25%, which is slightly higher than the percentage of stipendiary women clergy!

So yes, there may be a long way to go - but women are being appointed to evangelical churches.

If you are looking for a post and want to find out more about CPAS and the Register we keep of clergy looking for moves, you can click here to go straight to that part ofour website.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Get a life!

A great new resource for helping young people explore vocation.

The latest email from the Church of England draws attention to a new course for teenagers on the subject of vocation, written by Tim Sledge and Ally Barrett. Click here for more info.

It's a shame that the course appears to focus largely on male Bible characters, and uses a film focusing on boys (Billy Elliott). They could have used Bend it like Beckham, or Whale Rider. But then I realise there are probably fewer boys than there are girls in many youth groups, and they may need extra encouragement.

If you know of those at the top end of teenage (17-18+) or any age older than this, who might value a weekend to find out more about ordained or authorised ministry in the Church of England, CPAS is running one of its You and Ministry weekends in Poole at the end of May. See the CPAS website for more details.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Home is Where the Hurt is

While training for ordination I spent a few hours each week answering calls to the Women's Aid helpline.

I count the experience alongside those which have been most life-changing, like spending three weeks in an African country, or four years in inner-city Liverpool.

A college project turned into a Grove booklet, Home is Where the Hurt is: domestic violence and the Church's response, which is now sadly out of print. However, you can download the full text here. The text is as written in 1994, but contact details at the end have been updated.

More recently I contributed to a debate at the Church of England 's General Synod in 2004, which resulted in the publication of Responding to domestic abuse, guidelines for church leaders (CHP, 2006). This includes information about domestic violence, theological reflections, and guidelines on how to help those suffering from abuse.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Women: not for sale

Not for Sale Sunday aims to alert churches to sex trafficking.

I've just been looking at the site (, and I'm impressed by this brave campaign to inspire and inform churches about the modern slavery of sex trafficking.

Not for Sale UK is a campaign inititiated by Chaste (Churches Alert to Sex Trafficking across Europe), to raise awareness in the UK that women, children and men are being sold in the cities and towns of our island for sexual exploitation.

Not for Sale Sunday this year is on May 18th. There are a variety of resources on the site, including liturgy, Biblical material and prayers.

A reflection on Acts 16: 16-25 comments on the Phillipian slave girl in relation to the kinds of slavery common in our own century, and challenges Christians to stand against the forces which keep people in slavery. It urges us to speak out against sex tourism, lap-dancing clubs, 'leisure evenings out' in brothels, massage parlours - even though it will make us unpopular. How easily these things seem to have become part of our culture, and are lining the pockets of those who promote them - at the expense of thousands of vulnerable human beings.

I admire Chaste for taking up this cause, and I hope the Not for Sale Sunday campaign will become widely known.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Isabella Gilmore - a hidden history

April 16th is the day Isabella Gilmore was ordained deaconess, in 1887

Isabella Gilmore is credited with opening the way for the revival of the deaconess movement in the Church of England. Widowed at the age of 40, she trained as a nurse, but felt God's call to ministry in the text of a sermon: 'Go, work for me today in my vineyard'.

She responded to the call and began to prepare for her new ministry, being ordained at the age of 45.

Isabella was brought up in a middle class family. Her brother was the socialist and artist William Morris. Her decision to become a nurse shocked her family, but her training, and leadership experience as a ward sister helped to equip her for her work as deaconess.

Up to this time, deaconesses had lived and worked in communities, but Gilmore saw the need for them to be part of the parish system. She also thought that deaconesses should be trained, not only in nursing and domestic work, but in theology. 

She bought a house in Clapham Common, later to be named Gilmore House in her memory, which remained as a theological college training women for ministry until 1970. In her 19 years of service as head deacon in Rochester diocese she trained head deaconesses for at least seven other dioceses.

To read of the ministry of Isabella Gilmore is to be reminded of God's heart for the poor. On one occasion, when a probationer recoiled as Isabella was dressing the infected wounds of a teenage girl, she responded to her, 'Jenny is Christ.'

Gilmore is one of so many women whose stories are hidden, unknown. Had you heard of her before? Do you know of others who have had such an influence on the church today, yet who are virtually unknown?

Read more here

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Women bishops in Wales - not yet

Last week The Church in Wales narrowly failed to vote in favour of women bishops.
You can read more in Ruth Gledhills's report here.

The vote got well over the required two-third’s majority in both the House of Laity (52 in favour, 19 against, 1 abstention) and the House of Bishops (5 in favour, none against, no abstentions). It was only in the House of Clergy that the vote failed, by a very small margin – (27 in favour, 18 against, 1 abstention).

Interestingly, some argued that the reason the vote went the way it did was because there was insufficient provision for those who disagree with women bishops. But Archbishop Barry Morgan and the six diocesan bishops had agreed to resist all attempts to include arrangements which would have discriminated against bishops who are women.

The Archbishop argued that “to appoint a bishop with jurisdiction for those opposed to the ordination of women... would be to sanction schism and for these theological reasons the bishops, as guardians of unity, could not give their support for such a measure.”

This may have implications for the process in the Church of England: how far do those in favour of women bishops make safeguards for those against this move, and how far is this actually legislating for an unworkable compromise, which would make it very difficult for those women who become bishops to exercise their ministry?

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Domestic abuse

Domestic violence - how do we break through the 'wall of silence'?

I was impressed by a recent account (Church of England Newspaper) of the Rev Eleanor Hancock, who has described her experience of domestic violence. She writes:

'I lived for many years as a victim of domestic violence and abuse. Very much in love with my partner, I made countless excuses for his behaviour and, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I felt sorry for him. ... I escaped from my abusive situation many years ago and was lucky enough to have a good friend to go to. I also had the support of my family.'

She talks about how she was able to work through the hurt and guilt when welcomed by a church fellowship, and 'found the love of God personified'.

After explaining how she found healing and transformation, she writes, 'I believe that the Christian community has a big part to play in supporting families through sharing the love of God in practical ways and in helping to bring about long-term healing and acceptance.'

Some years ago I wrote a booklet called Home is Where the Hurt Is, because I was concerned that many individual Christians and churches were unaware of how common domestic violence was, and how to respond to it.

  • Have you heard sermons or teaching on domestic abuse?
  • Would women find a welcome in your church, and help in dealing with an abusive situation?
  • What can we do to offer God's love to those who have suffered, or are suffering, from abuse?

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Through the Labyrinth

This is perhaps the most significant book I’ve read in the past year, full of research (a third of the book is footnotes) from a variety of disciplines.

It asks important questions, such as:
  • ‘Is there still a glass ceiling?’ (the answer is No, but women have to find their way through the twists and turns of a ‘labyrinth’)
  • ‘Do people resists women’s leadership?’ ‘Do women lead differently from men?’
  • ‘Do organisations compromise women’s leadership?’
The bottom line is that there are few differences in personality between men and women, and these are getting smaller. Women make just as good leaders as men do, yet people still discriminate in a number of ways against women in authority and leadership.

Women may be in a ‘double bind’ because the expectations of women (to be so-called ‘feminine’, attractive, kind and caring) can conflict with expectations of leaders (to be assertive and competent).

Women leaders have to navigate their way between these expectations. While these conclusions relate to women in business and the professions, it is not difficult to see very similar patterns in the Church. (Rosie Ward.)