Friday, 24 April 2009

Women only?

I received an email recently from a woman who said she didn't like groups for women only. And to some extent I agree.

Gender is not the most important factor in life, and I'm not defined by it. Among my dislikes I would include some events which are advertised for women: gatherings of women for worship or Bible study, when they seem to constitute a parallel universe where women can operate.

One of my colleagues wonders why at Men's breakfasts (for businessmen), cooked breakfast is served, while for 'Ladies' breakfasts' (which are not usually for business women, but for stay at home mums), it's continental breakfast!

I've been reading an article which notes that often events for Christian women focus on fashion, women's emotions, crafts, diet and exercise. This is where I part company. I want to learn about leadership and vision, being a godly leader, Bible study, green issues, and how to think Christianly about our society.

I love Catherine Booth's characteristically blunt comment: 'It would be a happy day in England when Christian women turn their attention from poodles and terriers to the poor and destitute.' The things that matter.

What I sometimes need too, though, is a safe space to explore where as a woman I find the church, and sometimes other Christians, a challenge. I relish the groups where I sometimes feel I can be more myself, and find help and support from other women.

What do you think?

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

More good news about numbers

There's more good news this year about women being appointed to patronage churches.

Some of it's about numbers. May sound mind-numbingly boring, but numbers tell me that there is a slow trend in the right direction.

The percentage of women being appointed to CPAS churches in the last 12 months has crept up from 25% a year ago to 26% (10 women out of a total of 38 appointments).

And this brings the total of women patronage incumbents to 54 - out of the 454 churches where there is currently someone in post - that's nearly 12%. The 'patronage' system means that certain people or organisations has a right to be involved in the appointment of clergy, and there are 512 parishes where CPAS has this involvement. At any one time, some have a vacancy, hence the total of 454 clergy in post.

But of course this is a story about people. And I am really excited about one person, who was appointed last year to St Thomas, Blackburn - not a diocese known for it's support of women - in fact it is bottom of the 'league table' only to Chichester in terms of its percentage of full time stipendiary women clergy (as at the end of 2006).

Click here to read about Rosalyn Murphy. And you might want to pray for her as she continues to settle in to this demanding role - leading one of the largest churches in the diocese, with a over 550 worshippers.

I'm giving thanks for slow progress, but I'm not at all complacent. There are multitudes of obstacles facing women clergy in the Church of England (and no doubt in other denominations), not all of them obvious. And what we do, the things we say, the people we talk to, can all make a difference to changing the climate of acceptance, and ensuring that appointments are made on the basis of merit and not biased for reasons of gender.