Thursday, 25 February 2010

The Stained Glass Ceiling

I've just been reading a great article by Michele Guinness in the March issue of Christianity Magazine.

It's the cover article, and the subtitle on the cover reads, 'Why women leaders are still trapped.' You can read the opening paragraphs by following the link to the magazine here.

The article explores the 'mixed picture' in the Christian world: some progress, with young women moving into signficant leadership roles and several women leading large Anglican churches. On the other hand, evangelical Anglican colleges are finding it harder to place women as curates in evangelical churches, and some women find the situation no better, and sometimes worse, than it was 30 years ago. One consequence of all this that women seem to be leaving the church.

Guinness suggests four reasons why women don't feel able to live out their calling: male leadership models, lack of knowledge of women speakers, lack of visible role models, and work and family life. I agree - but behind the first three, there is the influence of particular theologies which overtly exclude women and more subtly sap women's confidence.

The final part of the article looks at what can be done, and suggests some ways forward: all the usual things, such as role models, mentors, acknowledging the problem... Yes, but we know this already, and change is happening only slowly.
I hope this article may be read by those who might be part of the solution, and that women would be increasingly accepted as leaders alongside men. Otherwise, as Jo Saxton, a Methodist minister, concludes: 'We need to ask ourselves what not raising up a generation of women is costing us, and will cost us.'

Friday, 12 February 2010

Why I don't iron

Well, not quite. Actually I do iron. But I started an article on 'Gender, communication and leadership style' with a reflection on the fact that my husband is much better at ironing than I am. He spent his working life in the RAF, so ironing perfect creases came with the territory.

So I was delighted when the latest issue of Mutuality , containing my article, came winging its way from America. The Winter 09 theme is 'Leadership Development' and as well as my contribution, it includes a fascinating article called 'The View from the Pulpit', addressing various issues women face:

'Some of my parishioners think my leadership style is too 'feminine' while others think it is too 'masculine'. 'My church congregation questions if I can be both a good mother and an effective minister.' There's also an study on Esther, and other briefer articles.

I'm not sure if it's encouraging or discouraging to see that many of our sisters across the pond face similar challenges as women leaders in the Church, but I certainly benefit from the material.
The latest Priscilla Papers, the theological journal of CBE, arrived in the same envelope and also looks like a good read as usual - the best source I know for current theological thinking on biblical equality. There's an article on women in the earliest house churches, and another on Incarnation, Trinity and the ordination of women, among other things.

There's no free access to these articles - though mine will appear on the CPAS site in due course. But if you are looking for good resources on women's ministry, there's a selection of free resources to download, or you can buy single magazines and downloads.

It's good to keep thinking, reading and learning...

And what do you think about communication style: do men and women communicate differently, and how does that affect our working together in teams?