Thursday, 20 May 2010

Empowering Relationships

I've just returned from an Arrow residential. One subject we covered was 'empowering relationships'. That can mean mentoring, coaching, spiritual direction - or just a friendship which has been empowering.

When I got back to my desk, there waiting for me was a biography of Kathy Keay. Kathy died of cancer at the age of only 40 in 1994. Flicking through the book has reminded me already how 'empowering' she was for me.

To some extent she was a friend of a friend, someone whose lectures I listened to, whose books I read, and who came to meals occasionally. But as with all those people who are passionate about a cause, there was more to it than that.

Kathy was the founder of Men Women and God, a group promoting biblical equality, and which itself stimulated the founding of the much larger group in the US, Christians for Biblical Equality. I joined the steering group of MWG as a theological student in 1992, and have remained with it ever since, being both inspired by its work and its members, and in turn trying to inspire and inform others. That connection has probably formed my life and career more than I realise.

I'll be reviewing Whatever Happened to Kathy Keay as soon as I've read it. But to whet your appetite, here's a short extract from the promotional material:

For nearly twenty years until her tragic death in 1994, Kathy Keay engaged, challenged and inspired the Christian world, speaking, writing and debating on a myriad of subjects. Using Kathy's own writing, including personal diaries and letters, and interviews with those closest to her, Marion Osgood reveals the intense inner struggles that accompanied her achievements as she endeavoured to follow her calling in the midst of human frailty.

You can find out more on the author's website.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Of Deans and Dignitaries

I was very excited to hear a few days ago that a third woman has been appointed to the position of dean.

Canon Catherine Ogle has been appointed as the next Dean of Birmingham Cathedral. Catherine is currently vicar of Huddersfield, and has previously been vicar of three parishes outside Barnsley, and also religious affiars editor for BBC Radio Leeds.

This brings the number of women deans to three: the other two are Vivienne Faull, Dean of Leicester, and June Osborne, Dean of Salisbury.

It's not hard to count to three! It's not so hard to count to 15 (the number of women archdeacons). It is, however, difficult to keep track of how many women hold other posts which are regarded as 'dignitories', or as 'senior posts' in the Church of England.

This is a sad state of affairs. The statistics are hard to find; and there seem to be few people who are interested enough in the progress of women in the Church to keep up with noting who is appointed. The Revd Dr Sr Teresa CSA is a notable exception, but (in the very valuable Distinctive News of Women in Ministry) she notes appointments rather than numbers.

So let me recap on the latest stats I've got. in 2007, or a total of 359 dignitaries, 31 were women. The percentage of women who are stipendiary clergy has grown to 19%, and the percentage of women when NSM and OLM are included is 28%.

Going back to deans and other dignitaries, not all women (any more than all men) would want to be a dean or any other kind of dignitary. Most clergy are inevitably going to be in parish ministry, perhaps including some kind of specialist role as part of this. But in my view, the Church of England will only look like a whole church when the proportion of women and men in any particular kind of post looks much more equal.