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.

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